How to Make a Big Diet-Friendly Bowl of Oatmeal


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast, but the standard serving size is quite small. Thanks to a few simple tricks (in short, doubling the liquid and cook time), it's easy to make a huge bowl of "growing oatmeal" without a huge calorie count.


Nonstick pot (and a stove): This really is all you need. The best pot for growing oatmeal is a medium-sized one that's wider than it is tall. But if you don't have one that fits this description, just adjust the cook time to reach the right consistency. (More on cook time below.)

Main Ingredients

Old-fashioned oats: There's no way around it. You must use old-fashioned oats when making growing oatmeal. Instant oats or the quick-cooking kind won't work with this method. Oats are great because they're heart-healthy, full of fiber, and very satiating.
Old-fashioned oats have around 150 calories and 4 grams of fiber per half cup, which is the amount used in growing oatmeal. Even though the oatmeal portion size is enormous, you need only a standard serving of oats.

Fat-free milk or milk alternative: Using a combination of water and milk (or a milk swap) will keep the total calorie count in check without sacrificing creamy texture. If using traditional fat-free milk, add a drop or two of vanilla extract for flavor. If using a dairy alternative, we suggest fortified soy milk because it has the closest nutrition profile to cow's milk. You can add vanilla extract or choose a low-calorie vanilla flavored soy milk if you prefer one with flavor.

No-calorie sweetener and seasonings: No need to weigh down your oatmeal with sugary calories. These days, there are plenty of no-calorie sweeteners on shelves. If you prefer natural ingredients, look for one that's stevia-based. As far as seasonings go, cinnamon is my go-to for oatmeal. Pumpkin pie spice is also great. And a dash of salt (1/8 teaspoon or 295 mg of sodium) will balance out the sweetness in your breakfast. If you are watching your sodium intake, you could also use potassium chloride, which also gives a "salty" taste.


Add a mix-in or two toward the end of cooking.

  • canned pure pumpkin (1/4 cup = 21 calories and 0g fat)
  • low-sugar fruit preserves (1 tablespoon = 26 calories, 0g fat)
  • reduced-fat peanut butter (1 tablespoon = 83 calories, 5g fat)
  • protein powder (1 tablespoon = 55 calories, <0.2g fat)


Mix 'n match.

  • chopped or sliced fruit (nutritional info varies, but you can't go wrong)
  • sliced almonds (1/2 ounce or about 12 almonds = 82 calories, 7.1g fat)
  • mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 teaspoon = 23 calories, 1.3g fat)
  • fat-free, low-fat, or light caramel dip (1 tablespoon = 43 calories, 0g fat)
  • raisins (1/2 ounce = 41 calories, 0.1g fat)
  • shredded sweetened coconut (1 tablespoon = 29 calories, 2g fat)


Combine 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats and a dash of salt in a nonstick pot. Add 1 cup fat-free milk (or milk alternative) and 1 cup of water.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook and stir until thick and creamy, 12-15 minutes.

Transfer to a medium bowl, and let slightly cool and thicken. Stir in any mix-ins, and top with optional toppings.

FYI: This oatmeal cooks for 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.

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Article Sources
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  1. FDA. Old fashioned oats. Updated April 1, 2019.

  2. Salt. FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020

  3. USDA. Canned pumpkin. Updated April 1, 2019.

  4. Jams, preserves, marmalade, reduced sugar. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2019

  5. USDA. Reduced fat peanut butter. Updated April 1, 2019.

  6. Nutritional powder mix, protein, NFS. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020

  7. Nuts, almonds. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020

  8. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020

  9. Caramel dip, light. USDA FoodData Central. April 1, 2020

  10. Raisins. USDA FoodData Central. April 1, 2020

  11. Nuts, coconut meat, dried (desiccated), sweetened, shredded. USDA FoodData Central. Updated April 1, 2020