Tuesday, January 27, 2009

oatmeal...while there's still time!

OK, the title might seem a little dramatic, but there are only a few days left in National Oatmeal Month! In honor of the official breakfast food of January, I thought I'd offer my top two oatmeal treatments.

Oatmeal is something that most people eat with a heapin' helpin' of sugar. You either ladle the filthy sucre on directly, or if you eat flavored instant oatmeal, you're usually getting 12 grams or so of sugar per bowl. Just for the sake of comparison, a Milky Way bar contains 14 grams of sugar. I really read the labels for breakfast items because I find that if I start my day with something sugary, I'll be in trouble before lunch. I stay away from any cereal with more than 4 grams of any kind of sugar, which, by the way, severely limits my choices. As a slight digression, I just noticed online that Quaker has a reduced sugar flavored oatmeal now (with 4-6 grams) and McCann's has a sugar free maple-flavored oatmeal. Good for them. I wonder if any grocery stores are actually stocking those...

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I remember how my sister and I used to eat oatmeal whenever we stayed at our Grandma's house. Southerners like things pretty sweet (as in they tend to assume you are diabetic if you don't order sweet tea). We ate our oatmeal with lots of sugar, plus pools of sweetened condensed milk, which is normally only used if you are, say, making a pie. It was tasty, but did I mention that these are the same grandparents with all that family history of diabetes? Still, I have to give Papa credit for always drinking unsweetened iced tea.

Anyway, I'm not an oatmeal purist. I know some people look down upon instant, but I just don't have the energy before breakfast to be a snob about it (just ask Mike how many times I hit snooze in the mornings). So my recipes here are ones I use with plain non-flavored instant oatmeal, but you could certainly use made-from-scratch stuff. Trader Joe's has a really healthy instant oatmeal with high Omega-3 content from flax, plus protein powder and a bunch of calcium and other vitamins. On to my two oatmeal variations:


1 packet plain instant oatmeal
1/2-2/3 cups milk or water, depending on how thick you like it
1 heaping teaspoon peanut butter (crunchy is good)
generous sprinkles of cinnamon
optional - apple slices

This is a power breakfast. It's what I ate at 4:30 in the morning before that one sprint-distance triathlon I did a couple of years ago. I use milk instead of water in my oatmeal, because it makes it a little bit richer and boosts the protein, which is always good for hypoglycemics. Add the peanut butter before you microwave your oatmeal (according to the directions on the box). Don't worry about stirring the peanut butter in until after it's heated. Once the oatmeal reaches its optimal consistency, sprinkle on your cinnamon. By the way, cinnamon is an overlooked superfood that is good for you in many ways, including blood sugar control. I use it a lot as a semi-sweet flavor, especially at breakfast. If you are really hungry, you can slice up an apple and add it to your bowl of oatmeal. This is also a great small meal for rebalancing your blood sugar if you are feeling low or borderline.


1 packet plain instant oatmeal
1/2-2/3 cups milk or water
a big handful of fresh raspberries
optional: a little Splenda for extra sweetness

I think this one might go over well with little kids...who knows how I came up with it, since I'm not all that functional before I eat breakfast. Just put the raspberries in the bowl with the oatmeal packet and milk or water, and heat it all up together. Once it's hot, smoosh the raspberries and stir them in. Your oatmeal will be nice and pink, and fairly sweet just from the fruit. If you really want more sweetness, you could add a little Splenda. I try not to go too crazy with artificial sweetners, but Splenda seems better than the ones with aspartame. And for hypoglycemics, it's definitely better than anything with real sugar.

P.S. If you want to keep eating these in February, I won't tell.

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