The Right Way to Prepare Oatmeal and 5 Tips for Making It Better

Oatmeal is a satisfying, healthy morning meal. It’s a whole grain–something that most Americans don’t eat often enough. It is high in soluble fiber, which may help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and has a healthy amount of protein, both of which will help you feel satisfied until lunch. Plus it’s a low-glycemic-index (GI) food–and research suggests that eating a low-GI meal before you exercise may help you burn more fat. No matter what type of oats you choose, quick oats, steel-cut and rolled oats are equally healthy nutrition-wise. Top it with your favorite fruit to add more fiber and nuts for filling healthy fats.

Here are cooking methods for the most common types of oatmeal. Use these instructions to prepare 1 serving of oatmeal, or follow package directions. One serving of each type of oatmeal below is about 150 calories (prepared with water) and 4 grams of fiber.

How to Make Oatmeal with Quick-Cooking Oats

Quick-cooking oats, or quick oats, have been precooked then dried and rolled. As the name suggests, they have a short cooking time–they are sometimes labeled “instant oats” or “instant oatmeal.”

Stove top: Bring 1 cup milk or water and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup oats and reduce heat to medium; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.

Microwave: Combine 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk), 1/2 cup oats and a pinch of salt (if desired) in a 2-cup microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir before serving.

How to Make Oatmeal with Old-Fashioned Oats

Pictured Recipe: Old-Fashioned Oatmeal

Old-fashioned oats have been steamed and then rolled. They are sometimes labeled “rolled oats.” For creamy oatmeal, use milk.

Stovetop: Bring 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk) and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup oats and reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.

Microwave: Combine 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk), 1/2 cup oats and a pinch of salt (if desired) in a 2-cup microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir before serving.

How to Make Oatmeal with Steel-Cut Oats

Pictured Recipe: Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Steel-cut oats are toasted and cut oat groats–the oat kernel that has been removed from the husk. It’s not difficult to cook steel-cut oats, but they do take a little bit more time. They are sometimes labeled “Irish oatmeal.”

Stove top: Bring 1 cup water or milk and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup oats and reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are the desired texture, 20 to 30 minutes.

Oatmeal Topping Ideas

Pictured Recipe: Chocolate Banana Oatmeal

Add-ins make any oatmeal better-tasting, but they also make it more nutritious. Topping oatmeal with your favorite fruit boosts the fiber, and nuts offer healthy fats and make breakfast more filling, too.

Fruit:

  • Dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or chopped apricots or dates)
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Applesauce
  • Jam or preserves
  • Chopped or sliced fresh fruit (such as bananas or apples)

Nuts or seeds:

  • Almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, peanuts or peanut butter
  • Sesame seeds, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds

Sweeteners:

  • Maple syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Honey

Spices:

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom

Dairy:

  • Add more calcium by topping with a little bit of yogurt or milk

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