The next time you’re making oatmeal, think twice before reaching for the cinnamon sugar — as this dish’s health effects depend largely on how it’s served.
You can make numerous additions to oatmeal to boost its taste and nutrition profile. Certain ingredients even make this popular morning porridge a good option to support weight loss goals.
This article provides various oatmeal toppings based on your preferences and health goals.
Oatmeal is made from oats that have been cooked in liquid to form a creamy porridge.
You can use any type of oats. Some of the most common kinds include:
- Scottish oats
- steel cut (or Irish) oats
- rolled (or old fashioned) oats
- instant (or quick) oats
While all are derived from whole oats — also known as oat groats — they differ in how they’re processed. In general, those above are listed from least to most processed.
While Scottish oats are made by grinding oat groats into meal, steel cut oats take whole oats and chop them into pieces with a steel blade. Rolled and quick oats differ because they’ve been steamed and flattened.
All oats are high in fiber, provide carbs to give you energy, and contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds (
The soluble fiber in oats, known as beta glucan, may help reduce cholesterol levels. Since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, eating oatmeal regularly may lower your risk (
Beta glucan may also help people with diabetes control blood sugar. That’s because it slows down digestion, leading to a steady increase in blood sugar instead of a quick spike (
It’s worth noting that less processed oats may have more advantages than more heavily processed ones (
For example, steel cut oats raise blood sugar less than more processed oats. They may be digested even more slowly than rolled or quick oats, causing a slower increase in blood sugar (
In addition, what you add to oats may either contribute or detract from its health benefits.
Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast option that may help lower cholesterol and prevent blood sugar spikes. Still, the toppings you use make a difference.
Plain oatmeal is very nutritious but tastes bland without toppings.
Although countless toppings are available, many oatmeals served in restaurants or sold in stores are high in sugar. To keep your sugar intake under control, you can simply make it at home.
To sweeten oatmeal without going overboard on refined sugar, try these additions:
- Fresh fruit: berries, bananas, apples, peaches, mango, or pears
- Spices: cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or nutmeg
- Natural sweeteners: a dash of maple syrup or honey
- Unsweetened or lightly sweetened chocolate: shaved dark chocolate (with a cocoa content of 70% or more)
- Nuts, seeds, and nut or seed butters: almonds, cashews, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or chia seeds
- Milk of your choice: cow’s milk or unsweetened almond milk (to use as the cooking liquid)
- Toppings to mimic carrot cake: shredded carrots, cinnamon, vanilla extract, coconut flakes, and walnuts or pecans
- Toppings to mimic pie: spices, vanilla extract, and puréed sweet potato, pumpkin, or butternut squash
You can flavor oatmeal with savory toppings, such as:
- chopped spinach or kale
- sautéed mushrooms and garlic
- shredded cheese, such as cheddar or feta
- a fried or poached egg
You can boost oatmeal’s flavor by adding your own toppings — without the need for excess sugar. Try fruit and spices to make it sweet or veggies and cheese to make it savory.
While plain oatmeal boasts several health benefits, it’s primarily carbs and doesn’t offer much fat or protein (
Pairing it with sources of fat and protein makes it more well rounded, which is important to help you stay full for longer, meet your nutrient needs, and stay energized throughout the day (
Here are some foods to pair with oatmeal to bolster its protein or fat content:
- a couple of spoonfuls of nut butter, nuts, or seeds
- a scoop of protein powder
- beaten egg whites (mixed into oatmeal while cooking) or a fried egg on top
- shredded cheese
- Greek yogurt
Try overnight oats
You can also consider making overnight oats.
Mix 1/4 cup (23 grams) of rolled oats with 1/4 cup (71 grams) of Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup (60 mL) of a milk of your choice, and healthy toppings. Divide into jars, seal, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, you’ll have a thick, cold oatmeal to enjoy.
To make oatmeal more balanced, add sources of protein and fat like eggs, Greek yogurt, or peanut butter.
Depending on what you add to it, oatmeal may support weight loss.
Still, no single oatmeal topping can promote weight loss on its own. Instead, focus on low calorie swaps if you’re trying to lose weight, as eating fewer calories than you burn may lead to weight loss (
Here are some ideas for swapping oatmeal toppings to help with weight loss:
- Substitute a fruit that is lower in calories and carbs for one that’s higher in these nutrients, such as blueberries instead of bananas.
- Use fruit or spices like cinnamon in place of refined sweeteners like brown sugar.
- Add plain, sliced nuts or seeds in lieu of sweet, crunchy toppings like candied nuts or chocolate chips.
- Choose unsweetened varieties of plant-based milks, or skim or low fat cow’s milk.
- Consider making savory oatmeal with non-starchy vegetables instead of high calorie toppings.
In addition, be sure to add a protein source like Greek yogurt, egg whites or eggs, or nuts or nut butters. Protein helps you feel full and prevents overeating, which in turn may promote weight loss (
Low calorie toppings and protein-rich foods are good additions to oatmeal if you’re trying to lose weight.
Oatmeal is a delicious breakfast food that’s full of healthy nutrients.
Adding nutritious toppings to oatmeal can boost its flavor and contribute to its health benefits. Try adding fruit for sweetness, veggies or eggs for a savory twist, or sources of protein and fat to make it a balanced meal.
Simultaneously, it’s best to steer clear of high sugar toppings like brown sugar, white sugar, candied nuts, and sweetened fruits.
Just one thing
Try this today: Oatmeal is easy to make on the stovetop, but baked oatmeal is especially delicious. Try this recipe for Spiced Parsnip and Apple Baked Oatmeal for a fun variation.