Sophia Kamveris, MS, RDN
Brrr...Move over Smoothie!
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
It’s beginning to look a lot like oatmeal-weather! At least, here in New England. When the thermometer begins to dip, eating patterns change along with it, as well. More soups than salads and more bubbly casseroles make it to the dinner table. Long recognized as a heart healthy food, oats enter center stage for breakfast at this time of the year.
I always get asked what’s the best kind of oatmeal to eat. I admit, it’s overwhelming to navigate the grocery shelves trying to figure out the best one to use. I’ve blogged on this before (December 2017) but I wanted to revisit it because there are some new players since then. For today’s blog, I am going to look mainly at the instant “cup” options, since this “grab and go” feature is popular. But, because they come with their own bowl, they are also the most expensive, averaging about $2.50-$3.30 per serving, depending on the brand.
I ranked the following in order of nutritional value, listing the ones with no added sugars at the top:
1. Bob’s Red Mill Classic with Flax and Chia. It also notes it is non-GMO and Gluten Free. One container has 210 calories and 33 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber. The 5 grams of fat come in from the seeds, and some of the oats. Sodium is 160 mg. There is 0 Grams of added sugar. This one is not as high in protein as the two that follow, but you can always add your own protein powder or nut butter to it to boost its protein power.
2. Kodiak Power Cup Maple Brown Sugar: One container has 230 calories and 37 grams of carbohydrate, 14 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber. Sodium is 200 mg. Pea protein and whey solids (i.e. milk) have been added to enhance the protein in this product. Kodiak has been the breakfast pioneer. They have a pancake line, as well that touts higher protein in their products. The balance of carbs and proteins in foods helps to stabilize blood sugars. I often hear my patients say they get hungry a few hours after eating plain oatmeal. This product may help quell those pangs. There is 0 grams of added sugar.
3. RX AM Oats (Vanilla Almond): One container has 260 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrate, 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of dietary fiber. Sodium is 110 mg. It is highest in fat, coming in at 8 grams (from the nuts). There is 0 grams of added sugar. This company started with sports bars, RX Bars, that touts a few ingredients on its label (egg whites, almonds, date, oats with no B.S.). This was the most expensive on the shelf.
4. Nature’s Path Maple Pecan: One container has 220 calories and 35 grams of carbohydrate, 12 grams of protein and 6 grams of dietary fiber. Sodium is 105 mg. There is 8 grams of added sugar (that’s about the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar).
5. Bob’s Red Mill naturally flavored brown sugar and maple withFlax and Chia: One container has 240 calories and 42 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein and 7 grams of dietary fiber. Sodium is 310 mg. There is 9 grams of added sugar (that’s about the equivalent of two teaspoons of sugar). This one is pretty significant for sodium, similar to some of the packaged oatmeals that get tossed in (your own) bowl.
6. Quaker Oats Honey and Almonds: One container has 190 calories and 34 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of dietary fiber. Sodium is 180 mg. What I want to note in this product is the ingredient listing includes “chicory root extract” which is added to many food products these days to boost the fiber value of the product. This form of fiber has not been shown to lower cholesterol like good ol’ intact fiber. There is 10 grams of added sugar (that’s about the equivalent of 2-¼ teaspoons of sugar).
No matter which way oats are processed, the bran and germ are left in tact, so they are always 100% whole grain. Oats have one of the highest sources of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber proven to help reduce blood cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugars. Be aware though that some of the oatmeals that don’t require stove-top cooking can be loaded with sugar and sodium, so read the labels. And don't forget to top off with a variety of anti-oxidant rich berries and omega 3-fatty acids nuts!
In Good Health,