Is there any better way to start a cold morning than with a hot bowl of oatmeal?
And while plain, old-fashioned oats may be a wholesome way to start your day, some of those seemingly healthful grab-and-go oatmeal cups can pack in nearly a day’s worth of added sugar.
Read on to find out which kinds are the best – and worst – of the lot.
But first, get to know your oatmeal.
- Steel-cut Irish oats tend to be the least processed kind of oatmeal. They also have a hearty texture and the lowest glycemic index of the oatmeal varieties.
- Old-fashioned rolled oats are steamed first, then rolled to make into flakes.
- Instant oatmeal is finely chopped and often has plenty of added salt, gums and/or caramel coloring, even in plain varieties. It also has a higher glycemic index than steel-cut or rolled oats.
- All kinds of oatmeal have soluble fiber, but only around one gram per serving. (Studies show you need at least 10 grams of soluble fiber to get the cholesterol-lowering benefits.) To add more soluble fiber, add ground psyllium and/or ground flaxseed to your oatmeal.
- Get a protein boost. To add a bit of protein to your breakfast, dissolve a scoop of protein powder in a little milk or almond milk, then stir it into your oatmeal. Alternatively, you can pair oatmeal with a hard-boiled egg, plain Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
Our Top Picks
If you’ve gotta grab-and-go, opt for these oatmeal varieties.
- Ingredients include: Gluten-free whole grain oats, chia seed, flaxseed, sea salt [unflavored variety]
- 210 calories – 5 grams fat – 160 mg sodium – 33 grams carb – 7 grams fiber – 1 grams sugar – 0 added sugar – 7 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Whole grain oats, whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate, fructose, quinoa, flaxseeds, walnuts, stevia
- 250 calories – 5 grams fat – 220 mg sodium – 33 grams carb – 4 grams fiber – 8 grams sugar – 6 grams added sugar – 20 grams protein
- Ingredients include for the Oat blend: gluten free oats, dried blueberries [dried blueberries, cane sugar, sunflower oil], cinnamon. Nut Butter: roasted peanuts, sea salt.
- 340 calories – 17 grams fat – 80 mg sodium – 39 grams carb – 3 grams fiber – 6 grams sugar – 2 grams added sugar – 12 grams protein
The following kinds of oatmeal have about a one-to-one ratio of protein to sugar, or slightly more protein than sugar.
- Ingredients include: whole grain blend (rolled oats, steel cut oats, red quinoa), cane sugar, soy protein isolate, chicory root fiber, almonds, pecans, sea salt, ground vanilla beans [Madagascar Vanilla variety ]
- 190 calories – 3.5 grams fat – 130 mg sodium – 31 grams carb – 5 grams fiber – 9 grams sugar – 8 grams added sugar – 10 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Gluten-free oats, blueberries with sugar and oil, coconut milk powder, flax seeds, quinoa flakes, chia seeds, coconut sugar, blue spirulina powder [blueberry lemon variety]
- 240 calories – 7 grams fat – 160 mg sodium – 35 grams carb – 7 grams fiber – 6 grams sugar (approximately half is added sugar) – 8 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Whole grain oats, organic cane sugar, oat bran, chia seeds, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries
- 230 calories – 5 grams fat – 0 mg sodium – 42 grams carb – 6 grams fiber – 9 grams sugar (approximately half is added sugar) – 9 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Whole grain oats, pea protein concentrate, tapioca starch, cane sugar, milk protein concentrate, brown sugar, maple syrup, whey protein isolate [maple brown sugar variety]
- 230 calories – 3 grams fat – 200 mg sodium – 37 grams carb – 3 grams fiber – 12 grams sugar (mostly added sugar) – 14 grams protein
The following kinds of oatmeal have two to six times more sugar than protein. Yikes!
Quaker Overnight Oats
- Ingredients include: Whole grain rolled oats, sugar, dried cherries, almonds, quinoa, flaxseed salt, natural flavor [Cherry Almond & Vanilla variety]
- 320 calories – 8 grams fat – 210 mg sodium – 56 grams carb – 6 grams fiber - 22 grams sugar – 11 grams added sugar – 10 grams protein
Bob’s Red Mill GF Oatmeal with Flax & Chia [Flavored]
- Ingredients include: Gluten free whole grain oats, cane sugar, hazelnuts, dried blueberries, chia seed, flaxseed, blueberry powder, sea salt [Blueberry and Hazelnut variety]
- 290 calories – 7 grams fat – 310 mg sodium – 49 grams carb – 8 grams fiber – 13 grams sugar – 9 grams
Happy Inside Cereal for Digestive Wellness by Kellogg [not GF]
- Ingredients include 4 types added sugar: Whole grain barley, whole grain wheat, whole grain corn, whole grain sorghum, yogurt probiotic pieces (sugar, oil, milk, nonfat Greek yogurt powder, bifidobacterium lactis), cane sugar, chicory root fiber, brown rice syrup, freeze-dried blueberries, cane syrup
- 210 calories – 4 grams fat – 115 mg sodium – 44 grams carb – 9 grams fiber – 9 grams sugar (mostly added sugar) – 4 grams protein
McCann’s Quick & Easy Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal [Flavored]
- Ingredients include: Whole grain Irish oats, sugar, salt, natural flavors, guar gum, caramel color
- 200 calories – 2 grams fat – 340 mg sodium – 41 grams carb – 3 grams fiber - 18 grams sugar (mostly all added sugar) – 3 grams protein (6x more sugar than protein!)
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A version of this article originally appeared on WGNO.com. See the full article here.
Note: Registered dietician Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she, along with Ochsner Health System, do not solicit product samples nor are paid to recommend items.