Nutrition and Health Tip: Versatile Oatmeal

We all know that oatmeal is good for us, but it can be a bit dull. When done wrong, oatmeal can be a dreary bowl of tasteless sludge. But when cooked properly, it can be flavorful and satisfying. It’s not hard to make a good bowl of oats—follow the tips below and you’ll be on your way to a delicious and healthy breakfast.

**How to Make a Great Bowl of Oatmeal**

1. Skip the instant and flavored oatmeal. Yes, it is so easy to dump that packet of apple-cinnamon oatmeal in a bowl, add hot water and stir, but that breakfast isn’t doing anything for your health. Most instant oatmeals are loaded with preservatives and chemical flavorings, ingredients that don’t belong in your food. Processed oats are heavily refined, causing them to lose a number of their nutritional benefits. So all those claims about oatmeal lowering your cholesterol and reducing your risk for diabetes? Not so true for that bowl of instant oats.

2. Cook your oats on a stovetop. If you have access to a stovetop, use it! It takes the same amount of time to cook oats in a pan as it does to microwave them. Stovetop oats are creamier and you have better control over the consistency. If you only have a microwave, however, you can still make great oats. Just make sure to use a glass or safe plastic bowl.

3. Mix in a whole bunch of stuff. Since oats can be so bland, it’s hard to put too much in them. Start by stirring in dried fruit, which is best added during cooking so that the fruit plumps up. I like raisins and dried cherries, but you can toss in whatever you have, from dried mango to cranberries.

4. Sprinkle on seeds. Chia and flax seeds have a number of health benefits and they soak up some of the cooking liquid, making your oatmeal extra hearty. They also provide some crunch.

5. Spice it up. Cinnamon is a classic, but try some ground cardamom or ginger to make things a little more interesting. Any warm, sweet spices are good in oats.

6, Crumble some nuts on top. Again, almost any nut is good here. Toasted pecans, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios are just a few options. Nuts add some additional protein and fat to make your oatmeal a more balanced meal.

In other words, what I’m trying to say is that oatmeal’s a blank slate and you can really get creative. Try putting in whatever you have lying around: some jam or yogurt, dried coconut, or even cocoa nibs.

Hillary Pollak is a junior at New York University. She loves cooking and eating healthy food and is currently trying to stir flax seeds into everything.

Originally posted on Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

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