Sharing stuff I've learned, and things I've thought about...

Try oatmeal

If you’re one of those that dislikes oatmeal, you can ignore the rest of this post. Sorry…

Once again on the topic of eating good, satisfying, healthy food, take a look at Oatmeal. It has so many things going for it that if you like oatmeal, it can (and really should be) a regular part of your diet.

You have a number of choices when it comes to oatmeal so it’s possible to avoid it becoming monotonous. Steel cut (my favorite), coarse rolled, “Scottish” and the old standby, any brand of regular (non quick-cooking) rolled oats like Quaker Old Fashioned. Each has a slightly different texture, and all except the steel-cut oats can be cooked as a single servingĀ  in the microwave.

You can also dress it up with a bit of dried fruit, like diced dried apples, diced dried apricots, dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries etc. Just keep an eye on how much dried fruit you add. They can add a lot of calories, but your really don’t need much. I typically will add no more than 15-20 grams at most to a bowl of oatmeal. I also add about 15g of brown sugar, and always stir in a generous pinch of salt to the bowl before putting it into the microwave. My favorite add-ons are some dried apples, brown sugar and a sprinkling of roasted Saigon cinnamon!

I was raised on breakfast cereals, and still enjoy them immensely. However, depending on the kind of cereal you eat, they can be extremely unhealthy – too highly refined, too much sugar, not enough fiber, not enough nutrients. What is interesting is that no matter what kind of breakfast cereal you pick, whether Fruit Loops, Cheerios, Grape Nuts or Shredded Wheat, they all show a serving size somewhere around 50 grams, and they all weigh in somewhere around 200 calories per serving. That’s pretty high, and a 50 gram serving of Grape Nuts is microscopic! That’s one of the reasons that I try to make fruit the centerpiece of my breakfast, with the cereal only playing a supporting role.

In contrast, you can allow oatmeal to be the center of attention, and still have a very healthy and satisfying meal, especially in the middle of winter when fresh fruits may be more difficult to come by.

A 40g (dry) serving of Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats is only 113 calories, and after cooking, you end up with a pretty decent sized portion. Depending on the things that you add to it or eat along with it, you could double that serving size, and still only be contributing 226 calories to the meal’s calorie count. Oats are very filling, and have an extremely low glycemic index. That means that if like me, you eat a large breakfast, this will stick with you well into the lunch hour, so that you can often be satisfied with just a small snack at lunch.

Steel-cut oats have a really great texture. Instead of rolled flakes, they’re big chunks of grain similar to a small-kernel variety of rice, giving the cooked oats a coarse chewy texture. The downside is that they take about 45 minutes to cook! What I do is buy a package and cook the entire thing, then store the cooked oatmeal in the fridge in a plastic container. In the morning, I weigh the cooked oatmeal out into individual servings, adding any dried fruit and sweetener, and reheating in the microwave. The first time you do this you will need to weigh the entire batch and calculate the calorie count on a per-gram basis so you can measure your portions accurately, as it will depend on how “wet” you like your oatmeal (I like mine very dry and sticky, moistening with some skim milk at the table). The good news is you only have to do this once as long as you remember the oatmeal-to-water ratio you use when you cook it.