Oatmeal is a pretty common breakfast food in our house. If I remember the night before, I prep a batch for the next morning in my favorite slow cooker. I’m able to delay the start time so that it’s ready when we wake up. A bowl of oatmeal is an easy, nutritious crowd pleaser. Add a few mix-ins to that bowl of oatmeal and you have your own fabulous creation. Perfect on a cold, winter morning.
The oatmeal aisle at the supermarket can be overwhelming. There’s the prepackaged oatmeal in single servings, the boxes of oats and bulk oats. If you don’t know your oatmeal, it turns into a guessing game. Here are a few tips to help you make your next bowl of oatmeal healthy and perfect.
Oatmeal: The Different Types of Oats
All oatmeal starts off as oat groats (say that three times fast). An oat groat is the most complete grain of oat, with only the inedible hull removed. Oat groats can be used straight up to make oatmeal. These are best in the slow cooker since they take about an hour to cook. Here’s a simple recipe.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel cut oats are also sometimes called “Irish Oatmeal” and “Pinhead Oats”. Steel cut oats are oat groats cut into several pieces. This type of oatmeal is the least processed and as a result it takes a long time to cook. Well worth the wait. This is my favorite type of oatmeal.
Rolled, Regular or Old Fashioned Oats
Rolled oats, regular oats and old fashioned oats are all one and the same. They are created when oat groats (whole oats) are steamed, flattened and dried. This is what most of us think of when we envision a bowl of oatmeal. They are slightly processed, but still a whole grain (the whole oat).
Now we’re talking processed oats. The quick oats used to make your oatmeal are no longer whole grains and loose much of their nutritional value when processed. Quick oats go through the same process as rolled oats, but even more processing. They’re actually rolled thinner than rolled oats. The added processing allows them to cook quickly, thus their name.
Instant oats are the most processed of all the oatmeal. These oats are pressed even thinner than quick oats, enabling them to cook very quickly. You can add boiling water to these oats and they’ll thicken almost instantly. Instant oatmeal is high on the glycemic index, causing your blood sugar to sky rocket and then drop back down quickly.
Oatmeal quick tips
- Be on the lookout for added sugar, salt and other ingredients that don’t belong in your oatmeal. Read labels carefully. Be especially wary of the single serving oatmeal in a variety of flavors.
- When possible opt for steel cut oats and old fashioned (rolled or regular). They are the least processed.
- Buy organic when you can. There are no GMO oats at this time, but pesticides can be used in the growing process.
What’s your favorite type of oatmeal?
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photo credit: Coffee Granola via photopin (license)