There are many opinions on whether instant oatmeal is good for weight loss. Some coaches believe instant oatmeal is ideal because it’s quick and easy, while others argue that instant oatmeal can unbalance your diet. Let us explore the pertinent issues concerning Instant Oatmeal, weight loss and its role in an overall healthy lifestyle.
Is Instant Oatmeal Healthy?
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 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 can be bursting with added sugar! Many of your favorite flavored brand will set you back at least 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Some brands may also add sodium as a preservative, but there are brands out there without it. You can also stock up on plain instant oats and simple add 2 teaspoons maple syrup, honey, brown sugar or agave for a flavorful breakfast with half the sugar of most presweetened varieties. A little fresh fruit will also up the fiber content.
Shopping for Instant Oats
The packets and cups can come in super handy when pressed for time or traveling. Add some trail mix and a piece of fresh fruit and you have yourself an easy and healthy breakfast anywhere. Check ingredient labels carefully. Choose a brand with minimal ingredients and the least amount preservatives and added sugars. Here are some brands we swear by.
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cups
Available in microwaveable cups or packets and both come in organic and gluten free varieties. Many include flax and chia seeds and come in a wide range of flavors for 5 to 8 grams of added sugar per serving.
Kodiak Cakes Protein Oatmeal
In addition to those beloved waffles and flapjacks, this brand offers oatmeal spiked with 14 grams of hunger-fighting protein per serving. From Cinnamon to Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, these cups also make for a tasty late night snack.
These satisfying cups pack in oats, dried fruit, spices and seeds. Offered in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, these oats have a thick and chewy texture that cook quickly.
Best Instant Oatmeal for Weight Loss, Says Dietitian
Just because you buy an instant oatmeal packet doesn’t mean you can’t stick to your health goals.
Oatmeal is a timeless, healthy breakfast choice full of fiber and protein, and there are endless possibilities for making your own personalized creation.
Oatmeal is also specifically great for weight loss goals because not only does its fiber content help with your digestion, but it also keeps you full for longer periods of time throughout the morning. Many nutrition experts recommend stocking up on steel-cut oats or rolled oats, but we all know that instant oats are a favorite amongst shoppers due to their convenience.
While they’re the quickest and easiest oatmeal option, not all instant oatmeal packets will support your health goals in the same way.
According to Laura Burak, MS, RD, author of Slimdown with Smoothies, and founder of Laura Burak Nutrition, the best type of instant oatmeal to buy is anything that comes plain, so that you can add in your own ingredients.
“Instead of choosing sugary sweet instant oatmeal packs, buy any plain version you can find and doctor it up yourself with fruit, fiber, and added protein like nut butter and seeds,” says Burak.
The best instant oatmeal is one that you can add your own toppings to.
The key when it comes to choosing a healthier instant oatmeal is avoiding the types that come with extra added sugar, especially because “most instant oatmeals on the market are full of added sugar, colors, other artificial flavors,” says Burak.
For example, it may seem fun to buy something like Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal with Dinosaur Eggs, but this comes loaded with 11 grams of added sugar per serving. And even something a bit tamer, like Quaker’s Cinnamon and Spice, comes with 10 grams of added sugar per serving as well.
Choosing a plain instant oatmeal may not seem as fun at first, but with zero grams of added sugar, it gives you the freedom to add your favorite toppings and ingredients while being able to control your portions.
Instant Oatmeal Good for a Dieter?
One of the keys to weight loss is focusing on foods that fill you up as well as provide nutrition. Eating a healthy breakfast has been shown to help with losing weight and keeping it off. Instant oatmeal is an excellent choice for dieters. Not only does it taste great, but it is also satisfying and can be eaten in an infinite number of ways.
Low in Calories
One packet of instant oatmeal contains about 150 calories. Check the ingredient list to make sure the only ingredient is oats. Watch out for flavored oatmeal — they often contain added sugars, which are a source of empty calories. Cook your oatmeal in water instead of milk to save calories, and don’t forget to calculate any additional calories from extra toppings.
High in Fiber
Fiber slows the release of energy from your food into your body which helps you feel full longer. There are 4 grams of fiber in one packet of instant oatmeal. When you limit the amount of food you eat, you want to make sure that you make smart choices that will satisfy your hunger. High-fiber foods are usually less energy-dense, which means that you get a larger volume of food for fewer calories.
Source of Some Protein
Oatmeal is frequently considered a carbohydrate food and avoided by dieters. Although it does supply carbohydrates, you may be surprised to learn that it also has 6.5 grams of protein. The combination of fiber and protein makes oatmeal an ideal dieter’s food. Like fiber, protein helps to increase satiety after eating. Try having a hard-boiled egg or mixing some protein powder into your oats for an added protein boost.
Eating the same food every day gets boring. Dieters often fall into this trap while sticking to routine foods. The nice thing about oatmeal is its versatility. Look at oatmeal as a base for a variety of flavors. Top it with fresh berries and walnuts one day and sliced apples and cinnamon the next. Stir in some mashed banana and peanut butter or top with yogurt. Get creative but keep it healthy and be mindful of any calories you add.
Ways Your Oatmeal Could Be Making You Gain Weight
Oatmeal has a position on just about every list of healthy foods you can find, and deservedly so. Oats lend your morning meal some protein, iron, and, of course, fiber, and because they count as a whole grain, they pass along some heart health and longevity benefits, too. Oatmeal has earned such a good reputation, certain Prevention editors have been known to eat it every. single. day. (Eliminate “diet” from your vocab and try a new eating plan that helps you curb cravings while still eating what you love. Here’s how to get started.)
But that doesn’t mean oatmeal can do no wrong. In fact, a few simple mistakes could be sabotaging your healthy breakfast intentions. Here are six reasons your oatmeal might be secretly unhealthy, and how to avoid such missteps.
You’re serving yourself too much.
We’re all for filling up at breakfast—but eating too much of anything at any meal can leave you feeling uncomfortably full and lead to weight gain.
Fix it: One half cup of dry oats should yield the proper serving size, about one cup of cooked oats. If that’s still not appeasing your hungry eyes, try scooping it into a smaller bowl, says registered dietitian Jennifer Bowers, PhD. “One cup of oatmeal in a smaller bowl can look more satisfying than in a big bowl.”
You’re picking less nutritious toppings.
Oatmeal’s healthy reputation isn’t an excuse to add half a jar of Nutella to your breakfast. “I’ve seen some crazy toppings, like Whoppers,” Bowers says. “Tricking out your oatmeal can really do some damage.”
Fix it: Back away from the candy bowl. Your healthiest bet, Bowers says, is a mix of fresh fruit (she likes pomegranate arils, berries, peaches, or apples), a sprinkle of nuts, and a dash of cinnamon. Pumpkin, hemp, or other seeds make for protein-rich alternatives to nuts (like these 4 seeds you should be eating every day), says Lisa Suriano, owner and founder of the culinary-nutrition education program Veggiecation. Thankfully, chocolate isn’t entirely off the table. “Cacao powder is made with cocoa beans roasted at a lower heat than cocoa powder,” Suriano says. That gives cacao, sometimes called a purer form of chocolate, more antioxidant power, she says.
You’re overdoing it with the toppings.
A spoonful of almond slivers here, a handful of raisins there—oatmeal toppings, even the healthiest ones, can add up quick.
Fix it: Cap your topping calorie count at around 150, Suriano says. “With about 150 calories from the oatmeal itself, that’s a good amount of calories to start your day.” Not into counting cals? Allow yourself about a golf-ball sized amount of toppings, Bowers suggests. That’s one golf ball, total. “You don’t get to put 10 golf balls in your bowl,” she warns.
You think you have to add fat.
The culinary-minded might tell you the creamiest oatmeal is made with milk, and that it simply won’t fill you up when it’s made with water. But if you’re making your oats with milk and, say, adding nuts or experimenting with a savory oatmeal and adding avocado, you could quickly surpass your desired calorie count in fat alone, even if it is the good-for-you kind.
Fix it: Take stock of how filling you find your oatmeal. “Oatmeal is so dense, I think it’ll keep you full for a long time even if you make it with water,” Suriano says. “If you feel too hungry quickly after breakfast, that’s when I recommend adding fat.” Try cooking your oats with water, she says, and adding just a splash of milk (whether you prefer dairy or an alternative) in your bowl for creaminess without overdoing it.