Upgrade Your Oats: 5 Ways to Make Winter’s Best Breakfast Even Healthier and More Delicious

Cozy up to a better breakfast this winter and enjoy your classic oats in entirely new ways.

Photo: Lemons and Zest

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If the weather outside is a bit frightful, don’t worry! We’ve got you covered to ensure you stay warm and cozy under that blanket while delivering your body a hearty dose of nutrition. The answer? Upgrade your oats!

Oats are a nutrient powerhouse. Not only are they a heart-healthy food that’s been shown to help lower the “bad” cholesterol levels, like low density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol, but they’re also one of the most affordable nutrient-dense foods on the market. At an average cost of $2.59 per 42-ounce container, you can’t beat a bowl of oats. And people say healthy eating isn’t affordable?!

While a warm bowl of steel-cut oatmeal may be what you grew up on, there are a plethora of different ways to cook and enjoy oats. From overnight oats to pressure cooked to stove top to microwaved, there’s a cooking method for everyone when you want to enjoy that classic oat taste, all while reaping their nutritional benefits too!

Check out these 5 ways you can upgrade your oats of choice this season with a little festive twist.

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1. Fuel up with fat

There’s a reason the fat-phobic era of the 90’s came and went! Fat is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it’s lacking in a bowl of oats when made according to the package directions. If you want to have those oats carry you well into your next meal, then be sure to add a healthy fat into your bowl. Nuts, seeds, and their creamy counterparts are a great way to start, and you may even be able to grab a seasonal flavor of these right now, like pumpkin spice.  

Try This Seasonal Twist: Prepare your stove top oatmeal as desired, but add in a teaspoon of butter, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, a ½ teaspoon of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of crushed pecans while it cooks. When cooking is complete, sprinkle an additional tablespoon of coarsely chopped pecans and ½ teaspoon more of brown sugar on top. Grab a spoon and dive into this simple yet delightful oatmeal bowl that resembles a healthier pecan pie! 

2. Invite the seasonal Spice Girls

Whether you’re mourning the loss of apple picking season, still craving pumpkin or yearning for gingerbread flavor, there’s an oatmeal for you! Grab a few of your favorite seasonal spice mixes to easily bring the flavor of the season to your classic bowl of oats with no fuss. Each of these standard holiday blends have cinnamon, a spice that has shown to help lower blood pressure, too. But don’t just stop there. Spices like turmeric and Chinese 5 spice also offer inviting flavors that appeal to other cultural cuisine and flavors as well. 

Try This Seasonal Twist: Prepare your oats as desired, but mix in ¾ teaspoon of gingerbread spice mix and 1 teaspoon of molasses. Cook, then swirl in a tablespoon of your favorite cookie butter and top with a few festive sprinkles. And don’t worry if you don’t have gingerbread spice mix! I’m showing you how to make your own here with spice staples you likely already have on hand. 

3. Level up your liquid

If you’re looking to cut calories, then water may be your best bet when preparing oats. However, if you’re up for an adventure and can spare a little more flavor, fun and in some cases, nutrition, then consider adding in a seasonal flavored plant-based beverage, like eggnog, in place of the water

Try This Seasonal Twist: Grab a container of the new “oatnog” on the market and swap it for the water in your stove top oatmeal. Or, venture into trying it in overnight oats form, like this Eggnog Overnight Oats recipe from Chef Sara Haas. Top with festive pomegranate arils and relish in the extra fiber and antioxidants you’re delivering your body, too! 

4. Pack in the protein

People often don’t associate oats with protein, but a single serving (roughly ½ cup dry oats) yields about 5 to 6 grams of protein. While oats aren’t a complete protein (meaning they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids, as say a large egg does which also has 6 grams of protein), they do provide an easy vehicle that’ll allow you to pack in extra protein. For instance, even just making your oats with a cow’s milk or fortified pea milk beverage will yield an additional 8 grams more of protein per bowl. You can also add in protein powders that’ll increase the total protein amount as well. 

Try This Seasonal Twist: Take your seasonal chocolate peppermint protein powder of choice and add it into your overnight oats (like these Triple Chocolate Protein Overnight Oats from food blogger Lemons and Zest), or mix it into the dry oats before adding your liquid in your preferred cooking method. Top with shaved dark chocolate and a few crushed candy cane pieces. Note: Depending on what type of protein powder you use, you may need to add a few extra tablespoons of liquid to evenly cook your oats. 

5. Volumize with veggies

Only 1 out of 10 Americans is meeting the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. However, making your standard bowl of oatmeal a wonderful way to eat more of both first thing in the day. When you add fruits or vegetables to your oats, you get a natural source of sugar imparted alongside a bounty of nutrients, like dietary fiber. Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer, making the dynamic duo of the fiber from the oats and the fiber from your veggies a pair that’ll keep your hunger at bay. 

Try This Seasonal Twist: Grab a can of sweet potato puree, sold in “pure” form like pure pumpkin puree, with no extra sugar added. Fold in ½ cup of the pureed sweet potatoes alongside a dash of pumpkin pie spice and a teaspoon of vanilla and maple syrup to your oatmeal as it cooks. While the oatmeal is still warm, add a few mini marshmallows and crushed candied walnuts on top and dive into a comforting bowl of sweet potato casserole oats!

Featured recipe: Triple Chocolate Protein Overnight Oats from Lemons and Zest

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