Monday, October 11

Upgrade your Oatmeal

So it's Fall again, and that's good news for Breakfast! Cooler temperatures mean that we are more inclined to seek something warming and hearty for breakfast, and the best bet for a hearty, healthy start to the day is a whole grain porridge. So why is this such good news? Because whole grains are one of the essential foods most lacking in the modern American diet, and they are absolute nutrition powerhouses- packed with protein, fiber, minerals, and energy, these grains are essential for everything from brain function to digestion to blood sugar regulation and energy maintenance. And what better way to start the day that with a bowl of such powerful goodness? I have given an all-purpose description and recipe for whole grain breakfast porridge here and also described a tasty version in the recipe for Breakfast of Champions , so check out those posts for how-to's on incorporating this healthy staple into your breakfast routine. The sky is the limit: you can use leftover cooked grains and add more water, you can cook the porridge from scratch in the morning, or you can cook it the night before and make enough for a few days at a time and just reheat a portion each morning if you find yourself strapped for time.

So what about the ubiquitous oatmeal? Most of you have had it, and many of you eat oatmeal on a somewhat regular basis as a healthy breakfast option. But, unfortunately, all oatmeal is not created equal. Cooking oats from their original state and eating them as a porridge will get you the same wonderful health benefits as the other whole grains described in the posts above, but simply microwaving up a packet of sugary, pre-flaked, preservative- and artificial flavor-laden oat bits isn't much better than reaching for a box of sugary, processed cereal. Many of my clients come to me and say they've been eating oatmeal, but using this quick-fix version because they don't have the time to make longer cooking oats, i.e. whole grain oats. But they find out from me soon enough that they are missing out, both on nutrition and taste! So luckily, I have a solution for them, and for you.

Steel Cut oatmeal, which some of you may already be familiar with, is not the hassle that you may think. Switching from the pre-flaked, processed and heavily sugared and flavored packets of oatmeal to plain steel cut oatmeal that you make yourself gains you the bounty of health benefits described above, while also delivering a much more satisfying, filling, and delicious breakfast. And don't worry, it won't be boring! Instead of banking on artificial flavors and sugars, you'll be sassing up your oatmeal with wholesome, natural toppings. But first, let's make the oatmeal:

Simply measure out 2-3 servings (each serving is 1/4 - 1/3 of a cup of dry steel cut oats), and wash well with warm water in a pot, rubbing the grains between your hands in the water for several minutes, then drain and rinse in a fine mesh sieve (this is essential for cooking with whole grains because it removes the phytic acid inherent in the grain). If you have the time to soak the oats for several hours before washing and cooking, even better, but washing well is fine- no excuses about not having time! Then, boil four times the amount of water to the total amount of oats (i.e. 4 cups of water for 1 cup uncooked oats, yielding 3-4 servings). Once the water is boiling, add the oats, turn down to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes until a uniform, creamy, grainy texture. Done!

BUT, it gets better....I can hear you now saying "I don't have 30 minutes in the morning to cook breakfast!" and that's fine, many of us don't. But you don't need to miss out: simply switch the cooking time to the night before when you do have some free time, and then reheat on the stove in the same pot the next morning for breakfast, OR, try this nifty trick employed sometimes by myself and many of my clients: go through the initial steps above, but once the water is boiling and you add the oats, simply cover the pot and turn off the heat immediately, leaving the hot pot on the stove covered until morning. The oats cook themselves in that very hot water during the night, meaning no waiting 30 minutes for it to finish; by morning, it's done and simply needs to be reheated for 5 minutes in the same pot on the stove. You can make breakfast for the whole family this way! If you are just making it for yourself, you can still make enough for several servings and reheat on the stove for the next several days (3 days max).

Once you've got your upgraded oatmeal, proceed to the flavor station. Remember from the post on Going With the Grain that the ideal breakfast contains whole grain carbs along with protein and some healthy fat for long term energy and satiation, so a great topping for whole grain, home-cooked oatmeal is a spoonful of chopped nuts, toasted seeds like pumpkin or sunflower, or ground seeds like flax. To kick up the flavor, you can go sweet with a light drizzle of honey, maple syrup, agave or brown rice syrup, or try a sprinkling of dried fruit like raisins or dried blueberries instead. If you like it salty and want to experience how grounding and stabilizing a savory grain breakfast can be, sprinkle some sea salt or seaweed flakes. Be creative!

Once you try this version of the old favorite oatmeal, I think you'll be converted, and you'll see and feel the benefits in your body. Remember, if you try the cook-during-the-night version, this literally only takes minutes from your day! Isn't it worth it for a breakfast that is better in every way?

Interested in finding out more about what foods are right for your own body and why? Looking for personalized information and support to help you change your eating and lifestyle choices in order to achieve your own specific goals for health and wellness? Contact me to set up a consultation:

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