As the kids head back to school, it’s time to start thinking about packed lunches and fast breakfasts. In our home, oatmeal is a tasty, versatile, quick, and nutritious breakfast staple. Besides going to good use for homemade granola, granola bars, peanut butter cookies, and a variety of other dishes, oatmeal is very often just served up in a bowl with some tasty add-ins.
In today’s post, I’m going to share how to prepare oatmeal so it’s at its best nutritive capabilities and how to jazz it up to make it taste great.
How to Healthfully Prepare Oatmeal
Most people boil their oatmeal right before serving it. But I prefer to soak it. This makes it easier to digest and more healthful because anti-nutrients such as phytates are removed when they are soaked. Plus, it takes less time to prep it in the morning.
To soak breakfast oatmeal, put it in a bowl and cover with the proper amount of water. Old fashioned rolled oats are prepared in a 1:2 ratio. That’s 1 part old-fashioned rolled oats to 2 parts water. So, for my boys (both are toddlers), I get out two cereal bowls and, in each, I place 1/4 cup of oats and cover them with 1/2 cup water.
If using steel cut oats, prepare them with a 1:3-4 ratio. This is 1 part steel cut oats and 3 to 4 cups water (how much liquid is based on personal preference.
Cover (I like to cover the individual bowls with my DIY cling wrap) and allow the oats to soak at room temperature (don’t refrigerate it because this destroys the soaking capabilities) for at least 8 hours. In our home, I’ll get it ready in the evening for breakfast the following morning.
A note about milk: Do not soak the oats in milk as it can sour overnight (the exception might be raw milk). If you want to use milk in your oats but still have the digestive benefits of soaked oats, you can soak the oats in water, then dehydrate them, then cook them as the directions say in milk.
Cooking Soaked Oatmeal
In the morning, you can toss the soaked oats into a saucepan and heat it up over the stove. Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.
I find it MUCH easier and MUCH less messy (uses fewer dishes) to simply put individual cereal bowls of soaked oats in the microwave. I heat them for 30 seconds to 1 minute (more or less) or until hot enough. Be sure to use a bowl that’s plenty big enough (one that can hold twice the amount of water you put with the oats) because the oats will bubble up; using a big enough bowl prevents it from boiling over. Also, please remember that microwaves vary, so the time might be different for you.
To add flavor and depth to your oatmeal, here are some real food add-in ideas. Some are added for taste, some for added health benefits, and some for both. As you look at this list, remember that oatmeal doesn’t HAVE to be sweet. It is very versatile and tastes great as a savory dish, too.
- chocolate chunks
- chocolate syrup (or cocoa syrup)
- chopped fresh mint
- coconut sugar
- crumbled bacon
- dried fruit (including raisins)
- fresh fruit (some fruit, such as apples, might need to be gently cooked first)
- ground nuts or seeds (can use a coffee grinder)
- maple syrup
- melted butter
- melted coconut oil
- nut butter (peanut butter, hazelnut butter, etc.)
- preserves (jams and jellies; preferably honey-sweetened)
- real salt
- shredded cheese
- toasted coconut
- toasted nuts or seeds
- vanilla beans
- vanilla extract