I’ll never try to convince you to eat sardines, man…and I’ll leave the broccoli sales pitch for another time. But oatmeal? C’mon. It’s incredibly good for you and perfectly good to eat.
So, please invest a few minutes to consider this case for oatmeal (and tips for how to make it an easy part of your morning).
Context: Typical Breakfast Alternatives
The case for oatmeal is especially strong because common breakfast alternatives are not healthy.
⇒ No breakfast: bad idea; slows down metabolism and leaves your body and mind without energy.
⇒ Cereal: Most are high-sugar or made with refined flours (“bad carbs”). There are certainly good cereals out there—I’m not condemning all cereal!
⇒ Bagels/toast/pastry: Broad category, but most bread-based breakfasts have same issues affecting mass-market cereal (and without the milk, they don’t bring protein). Pastries are basically dessert, dude.
⇒ Eggs: Unless you’re actively managing cholesterol, a fine thing to eat. But “eggs” often also means cheese, fried potatoes, unhealthy bread, packaged meats, etc.
Common Objections to Oatmeal (and Why They’re Misguided)
I see five reasons people don’t eat oatmeal.
1. Oats aren’t a “fit” for some people’s digestive system. If you have gastrointestinal (GI) issues like bloating, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s, or other inflammatory conditions, this “oatmeal infomercial” is over! (But note, oats are gluten-free).
2. Belief that oatmeal is bad for managing weight. This is partly due to “prepared” oatmeal mixes (e.g. Maple & Brown Sugar) that are high-sugar. Here, I’m talking about plain oatmeal with your own, not pre-packaged, additives!
Also, ultra-low-carb advocates criticize oatmeal’s carbs. Me? I don’t think very-low-carb is advisable long-term. If you’re heavily cutting carbs for short-term weight loss, bookmark this and read it once you reach the “how to maintain healthy weight over the long term” stage.
3. Fuzzy awareness of oatmeal’s benefits. Most guys are vaguely aware of this, but I want you to be specifically aware. Oatmeal is high in:
⇒ Fiber. It protects your heart by helping clear LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from your body…helps ward-off diabetes…keeps your regular (“like a champ” comes to mind)…and keeps you full for hours.
The “full for hours” benefit leads some experts to recommend oatmeal for weight loss, despite its calories and carbs.
⇒ Important vitamins, minerals & antioxidants that help fight cancer
⇒ High-quality energy (carbs) for athletic performance.
Not surprisingly, oatmeal appears on nearly all mainstream nutrition authorities’ “healthiest foods” lists.
4. Belief that oatmeal is bland, mushy, etc. Of course, I can’t tell you what tastes good. But I think the “killer oatmeal” described here will be somewhere between “pretty good” and “awesome” for many of you.
5. Reluctance to “cook” in the morning. Mornings are rushed, for sure. But in the same time it takes to get coffee going, you can have oatmeal, cooked in the microwave and eaten in the same bowl.
Killer Oatmeal: Ingredients and Logic for Them
Here’s what I eat:
5/8 cup of Quaker “Old Fashioned” Oats. I know quantity seems random. For me, it’s 2.5 measures of a quarter cup measure we have. It just feels like the right amount to eat.
½ cup of 2% milk. Less liquid than typical instructions say. I find standard recipes make for a soupy result. I use lactose-free milk because I need to.
1 teaspoon honey. A more-or-less thing; I put about a half-dollar-sized circle of honey on top after cooking.
Cinnamon to taste
1 oz. chia seeds. Protein, omega 3, fiber…and help keep you full. Drink additional water afterward, because they soak up liquids around them.
1 oz. shredded coconut. Helps make it taste good; also beneficial fat.
Walnuts (7-8 halves, broken into smaller pieces). Great for you in multiple ways. Use “raw” or organic (I like raw ones better).
Note: I don’t put fruit in my oatmeal, but if you do, low-sugar berries are best, as opposed to raisins or even bananas.
How to Make It
1. Combine oatmeal and milk. If you have a food scale (<=$20), you can even avoid a measuring cup. Just put the bowl, and the oatmeal in it, on the scale. Then add 200 grams of milk!
This might sound like ridiculous process overkill. But if you’re going to make oatmeal on 10,000+ mornings like I am…it’s nice to avoid the measuring cup.
2. Microwave on 50% power for 4-4.5 minutes, depending on microwave. So many smart people have a blind spot about adjusting microwave power. Go half-power and you’ll never have spills.
3. Stir in all the other stuff
The “% of daily amount” analysis for carbs and protein are controversial, since the FDA and some men’s health experts differ on daily intake. I give perspective on this oatmeal mix relative to differing views on daily totals.
= 23-29% of daily calories, modeled on a 2,000 or 2,500 total daily goal.
63 grams of carbs
= 21-23% of FDA total and perhaps 30-35% of a lower total within a smart/moderate carbs approach. (Frame of reference: new FDA guidelines say 275-300 grams of carbs daily; low-carb advocates say WAY less.)
21 grams of protein
= 32-38% of FDA’s recommended protein intake, and more like 15-25% of amounts advocated by eat-more-protein evangelists.
12 grams of dietary fiber
=32-40% of recommended daily fiber (FDA lowers recommendations for age 50+). Based on what I’ve seen oatmeal help do to improve my cholesterol #s in the last 10 years or so, I’m a big believer in fiber!
So, to recap: Eat oatmeal. Include ingredients like those mentioned here, that enhance its nutritional value and make it taste good. Cook it the easy way. Repeat. At least, try this for 2-3 months and then see how you feel.
“I met a strange lady, she made me nervous. She took me in and gave me breakfast.” (Men at Work, Down Under – click to listen)
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