Get out your party hats. It’s time to celebrate National Oatmeal Month. You heard me right – this month the Whole Grain Council has named oats the grain of the month for January. More oats are bought in January than any other time of the year, according to the Days of the Year website. Let’s take a look down memory lane to see how our favorite morning hot cereal came to be.
A Little Oatmeal History Lesson
According to the Whole Grain Council, more than 32,000 years ago in Italy, traces of wild oats were found. But, oats weren’t the first popular kids on the block – they came to Europe long after wheat and barley.
Oats didn’t come to North America until the 17th century, and even then was mostly used to feed livestock and horses. Eventually, though, Americans got with the program and began creating the first oatmeal recipes.
The famous oatmeal company Quaker began in 1877 and boosted the use of oats in cooking, especially breakfast cereal. As steel cut oat fans know, these small pellet shaped oats can take a long time to cook. So, in the first half of the 1900’s, this was made easier – oats were smushed down to a smaller size to become rolled oats. These thinner oats were easier and quicker to cook.
And that, my friends, is how we got our favorite nutty flavored, wholesome, satisfying breakfast!
Oats are nourishing and filling, eaten in their whole grain form boasting approximately five grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. As a whole grain, oats maintain their healthy fat and protein which increases satiety (fullness) upon eating.
Oats also contain polyphenols which contribute to their anti-inflammatory properties. Ever had an oatmeal bath – they’re soothing for the outside of our body as well, and are actually contained in many skincare products and make-ups!
The antioxidant power of oats doesn’t stop there. Combined with rich vitamin and mineral content (20% of your daily Iron needs in just ½ cup), and fiber, oats have been shown to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and help maintain blood sugar levels.
Remember, though, eating one type of food isn’t the whole answer – continue to practice nourishing your body with a variety of foods. Consistency with nutrition is the best practice!
What Are The Different Types of Oats?
Steel Cut Oats
Also called Irish oats, these little guys start as groats which just means that the inedible hull has been taken off the original grain. These are chopped down – with steel blades – into smaller pieces that we then cook and eat! Typically 1 cup of uncooked oats is mixed with 3 cups of water and simmered for 15-30 minutes. I like to use 2 cups of almond milk, and 1 cup of water instead for a more creamy version!
Rolled oats actually start as steel cut oats. They are then steamed and smushed down with rollers to create a quicker-to-cook oatmeal. These are the oats that we typically see in small packets in the grocery store. The water to oats ratio is 3:2. That’s 1.5 cups of water for 1 cup of oats, for example.
These oats are also called quick oats. They are first pre-cooked then dried before rolling, and are slightly thinner than rolled oats so that they are cooked quite quickly. They have less texture than rolled oats. The water to oat ratio is the same as rolled oats, but I personally like to add a little less to keep them from getting “mushy.”
It’s important to note that all 3 types of oats are still whole grains, as none of the actual grain is taken away in the process. This means that nutrition is maintained and any way you like to eat oats is good for you! There is really no best way.
Ways You Can Use Oats
You might know how to boil oats for a traditional cereal, but new uses for oats are popping up everywhere.
One popular oatmeal you might have heard about is Overnight Oats. As you will see in the Strawberry Overnight Oats recipe below, rolled oats are covered with milk – typically in a jar or other small container – with the other cereal ingredients and placed in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning they are softened and with a little stir ready to eat. This method has taken the meal planning world by storm, making it easier to plan and make breakfast for days ahead!
Another make ahead method is baked oatmeal as shown below in the Banana Baked Oatmeal recipe. This oatmeal has a more cake-like texture, and is delicious warmed up with a little schmear of peanut butter!
I like to add ¼ cup rolled oatmeal into my smoothies before blending for a more satisfying morning drink. And, of course, let’s not forget oatmeal cookies! Why not add some oats to our dessert? Speaking of cookies, Ellie Krieger’s Breakfast Cookies is one of my most crowd-pleasing recipes. Because…cookies for breakfast. #amiright
As you can see, oats are a versatile grain that can be used in many dishes sure to please all. You can even find savory oatmeal – which I have yet to get on board with. Let me know if you have a savory recipe you love! Below you will find the Banana Baked Oatmeal recipe along with some others to try.
Banana Baked Oatmeal
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 2-3 bananas 1 mashed and 1-2 sliced
- 1 1/2 cups milk I used almond milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 tbsp brown sugar
- Spray 8 inch pan with cooking spray
- Stir together oats, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon
- Add sugar, egg, mashed banana, milk, and vanilla. Stir just until combined
- Pour into pan and layer with sliced bananas
- Bake for 25 minutes
- Top with brown sugar and broil 3-4 minutes until golden
- Eat that oatmeal goodness!
What is your favorite oatmeal recipe?
Niki is a Registered Dietitian and the owner of New Frontier Nutrition LLC. Niki works to help clients create a diet-free life with Intuitive Eating strategies. She lives at home with her partner, two dogs, and three cats.