Oats are one of the most popular whole grains in America with seventy-five percent of U.S. households having oatmeal in their cupboards. Many individuals think about oatmeal being served in the form of a hot cereal (porridge), but it’s also found in a variety of baked goods, breads, granola, and muesli (an uncooked cereal consisting of grains, nuts, and fresh or dried fruits).
Oatmeal is a versatile, healthy food choice. For years we’ve been told to eat a bowl of oatmeal a day and there are good reasons why. It’s rich in fiber, lowers cholesterol levels, and promotes heart health. Oats can help you feel full longer, which can help us maintain a healthy weight once we’ve reached it. The USDA’s MyPlate food system recommends that we make half our grains whole.
Oatmeal is a whole grain because it contains all of the parts of the oat grain including the bran, endosperm and germ. Once the oat grain is milled, and the hull removed, it is sometimes called groats.
Types of Oats:
- Regular or old-fashioned oats: The groats are steamed and rolled into flakes but are not cut. They cook in about 5 minutes on the stove top or 2-3 minutes in the microwave.
- Quick oats: The oat grain has been cut into 2 or 3 pieces, then steamed, and flattened. They cook in just 1 minute on the stove top.
- Instant oats: This is a popular product in many households. With instant oatmeal, the oat grain has been steamed, rolled very thin, and cut into small pieces so that the cereal can be prepared quickly. Some instant oatmeal products have added sugar; read the ingredient label of the product to know if there are extra ingredients added.
- Steel-cut oats: Steel-cut oats are not flattened, instead the grains are cut into three pieces. When preparing steel-cut oats, use 4 cups of water to each cup of oats. The cooking time for this method is 30 to 40 minutes.
- Oat flour: A whole grain ﬂour that can be used in baking, or for thickening soups and stews.
Tips for making oatmeal-icious meals and snacks:
- Use rolled oats in place of bread crumbs in meat loaf or patties.
- Add rolled oats to muffins, breads, cookies and other desserts.
- Transform oatmeal by adding a small handful of sliced almonds or walnuts, dried fruit, or sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Mix 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce into a serving of oatmeal.
- Make overnight oatmeal. Place 1/2 cup regular or quick oats in a container, stir in 1/2 cup nonfat milk and 1/2 cup chopped blueberries, strawberries or apples. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy in the morning.
A MyPlate 1-ounce serving of oats is the equivalent of 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, 1 packet of instant oatmeal, or 1-ounce (1/3 cup) dry regular or quick oatmeal. A 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal provides 70 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.
Find additional oatmeal information, nutrition tips and recipes at Penn State Extension’s Better Kid Care: The Appeal of Oatmeal - Lunches & Snacks.
- American Heart Association. Types of Whole Grains. 2015.
- Missouri University Extension. Choose Oatmeal as a Whole-Grain Healthy Choice. 2015.
- Oldways Whole Grains Council. Types of Oats.