Health, Recipes

Power Up Your Bowl of Oatmeal with Protein

Did you know that some research suggests that individuals should consume as much as 20-30 grams of protein at each meal?!  Even breakfast!?  Protein is an important macronutrient that often gets over-consumed at dinner and under-consumed at breakfast.  And research shows that making up for it later in the day isn’t as effective as getting a moderate amount at each meal.

Protein plays an active and necessary role in your diet:

  • Keeps you full and satisfied between meals
  • Helps maintain muscle mass and avoid sarcopenia (muscle loss with aging)
  • Aids in muscle synthesis (building muscle)
  • Can help manage and lose weight, specifically body fat
  • Used to make hormones, enzymes, blood cells and much more!

As we embrace cooler mornings and autumn leaves, many of us are thinking about hot beverages and breakfast foods to fill us up before we depart for our day. Oatmeal, a common hot breakfast cereal, is one of those foods and rightfully so!  Oats boast some excellent nutritional benefits including heart and gastrointestinal health, satiety, and blood sugar control.  This Complete Guide to Oats describes the different varieties and each of their benefits.  They are certainly an excellent way to start your day! But, while oatmeal is warm, nutrient dense and easy to make, 1 serving of oats only has ~5 grams protein.  

When thinking about how to create meals that are balanced, nutrient dense and will keep you full for hours, it is necessary to eat high fiber carbohydrate, satisfying protein and healthy fat all in one meal. This includes breakfast too!

Consuming 30 grams of protein may OR may not be appropriate and feasible for you.  A chat with your Registered Dietitian can help you determine your exact needs.  However, if you ever feel the “morning munchies” or start losing energy mid-morning or maybe you just feel sluggish from the get-go and can’t get yourself up and running, then it is time to take a look at your breakfast!

If you have a tendency to grab a packet of flavored oatmeal, most brands are loaded with about 1 tablespoon of sugar, and a variety of artificial flavors.  The “low sugar” or “weight control” versions often have artificial sugars that you may or may not be okay with consuming.  Instant packets are also more processed and even lower in protein than the rolled oats/old fashioned oats.  While convenient, these instant packets of oatmeal don’t provide a balanced or healthy breakfast. But there are solutions…

First, let’s begin with the basic oatmeal recipe:

TRADITIONAL OATMEAL FOR 1

  • ½ cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup water or liquid
  • Dash of salt

StoveTop Instructions: Bring liquid and salt to boil in small pot.  Add oats and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Microwave Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a medium size microwave safe bowl and cook on high for 2 ½ – 3 minutes.

OATMEAL TIPS & TRICKS

  • The recipe can be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled and rewarmed later in the week with a splash of water or milk in the microwave.  Slightly reduce liquid as you increase the number of servings.
  • Add a variety of seasonings including cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and flavored extracts.
  • Make your own “oatmeal packets” in plastic sandwich bags by including oats, salt, and spices.  At work, add oat contents, liquid, and extracts to medium bowl and microwave.

Of course, you can try out my easy Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats recipe blueprint that cooks while you sleep and save yourself the 3-5 minutes each morning.  It also makes enough servings for the entire family!!

NOW…

Let’s POWER UP your morning bowl of oats with protein so that you can stay satisfied and energized all morning!

 

EGG WHITES

Eggs are a remarkable source of high-quality protein, containing 4 grams for only 17 calories.  Adding an entire egg (yolk & white) to the oatmeal does affect the flavor but adding only the white makes it virtually undetectable.  The white cooks into the hot oatmeal almost instantly changing from translucent to a whitish color.  As you

How-To: Once oatmeal is cooked, stir in 1-2 egg whites into hot oatmeal.  Either separate the yolk from the white or use an egg white product like All Whites (make sure the product is egg whites only WITHOUT added flavors or salt).  The egg white will cook into the hot oatmeal almost instantly changing from translucent to a whitish color, but the oatmeal must be hot.  The more you stir it up, the less noticeable it will be!

Key Tip: The oatmeal must be hot (but not boiling!) to cook the egg white.  IF you use egg whites from a carton (like All Whites), they are pasteurized, removing any fear of salmonella.

 

Print

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

A delicious and nutritious start to your day!

Servings 1
Author Jennifer Hunt, RDN, LD

Ingredients

  • 8 oz unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 small carrot shredded
  • 1 Tbsp raisins
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup egg whites like All Whites
  • 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts

Instructions

  1. Add almond milk, spices, salt, shredded carrot and raisins to a small saucepan. Bring to simmer on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add in oats. Cook until thick porridge texture. 

  2. Remove from heat and stir in egg whites. Place back on the warm burner and allow to sit for 1-2 minutes with the lid on. The texture will gradually thicken. Pour into bowl and top with chopped walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon.  

Recipe Notes

Double, or triple the recipe.  Reheat in the microwave with a splash of milk.

Nutrition

Calories 377; Fat 15g; Saturated Fat 0.6g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 319mg; Potassium 532mg; Carbohydrate 45g; Fiber 9g; Sugar 9g; Protein 19g

 

PROTEIN POWDER

This is a quick solution to add a big boost of protein.  The brand and flavor you use will contribute to the flavor and texture. From my experience, whey protein powder blends in fairly well, but feel free to try other options including vegan ones like (chia, hemp, pea protein) or even “green” powders.  The amount of protein added completely depends on the product you use and how much.  If the package indicates that 1 scoop is 20 grams of protein and you add half, then you have added 10 grams of protein to your oatmeal.  Sliced or mashed banana or other types of fruit and extracts can help “hide” any undesirable protein powder flavors.

Option #1 How-To:  Remove oatmeal from heat and allow to cool slightly.  When it is warm, stir in desired quantity of protein powder until combined.

Option #2 How-To: Mix protein powder with 2-4 tablespoons of milk.  Then stir into oatmeal.  This allows you to dissolve any lumps before adding (can shake up in a small cup with a lid or whisk together).

Key Tip: If the oatmeal is too hot, the protein powder will not mix in and will look (and taste) grainy or lumpy.  

 

GREEK YOGURT

Full of high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D and potassium, greek yogurt is quite a powerhouse of nutrients!  Add a few dollops into warm or chilled oatmeal to make it creamy and luscious.  Per ¼ cup serving (2 oz), plain low-fat greek yogurt contains ~6 grams protein and ~40 calories.

Of course, you could always make any version of these amazing Overnight Oats too!

And, if you want a completely different take on your bowl of oatmeal, try this Berry Vanilla Baked Oatmeal recipe that contains 6 grams protein per serving and then add a big dollop of greek yogurt when serving!

How-To: Simply stir into your bowl of warm or cool oatmeal.

Key Tip: Use low-fat (made with 2% milk) or whole fat yogurt- this makes the oatmeal more creamy, significantly reduces the tang, and decreases the chances of the yogurt curdling.  BUT, the oatmeal must not be hot, only warm or cool.

 

MILK

While water might be the common liquid used to make oatmeal, milk is an easy substitution that adds valuable nutrition and makes the oatmeal extra creamy. Of course, the type of milk you use determines the overall protein and nutrition of your bowl of oats.

Cow’s milk generally has the most protein coming in at 8 grams per 1 cup serving.  Soy milk is another high protein choice and depending on the brand, will average 8 grams as well.  While soy is a plant milk, it is considered high-quality protein because it is the one plant that contains all essential amino acids.  Brands of plant-based milks (almond, coconut, hemp, rice, etc.) will differ depending on what nutrients the manufacturer adds during processing.  This chart provides some of the basic information on each type of milk:

Milk Type Protein Calories
2% Cow’s Milk 8 grams 120
Unsweetened Soymilk Beverage 7-9 grams 80-90
Unsweetened Almond Milk Beverage 1 gram 30-60
Unsweetened Coconut Milk Beverage* 0-1 gram 60-90

*Actual coconut milk (often canned), contains >400 calories and >40g total fat, of which most is saturated fat per 1 cup serving.

How-To: Replace the water in the recipe with milk- it’s that simple!

Key Tip: When using milk in stovetop oatmeal, watch carefully to ensure it does not boil over.  Milk is a great liquid to use in this slow cooker oatmeal recipe with no risk of a messy cleanup!

 

NUTS & NUT BUTTERS

This creamy or crunchy topping can give your bowl of oats a boost of nutty protein and nutrition. Nuts are generally a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats, but they also contain about 2-6 grams protein per 1 ounce serving.  Each nut has a different nutrient profile, but these charts point out the basics.

Whole Tree Nuts & Peanuts

Nut (1oz) Protein Calories
Almonds 6 grams 163
Walnuts 4 grams 185
Peanuts 7 grams 170
Cashews 5 grams 157
Pistachios 6 grams 158

 

Nut Butters

Nut Butter (2 tbsp) Protein Calories
Almond Butter 7 grams 190-200
Peanut Butter 8-9 grams 190-210
Cashew Butter 6 grams 190-200

*Choose nut butter with no added sugar

How-To: Sprinkle on top or stir in a spoonful!

Key Tip: Measure your serving of nuts and nut butters to stay aware of calories added.

 

SEEDS

Not only do seeds add protein and fiber but a fun texture to a hot bowl of oatmeal!  Some seeds are ideal in ground form in order to best absorb nutrients (sometimes teeth just can’t get through the outer layer to the nutrient dense interior).  Others, you can literally sprinkle and then dig in your spoon!

Seed Protein Calories
Chia 3 grams 60
Hemp 3 grams 60
Flax (ground) 1.5 grams 35

How-To: Sprinkle on top or stir into oatmeal after cooking.

Key Tip: Experiment by adding different types of seeds to see which ones you like best!

Oatmeal is a great way to fill up each morning and give yourself the healthy carbs it needs to think clearly and stay energized, but adding a little extra boost of protein will ensure you don’t get those nagging morning munchies!  Try out 1 or all of these different methods to power up your bowl of oatmeal with protein and see which you like best!

 

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