By Jenna Long, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s
January is National Oatmeal Month, and there is no better time to explore the health benefits of oatmeal, and fun ways to prepare it as a way to mix up the breakfast options you’re offering to your family. Even though we live in sunny California, the temperature is starting to drop and many of us start are starting to crave warming breakfast options.
Beyond its warming properties, oats are packed with many health benefits:
- Naturally Whole Grain. This, therefore, means it contains all three original parts – the bran, germ, and endosperm (refined grains only contain the endosperm). Each part of the grain has valuable health benefits: brain is fiber-rich and keeps you feeling full while preventing constipation, germ is rich in B vitamins and healthy fats, and endosperm is the calorie-rich portion of the grain.
- Help lower LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol which specifically may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Increase satiety – that is to say you’ll feel full longer, which can help with busy work and school days and assist in weight maintenance.
- Help control blood sugar due to soluble fiber.
- Promote bowel regularity due to their fiber content. Try eating oats in their whole form, or for an extra boost add 1 Tbsp oat bran to hot cereal, applesauce, yogurt or smoothies.
- Contain unique polyphenols called acetamides, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-itching properties.
- Naturally gluten free. However, if you or your child are sensitive to gluten, look for certified gluten-free oats. Oats can become contaminated with gluten as they are growing and processed.
Old fashioned oatmeal, also known as “quick oats” is the most popular type of oat in the US. Steel cut oats require longer cooking time, about 20-30 minutes, but your patience will be rewarded. Steel cut oats create a rich and thick porridge with a nutty texture.
Try these easy to make, nutritious oatmeal recipes:
Overnight Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oats
- 2-3 Apples, cut into ½ inch pieces (~3 cups chopped)
- 1 ½ cups milk (or non-dairy substitute)
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 cup uncooked steel cut oats
- 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup (optional, or may use other sweetener)
- 1 ½ Tbsp butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped small)
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
- Optional garnishes: Chopped walnuts, raisins, additional milk
- Coat your slowcooker with cooking spray.
- Add all ingredients (expect optional garnishes) to slow cooker and stir
- Cook on low for about 7 hours
- Wake up to a wonderfully smelling home, portion into bowls, add optional garnishes and enjoy!
Tips and fun facts:
- It is important to not use old fashioned oats because the oatmeal will become overcooked.
- Maple syrup is a sweetener, but also high in antioxidants.
- Flaxseeds can be purchased in the bulk bin of your grocery store in small amounts. Be sure to choose ground over whole flax seeds, so your body can utilize its nutrients.
- This recipe stores well in the refrigerator, which also makes meal prep for the week easy. It also freezes well.
Oatmeal “Cookie Dough” Smoothie
- 1 medium banana, frozen
- ¼ cup raw old-fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp chia seeds (optional health boost)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp almond butter
- ½ cup vanilla almond milk (or other dairy alternative)
- 1 Tbsp chocolate chips (optional)
- Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth
Tips and fun facts
- This is a great recipe for those looking for an on the go breakfast
- Try adding in ¼-1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit
- Chia seeds, like oats, are rich in fiber. They are also high in heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and calcium.
Healthy Homemade Granola
- 5 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 Tbsp cinnamon
- ¼ cup chopped walnuts
- 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup honey*
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- Preheat oven to 350 °F
- Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients in separate bowls, then combine.
- Spread out thin on a large baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until just golden
Tips and fun facts:
- *Reminder: Do not introduce honey until your baby’s 1st birthday and speaking with your doctor
- Adding granola and fruit to your yogurt can make a great well-balanced breakfast, but may store bought granolas are high in both sugar and fat. Making your own granola is easy, saves money and all in all allows you to control the amount of sugar and fat – plus you can experiment with fun combinations of dried fruit and nuts.
- In addition try adding chia seeds to your granola after it has been cooked for a health boost.
- Some of our other favorite things to add to granola also include: ground flax seed, dried blueberries, chopped pistachios, ground ginger, unsweetened coconut.
- A registered dietitian at CHOC Children’s Hospital offers creative ideas to parents for healthy snacks for kids this summer.
- At home before a trip, set the stage by offering some of the foods you might experience on your upcoming travels.
- Eating healthy can be confusing with all the choices available in your grocery store. Learning how to read a food label is key to making the best choices.