Tuesday, April 14, 2015

16 Ways to Spice Up Your Oatmeal

It’s common knowledge that oatmeal is one of the “safe” foods to eat while dieting. Even in my own transformation, I remember religiously eating my oats and egg whites every morning for breakfast. What I also remember is the desire to turn those oats into something much more aesthetically and tastefully appealing. 

'Oat-Cakes' pictured above — one of my favorite breakfast items to make.

Oats are a great source of B-vitamins, as well as a premier source of carbohydrates, which are needed to fuel the body for activity and the brain for thinking. Oats and quinoa both help to keep you feeling full, since they’re higher in fiber. And, despite their high count of carbs, they are extremely low - almost none - in sugar, our arch-nemesis. ;)

Instead of sloshing the daily grind of oats made with hot water or milk, try some of the following Oatmeal Mash-ups for the ultimate breakfast, sure to light your metabolism for the rest of the day.

Savory Oat & Egg Muffins
If you’re not up for something sweet when you awake, try using the oats as a crunch-factor/filler for an egg muffin to-go! In a mixing bowl, blend 1 cup oats, 2 tbsp flax, 1 carton of egg whites (or a dozen), 1/2 cup chopped peppers/onions, 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms, 1 cup spinach and garlic/salt/pepper to taste. Once all ingredients are blended, pour the mixture into a greased muffin tray. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden on top. These are great to freeze/refrigerate, so you can grab one on-the-go with an apple or other piece of fruit. 

Quinoa-Berry Breakfast Duo
Opt for a whole different grain. Quinoa is a complete protein and is packed with nutrients to keep you feeling full and prevent your blood sugar from spiking. Soak your quinoa with part hot water or unsweetened almond milk, similar to how you prepare oats. However, add a teaspoon of cinnamon, stevia, vanilla extract, and 1/3 to 3/4 cup oven-roasted blueberries (tossed with coconut oil/cinnamon), and your mouth will be watering for days. Make for one or prepare in bulk in the crockpot.

Oat-Cakes
Grind up your old-fashioned oats into oat flour (with blender or food processor). It takes less than two minutes. Use 1/2 cup oats, 2 tbsp flax seed, cinnamon/stevia to taste and 3 egg whites. For an added protein bonus, toss in 1/2 scoop protein powder. Mix in a bowl, and cook over griddle like pancakes. Drizzle with some sugar-free maple syrup like the kind by Walden Farms or mix half of that with 2 tbsp powdered peanut butter, and top ‘em off. The amounts above make for 1 serving (about 3 small pancakes). 

For some easy add-ins to your normal oatmeal routine, check out the list of super-flavor ingredients below. Be sure and use my discount code at Vitacost.com to get $10 off.

Assorted Extracts: vanilla, almond, coconut maple, etc. - Just because a recipe calls for vanilla extract doesn't mean you have to use that particular flavor. Experiment and have fun! Stay a while on the baking aisle, and look at all the glorious flavors abundant in extract form. Change it up, mix 'n match… just don't add too much. While they're very low in calories (an entire teaspoon of vanilla extract has about 10 calories), overdoing it can give your food an alcohol-y flavor! Yikes!

Fresh or Frozen Fruit - This will have you feeling so fresh and so clean, clean! I especially like to add fruit to my oats when I make them in the crockpot. It's so easy! You can add frozen and use less water, or fresh too. Cook it with chopped peaches, apples, pears, figs, dates, berries, or wait until they're cooked, and top it with fresh varieties. The calorie count varies depending on the quantity and variety, but everything in moderation.

Protein Powder - If you're looking to add lean muscle mass, you're familiar with whey protein powder. This add-in is especially important if you feel hungry midmorning. Your morning oats will last you a lot longer with a spoonful of protein powder! Look for kinds with 0-2 g sugar and 100-120 calories per scoop. A 2-tbsp. portion is all you need -- about 35 calories, 0.5g fat, and 6.5g protein. Try vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter cookie... the choices are endless!

Powdered Peanut Butter - Peanut butter, to me, is heaven. And so is this PBslim by Vitacost.com! It's made from defatted peanuts, so you don't have to worry about the typical 16 g fat and upwards of 200 calories per 2-tbsp serving. A 2-tbsp. serving of powdered peanut butter has about 50 calories and 1.5g fat.

Almonds or Pistachios - Instead of peanut butter, add the real thing. The heart-healthy fat count in almonds and pistachios may actually help you feel more satisfied. Still, add these nuts in small doses, 'cuz the stats do add up. A quarter-oz. serving is the perfect amount, with 40 calories and 3.5g fat.

Mashed Banana - One of the easiest ways to sweeten up your oatmeal and make it creamier is to you add some mashed banana. A quarter-cup adds 50 calories and 1.5g fiber. Add a little cinnamon and you're done.

Canned Pure Pumpkin - Puréed pumpkin adds fiber and will make your oatmeal thick and creamy without a pumpkin pie flavor — unless, of course, you add pumpkin pie flavoring like nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. A quarter-cup serving of pure pumpkin adds about 20 fat-free calories and 2g fiber. Just be sure to get the kind with only "pumpkin" listed on ingredients, not to be confused with pumpkin pie filling, which is higher in calories and sugar.

Unsweetened Cocoa - For those of you who don't like chocolate, watch out. If you do, then you'll love adding unsweetened cocoa powder to your oats. Each tablespoon of the powder has 15 calories, 1g fat, and 1.5g fiber. Don't forget to add a little stevia to really bring out the flavor.

Egg Whites - Like you saw in my go-to recipes above, liquid egg whites are one of the easiest ways to dress up your oats. Stirring liquid egg whites into the mixture while it simmers gives you a slightly larger serving with extra creaminess and a nice protein boost! A quarter-cup adds about 30 calories and 6.5g protein.

Sugar-Free Maple Syrup- A drizzle of this sugarless sweet stuff will perk up your oats and your mood in the morning. My favorite brand, Walden Farms, comes in several flavors like maple, chocolate, caramel, blueberry and strawberry. Swirl in 1 tbsp. for 0 calories and 0g fat.

Nonfat Plain Yogurt - I actually prefer this one on top of my oats instead of mixed in. Layer some yogurt on top of some chilled oats for an extra-creamy, whip-like experience. Sprinkle with cinnamon/stevia. Mmmm! (You can also just add a dollop on your hot cereal.) Awesome! A 1/2 cup has about 80 calories.

Sugar-Free or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips - This one's for my chocohaulics ... Because what makes the morning more bearable than knowing you're eating chocolate for breakfast? A little goes a long way with these lil suckers. Add a teaspoon for around 25 calories and 1.5g fat.

High-fiber bran cereal - You can totally add cold cereal to your hot cereal. Yes, it totally makes sense. And once you try it, you will agree. Look for high-fiber, low-sugar varieties. Cold cereal adds a crunch-factor when sprinkled on top of your oatmeal, not to mention a major dose of fiber. A quarter-cup on average has 30 calories, 0.5g fat, and 7g fiber.

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