Instant Oatmeal: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, September 14, 2010

oatmeal

Oats are definitely healthy eats, but instant oatmeal often gets a bad wrap.  A bowl of classic oatmeal packs a hearty dose of vitamins, protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber.  So, what about the packets? We’ve got the facts on this convenience food.

Instant Whole Grain Goodness
Instant oatmeal is partially cooked and dried for fast preparation. Contrary to popular belief, instant oats have the same nutritional benefits of regular oats. The biggest problem with instant varieties? All those flavored options bursting with sugar! Your typical flavored brand will set you back at least 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sweeteners. Some brands may also add sodium as a preservative, but there are brands out there without it.

Shopping for Instant Oats
Priority number one: choose plain instant oats. Check ingredient labels carefully, and get a brand with minimal ingredients and the least amount preservatives. Arrowhead Mills is a smart choice.

It’s fine if you want to sweeten up your plain oats. Add 2 teaspoons maple syrup, honey, brown sugar or agave for a sweet breakfast with half the sugar. A little fresh fruit will also up the fiber content.

Rolled Vs. Instant
Some food for thought: Regular rolled oats can cook up on the stovetop in as little as five minutes, or closer to 2 if you follow microwave directions. Oats (rolled or steel cut) can also be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for easy morning prep in the microwave.  The “instant” stuff isn’t all that much quicker. Buying a large container of rolled oats also saves you money, plus many prefer the texture of the non-instant variety.

The packets can come in handy, though. When I’m traveling, a few pouches, some trail mix, and a piece of fresh fruit means an easy and healthy breakfast in the hotel room.

Bottom Line: Instant options can be handy and healthy, if you choose the unsweetened kind. Making the real deal ahead of time can be just as simple.

Tell Us: How do you take your oatmeal?

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (58)

  1. Allison says:

    Actually, it gets a "bad rap" not a "bad wrap"…LOL.

  2. Mazza says:

    I always add 2 tbsp of milled flax to my oatmeal after it cooks (cooking flax can destroy some of its nutrients) It blends in well and even adds a nutty flavor as well as healthy fats, extra fiber and omegas.

  3. Angie says:

    This morning I prepared savory steel cut oats. Delicious! Bunches of veggies in half tsp oil and mixed with cooked oats. You can add peanuts if you like for extra crunch. Garnish with cilantro and serve with a wedge of lemon. Super healthy!

  4. Pamela Galindo says:

    I eat PLAIN oatmeal packets made in the microwave with water….after microwaving according to directions, I add a tiny bit of Brummel & Brown Yogurt-based Spread, a tiny bit of brown sugar and a few sprinkles of Bacon Bits. LOVE IT!

  5. James Love says:

    Actually I get Oat Groats and have them with either Rye or Barley added in also. But if you ad any Wheat use very little it makes for extremely sweet cereal. Here's a way to get more use out of a coffee warmer; and for somebody like me that's allergic to coffee a use for it. Put the grains in a quart pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set on the coffee warmer pad. Leave on the warmer all night. Unless you really like mushy fruit wait until just before eating to add to cereal. Its ready to eat when you get up.

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  7. Beth says:

    I add applesauce, cinnomon, dates, and sometimes Cut up fruit that’s in season. Love it

  8. yvette says:

    I eat my raw with some milk and honey um mm yummy.

  9. I think what you posted was very logical. However, consider this, what if you typed a catchier post title? I ain’t saying your information is not good, but what if you added a title that grabbed a person’s attention? I mean Instant Oatmeal: Good or Bad? | Healthy Eats – Food Network Healthy Living Blog is kinda boring. You could look at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create post headlines to get viewers interested. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to get people interested about what you’ve written. Just my opinion, it might bring your posts a little bit more interesting.

  10. Kathy says:

    I actually eat my oatmeal without milk. Not sure why. Put cinnamon, honey on it. Blueberries or raisins.

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