Oatmeal has long been touted as one of the healthiest ways to start your day. Rich in soluble fiber and complex carbohydrates, oatmeal is definitely a breakfast that can help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full for hours.

Since most consumers are looking for something quick in the morning, instant oatmeal varieties trump over steel-cut and old fashioned oats. By now, most people understand that the more processed a product, the less nutritional value, so obviously steel-cut and old fashioned oats will offer more fiber, complex carbohydrates, and nutrients, but are instant oats REALLY that unhealthy? I am here to give you my perspective.

Different Type of Oat

Let me first begin by defining each type of oat:

Steel-cut oats (Irish or Scottish oats): Raw oats that are cut in to smaller pieces, take ~30 minutes to cook, the least processed.

Old Fashioned oats: Oats that have been rolled in to thinner flakes and typically baked or pressure cooked. Cook in about 10 minutes.

Quick Cooking oats: Oats that have been broken down in to little bits, processed, and cooked, which breaks down phytonutrients. Cook in about a minute.

Instant oatmeal: Heavily processed oats, largely pre-cooked with added sugars, additives, natural/artificial flavors, and salt. Cook instantly.

*Pre-cooking oats decreases the natural nutritional value of oats but almost all oat products are precooked through standard steaming, which occurs during the milling process. Otherwise oats would take about an hour to cook.

My main concern with instant oats is that they are typically heavily sweetened, salted, and preserved. One measly packet of oatmeal can pack as much as 3 teaspoons of sugar! That’s a lot. Plus, the more the oat is broken down, the easier it is for our body to digest. Therefore, you won’t have the satiety factor in instant oats, like you would in steel-cut or old fashioned varieties.

However, that is still not to say that instant oatmeal is not a better choice than say Fruity Pebbles. So here’s what I’m going to recommend; if you absolutely don’t have time to make steel-cut or old fashioned oats, perhaps you could opt for “regular” or “plain” instant varieties.

Comparison:

1 oz packet of Quaker Instant Regular Oatmeal
– 100 calories
– 2 g fat
– 0 mg cholesterol
– 3 grams of fiber
– 80 mg sodium
– 0 g sugar
– 100 mg calcium

*Oat flour is added to the instant oats to slightly increase fiber and protein. Calcium carbonate and other vitamins are added during the fortification process.

1 oz Old Fashioned Oats

– 106 calories
– 2.1 g fat
– 0 mg cholesterol
– 3.5 g protein
– 0 mg sodium
– 19 g carbohydrate
– 2.9 g fiber
– 0.7 g sugar
– 0 mg calcium

As you can see, the natural, unsweetened, and unflavored instant oatmeal is not too different from the old fashioned oats when you compare macronutrient values. If you want to add staying power, add a little protein or healthy fats! More nutrition? How about pairing it with a homemade smoothie?

Bottom Line: I would rather see a person choose regular instant oatmeal over Fruit Pebbles!!

Now what about those flavored varieties? Let’s face it, MOST people choose flavored varieties. Tune in tomorrow because I will give MY suggestions for the best flavored instant oatmeal!