Oats are a grain rich in dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. Oatmeal is a source of soluble fiber, which is credited with lowering the level of "bad" low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in the blood. Thanks to their mild flavor profile, oats are often prepared with a variety of spices, fruits and plenty of sugar. Unfortunately, adding significant quantities of honey, brown sugar or other sweeteners greatly increases the caloric value of oat dishes without raising its nutritional profile. With a little creativity, however, there are many delicious oatmeal preparations that pack a lot of flavor without added sugar.
Prepare the Oats
Measure a single serving of dry oats and combine it in a medium saucepan with low-fat milk or unsweetened nut or coconut milk instead of water. These liquids contribute flavor and creaminess to the oatmeal without the addition of refined sugars.
Mix any desired seasonings into the oat mixture. Experiment with an autumnal spice blend such as cinnamon, nutmeg and a tiny pinch of cloves, or try brighter flavors such as a little freshly grated ginger root and vanilla or almond extract.
Cook the oats over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the oatmeal from sticking to the bottom or sides of the pan. Less refined oat varieties such as steel-cut oats will require more cooking time than old fashioned or even quick-cooking oats.
Spoon the oats into a bowl and top with fresh or dried fruit or a small handful of nuts for added protein and natural sweetness. Enjoy a bowl of oats that takes its cues from the tropics with ingredients such as unsweetened, shredded coconut, fresh mango slices and a few chopped macadamia nuts. For a savory meal, use a few slices of fresh avocado and a dusting of ground flaxseed.
Refrigerate leftover oats in an airtight container for up to a week. Reheat plain oatmeal by adding a small amount of the cooking liquid, stirring and microwaving until warm. Add fresh fruit or nuts after microwaving the oats to preserve the toppings’ texture and flavor.
Alberto J. Medina is a small-business owner, personal trainer and professional writer. He holds a bachelor's degree in exercise and health promotion from Virginia Tech, and is an ACE-certified advanced health and fitness specialist as well as a health coach and group fitness instructor.