Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oatmeal in Season

Yup, it's definitely oatmeal weather these days.  It's freezing here in NYC, and even if you live elsewhere, oatmeal can offer up a warming, filling breakfast option.  But with it, there always seems to come a side order of questions...are these carbs ok to eat for breakfast or am I going to blow up, particularly after coming off a holiday season bender?  why am I ready to eat my fist an hour after having a packet of instant oatmeal?  is the flavored, low-sugar stuff ok?  is it absolute diet-blasphemy to have a bit of brown sugar, milk, raisins, nuts etc?

Let's clarify things the quick and not-so-dirty style: 
1. Yes, oats are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates, they're high in fiber and they suck out cholesterol from the body.  BUT consider the type of oats you're eating.  Instant oatmeal, while convenient, likely isn't doing a stand-out job of satisfying you for much for much of the morning.  The more dense the oat/grain, the more sated you are.  So on a scale of most-filling to least-filling you've got steel cut oats at the top (you know, that Irish oatmeal that takes a million years to cook but is fantastic); old-fashioned rolled oats with a mere 5-7 minute cooking time; and the instant stuff, which is perfectly fine for an emergency or a quick breakfast, but likely isn't as filling.  Try making any version of oatmeal with all or part skim, low-fat, soy or almond milk and it'll stick with you that much longer.  
2. You can ditch the flavored, low-sugar stuff - too man-handled and processed = not as satisfying.  Stick with the basic, plain oats and flavor it yourself.  A teaspoon of brown sugar or maple syrup is a mere 16-20 calories, not too terrible and there are zero artificial sweeteners involved.  Cinnamon's a total of zero calories, so go for it.  
3. Back to question 2, it's not blasphemy to add a sprinkling of condiments here and there and will surely make breakfast more interesting and allow you to get to lunch without starving yourself.
What's my morning oatmeal routine?  
I generally make 2 to 4 servings of old-fashioned rolled oats at one time to hold me throughout the week, reheat it and poof, breakfast is done.  A 1/2 cup of dry old-fashioned and 1/4 cup of the steel cut is a serving.   And if you refuse to sacrifice a moment of sleep in order to make breakfast, don't worry - I refuse also.  I set my oats with half water and half milk on medium heat and hit the shower.  Done and done in about 7 minutes or so.  My flavoring agents of choice at the moment include a mix of: golden raisins, chopped pecans, a drizzle of maple syrup and a dab of butter and a pinch of salt - yes, real butter, it's only a smidge, and salt (the way my mom used to make it!).   Toss in a few slices of banana or throw in diced apple while you're cooking and you've got a killer, energy-packed morning meal.  My extremely discerning brother more than deemed this concoction breakfast-worthy, so hopefully that gives it some additional backing.

Happy breakfasting and happy weekend!

Image: Simplybreakfast

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