Senior Health

3/17/2023 | By Lisa Valente

Oatmeal is as close to perfect as you can get for a breakfast food. It’s a whole food with one ingredient — oats. A hearty bowl of healthy oatmeal gives you energy to power through your morning, fills you up with complex “good” carbohydrates, can be prepped the night before, takes on a variety of toppings and flavors, and is pretty darn cheap. Not to mention, oatmeal fits into a variety of diets and eating patterns, whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, trying to lose weight, or eating to manage diabetes or heart disease.

What’s so great about oatmeal?

Oatmeal is quick.

Mornings are busy, so for a breakfast food to be the best, it needs to be fast. Cook up a pot of oats and portion them out for a few different mornings. Or use quick-cooking oats for breakfast in less than 5 minutes. Save even more time in the morning by making overnight oats in mason jars to grab and go on your way out the door. Totally in a bind? Buy plain instant oatmeal or look for flavored varieties (with no more than 9 grams of sugar per serving, and be careful of the sodium) to stash in your kitchen cabinet or desk drawer.

Oatmeal is high in fiber.

There are 4 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup of dry oats. Fiber helps reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, helps you feel full for longer, can help you lose weight and maintain your weight, keeps your gut healthy and helps you poop. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber a day; men need at least 38 grams. Add fruit and nuts to your oatmeal for even more of a fiber boost in the morning.

Oatmeal is a good carb.

Healthy oatmeal is a whole-grain powerhouse. The fiber makes you feel fuller longer, so if you tend to find yourself constantly snacking through the morning or reaching for “second breakfast” right when you finish your first, you’ll likely find that oats keep you better satisfied. No need to fear carbs at breakfast. Complex carbohydrates, like oats, take longer for your body to digest. They don’t cause the same swings in blood sugars as simple carbs like white bread or sugar. Plus, oats deliver nutrients like magnesium and phosphorus.

Oatmeal can help you lose weight.

Regular breakfast eaters tend to be leaner and more successful at losing weight — and keeping it off — when they eat breakfast. Just watch out for sugary flavored varieties. Topping oatmeal with protein like nuts, nut butter, a dollop of ricotta or Greek yogurt or even an egg on top will also help you stay satisfied for longer.

Oatmeal is versatile.

oatmeal with raisins and pecans

Oatmeal can be prepared in a variety of ways to suit your needs and flavor cravings.

Vegan: Skip cow’s milk and prepare oats with almond milk, soymilk, or another nondairy milk for a vegan and dairy-free breakfast. You can also use water to make your healthy oatmeal.

Gluten-free: Oats themselves are gluten-free, but they’re often cross-contaminated with wheat or barley. Be sure to look for oats labeled gluten-free if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Savory: Don’t limit yourself to sweet and fruity toppings. Try an egg and hot sauce.

Granola bars: Make your own granola bars or energy bars with oats for another healthy on-the-go breakfast or snack.

EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at

©2023 Dotdash Meredith. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Lisa Valente