How to Make Oatmeal More Satisfying

Oatmeal

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Oatmeal is a satisfying way to start the day—it's affordable, nutritious, versatile, and part of a healthy, balanced diet. A single serving of cooked oatmeal contains complex carbohydrates for energy and is packed with dietary fiber for a healthy heart and digestion.

But oatmeal can easily become a high-calorie breakfast depending on the serving size, mix-ins, and toppings. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prepare a delicious bowl of oatmeal that's still low in calories, making it a great dietary staple for a weight-loss plan.

Why Choose Oatmeal for Weight Loss

Oats are a nutrient-dense source of healthy whole grains, which are an ideal replacement for refined carbohydrates if you're trying to lose weight. Research shows that swapping refined grains with whole grains can reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular health.

Additionally, high-fiber foods like oatmeal may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce inflammation. Eating more oats can also help manage type 2 diabetes.

A serving of oatmeal is quite filling. As a low-calorie food, oatmeal supports not only weight loss but also weight management. The fiber in oats promotes satiety to help you eat less overall. Before toppings and mix-ins, a 1-cup serving of oatmeal has 140 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, and does not contain any sugar or sodium.

Types of Oats for Oatmeal

Old-fashioned rolled oats are typically recommended for oatmeal recipes, but you could try other types of oats. Here's how a serving of each compares:

  • Instant oats: Instant oats are made from partially cooked and dried rolled oats and typically packaged with added flavors and sugar like maple and brown sugar. The calorie count may vary depending on the flavor and brand, but one packet (28 grams) of plain, dry instant oats is around 100 calories.
  • Oat groats: Groats are the whole kernels of oats with the husks removed. They're the most nutritious and least processed but require soaking overnight before cooking. After 30 minutes of cooking, groats have a chewy texture. A 1/4 cup of dry oat groats is 180 calories.
  • Old-fashioned rolled oats: These oat products are sold as either old-fashioned or rolled oats and are a common choice for oatmeal. They're softened with steam and then flattened with metal rollers. A 1/2 cup of dry old-fashioned rolled oats is around 140 calories.
  • Quick-cooking oats: Also known as quick oats, these are dried before being rolled out. They're thinner than rolled oats and are more processed compared to other types of oats. A 1/2 cup of dry quick-cooking oats is 140 calories.
  • Steel-cut oats: Also called Irish oatmeal, coarse oatmeal, or pinhead oats, steel-cut oats are whole oat grouts chopped into pieces, which can be processed further to make rolled oat flakes. Steel-cut oats take longer to prepare, often 20–30 minutes. A 1/4 cup of dry steel-cut oats is around 188 calories.

Ingredients

The best pot for making oatmeal is medium-sized and wider than it is tall, but if you don't have one that fits this description, adjust the cooking time until you reach your desired consistency.

Using a combination of half water and half milk helps keep the total calories down without sacrificing the creamy texture. You could also use a nonfat or reduced-fat cow’s milk or milk alternative to further lower the calorie count if that's important to you. If using traditional fat-free milk, add a drop or two of vanilla extract for flavor.

This cooking method transforms a small portion of dry old-fashioned oats into a big, satisfying serving of cooked oatmeal that's still low in calories.

How to Prepare

Combine a 1/2 cup of old-fashioned oats and a dash of salt in a nonstick pot. Add a 1/2 cup of milk (or milk alternative) and a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook and stir until thick and creamy, 12–15 minutes.

FYI: This type of oatmeal cooks twice as long as standard oatmeal, and it will thicken up. Don't worry if it seems like a lot of liquid in the beginning.

Add Low-Calorie Flavor

With myriad combinations of mix-ins and toppings, the possibilities to power up your bowl with flavor, micronutrients, healthy fats, protein, and extra fiber are seemingly endless.

Avoid weighing down your serving of oatmeal with sugary calories, especially if it's part of your diet plan for weight loss. If you're craving a little sweetness and prefer natural ingredients, try stevia-based sweeteners or a 1/4 teaspoon of honey or agave nectar. Cinnamon can add a touch of sweetness; pumpkin pie spice is also nice.

A dash of salt (1/8 teaspoon or 295mg of sodium) will balance out the sweetness or enhance the flavor should you go the savory route with your toppings. If you're watching your sodium intake, you could try substituting with potassium chloride, which provides a satisfyingly salty taste.

Mix-Ins

You can add your favorite healthy mix-ins toward the end of cooking your serving of oatmeal. Get creative and choose from any of the slightly sweet or savory options listed below.

  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree: 21 calories
  • 1/4 cup no-sugar-added applesauce: 22 calories
  • 1 tablespoon low-sugar fruit preserves: 26 calories
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste: 34 calories
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries or chopped fruit: 40 calories
  • 1 tablespoon protein powder: 55 calories
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-fat peanut butter: 83 calories
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat grated cheese (for a savory dish): 158 calories

Toppings

Once your oatmeal is finished cooking, serve it in a medium-size bowl and let it cool slightly and thicken. Then, depending on your chosen mix-ins, sprinkle any combination of the following sweet or savory toppings, but be mindful of your selections, so the calories don't add up.

  • 1/4 cup chopped or sliced fruit (nutritional info varies, but you can't go wrong)
  • 1 teaspoon mini semi-sweet chocolate chips: 23 calories
  • 1 tablespoon shredded sweetened coconut: 29 calories
  • 1/2 ounce raisins: 41 calories
  • 1 tablespoon fat-free, low-fat, or light caramel dip: 43 calories
  • 1 egg (scrambled, over-easy, or soft-boiled): 78 calories
  • 1/2 ounce sliced almonds: 82 calories
  • 1/2 sliced avocado: 120 calories
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