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Runner’s Plate: Oatmeal Benefits and Warming Fall Recipes

Posted Oct 11 2011 12:06pm

Crisp, cool fall mornings have arrived in the northeast, which not only means perfect running weather, but it’s also oatmeal season! I didn’t actually like oatmeal until a few years ago. I always thought of a big bowl of bland mush (appetizing, right?) or the overly sweet, fake tasting instant oatmeal packets. I don’t know where I got it in my head that oatmeal had to taste bad, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced me to peanut butter and banana oatmeal that I fell in love with this breakfast. Now I look forward to cool mornings so I can enjoy a nice warm bowl of one of my favorite whole grains! What’s not to love? It’s easy to make, filling, versatile, and filled with nutrients!

Oatmeal was originally brought to the nutrition conversation when researchers linked eating oats with lower cholesterol, which for a long time was thought to be solely due to the beta-glucan found in soluble fiber. While the soluble fiber plays a big role in oats’ association with reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, research from the last 3-5 years has revealed that there may be other plant compounds, called flavanoids (a type of phytochemical) that also assist in improving one’s cholesterol profile, and could potentially reduce plaque build up on artery walls. Check out the abstracts from two studies on this here and here .

The fiber in oats may also play a role in weight management due to its ability to slow digestion, ultimately keeping you fuller, longer.

Instant, Irish, Rolled, Quick…what’s the story with so many different options?

First, let’s talk about the nutrition profile of oatmeal. According to the whole grain council , oats are a whole grain; this includes instant oats! Many people believe that instant oats don’t have the same nutritional benefits as the other varieties – for the most part, this is not true. The only real difference is in how they are digested. Because instant oats are processed more to cook faster, they are digested more quickly, meaning you will likely be hungry again sooner than you would if you chose slower cooking varieties. This is an important consideration if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.

On average, one serving plain oatmeal contains:

1 serving of rolled or instant oats = ½ cup dry

1 serving of steel cut oats = ¼ cup dry

Calories: 150-160

Fat: 2.5g

Carbohydrates: 25g

Fiber (soluble and insoluble): 4g

Protein: 5g

Iron: 10%DV

As noted above, oatmeal contains other phytonutrients (plant compounds) that may offer health benefits such as reduced risk of type II diabetes and some cancers. More research needs to be done before we can make claims about this, but know that oatmeal probably offers nutritional benefits beyond those from fiber. 

Instant oats: these are the very small, thin, precooked oats that only need to be mixed with hot water and toppings of your choice. Instant oats are not as creamy/hearty as slower cooking oats. They also often have added sugar and flavoring – if you’re going this route, choose the plain variety and add your own toppings.

Instant oats are good for baking (i.e. oatmeal cookies) or if you need an on-the-go option. For example, if you are traveling and want to bring oatmeal with you, pack it in a container with some nuts and dried fruit and then just add hot water; most hotels will happily provide you with hot water if it’s not already in your room.

Rolled Oats (old fashioned oats): rolled oats are groats (whole oat with just the outer shell removed) that are steamed, rolled, and flaked. They cook in about 3-10 minutes depending on how much they’ve been processed.

Steel-Cut Oats (Irish Oats):  this type of oats is chopped up oat groats. When cooked, they have the creamiest consistency of any of the oats, but they take between 30-40 minutes to fully cook. Many people prefer them because of the rich, creamy flavor and texture.

Tired of your typical oatmeal with peanut butter and banana? Try out one of these recipes:

For the first three recipes, start with oats and ingredients listed below and then add ingredients specific to the recipe.

Start with oats and…

  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ cup 1% milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla (I use Trader Joe’s Bourbon Vanilla – so good!)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • A shake or two of ground cinnamon

Add all ingredients and cook on stovetop or in microwave (follow package directions for amount of time).

Note: if you require more calories at breakfast, replace the water with milk and/or make a larger porti on of oats.

Cocoa Cranberry Craze

  • 1 tsp cocoa (add while oatmeal is cooking)
  • 1 tbsp shaved almonds
  • 1/2 tpsb dried cranberries
  • Optional: 1 tbsp almond butter

Apples and Blueberries and Nuts…Oh My!

  • 1 tbsp dried blueberries
  • ¼ apple (any kind), chopped
  • 1 tbsp almond butter (can substitute other nut butters)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp chopped almonds & pecans

 Pumpkin Spice – a true taste of fall! 

  • 1 1/2 tbsp canned pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp golden raisins
  • 1 tsp dried cranberries
  • 2 tsp shaved almonds
  • 2 tsp chopped pecans

Egg and Cheese Oatmeal

This savory twist on oatmeal presents an interesting twist to the regular egg and cheese sandwich!   Thank you to Penny De Los santos and your blog, Appetite, for the idea for this recipe!

  • ½ cup rolled oats (or ¼ c steel cut oats) cooked with 1 cup water.
  • 1 egg, cooked sunnyside up, leave yolk slightly runny
  • 2 tbsp shaved parmesan
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

Stir oatmeal, olive oil and parmesan, top with egg and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Baked Oatmeal

Inspired by a recipe in the October Issue of Women’s Health Magazine, this recipe is excellent for weekend brunch.

  • ¼ cup steel cut oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup 1% or skim milk
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp golden raisins
  • ½ apple, chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped pecans
  • 1 large or 2 small ramekin(s)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray each ramekin with cooking spray. Combine first 10 ingredients (through raisins), pour into ramekin (distribute equally if using 2). Bake for 25-30 minutes, until slightly browned on top and no liquid remains. Top with chopped apple and pecans.

Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

Check out this recipe from the NY Times . For just under 200 calories, you have all the benefits of oatmeal and blueberries on the go (make on Sunday and have for the week). I recommend heating them up in the microwave for 15 seconds before eating (if possible). Also delicious, topped with a tbsp of your favorite jam!

What’s your favorite way to eat oatmeal? Have you tried savory oatmeal recipes? 

- Sarah

(Sarah is a 2nd year grad student pursuing her MS in Nutrition Communication at Tufts University Friedman School in Boston. She is also completing the requirements to become a registered dietitian and will begin her dietetic internship in 2012. Sarah is also a certified spin instructor and an avid runner and regularly participates in road races from 5k to a 1/2 marathons. Follow her on Twitter  @SpinnerSarah  and at her personal blog  Food and Fitness Friend .)

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