If you love oatmeal but want a healthier option, try making these Gluten Free Healthy Homemade Oats. They are packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, and wholesome nutrition. What they are not packed with? Junk.
When I was little I could not stand oatmeal. It was mushy, sticky, and something I though you only ate if you were over 80. I am a total texture person and something about it gave me a case of the heebies. As I got older I grew a taste for it and eventually began to love it. I would eat one or two packets of the Quaker Instant Oatmeal (or some other off brand) at least a few times a week, especially in college when I was on a tight budget and needed a quick meal before class. The problem is, I thought I was giving my body wholesome nutrients post a.m. workout, but turns out I was feeding my cells a little bit of wholesome nutrition and a lot of sugar.
It is no new news that added sugar consumption is out of control, especially in the United States. The problem is nutrition labels are tricky and to the average consumer sometimes very difficult to read. We also live in a fast paced busy world so we are looking for quick meals. While I encourage you to make as much as you possibly can from scratch (and in bulk to save time in the future), sometimes that is not possible. So at the very least, practice reading labels and teach your family about reading labels as well. Sometimes, when you break the product down yourself it doesn’t seem as “wholesome” as the clever packaging claims it to be.
Is It Food, or Is It Sugar?
When you read nutrition labels the first thing you should look at is the serving size. Take for example a packet of Quaker Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal. The serving size is 43 grams (1 packet). Next we skip down to the sugar in that packet. A high sugar content is not naturally occurring in oats so almost all of the sugar here is “added”. You can verify this on the ingredient list where you see the second ingredient after whole grain oats is indeed “sugar”. The total sugar in this small packet is 12 grams (just over a third of the entire packet)!
Now – 1 teaspoon of sugar (the size of one sugar cube) is equivalent to 4 grams of sugar. In this case we divide the 12 grams of sugar in the oatmeal by 4 which leaves us with 3. So there are 3 teaspoons of sugar (or 3 sugar cubes) in one packet.
Remember this: 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp (1 sugar cube)
(This equation does not change. Say it over and over, write it down, sing it. Whatever you have to do to remember it. It will help you visualize the amount of sugar as you read labels.)
Is that a lot?
Yes. Let’s consider the sugar recommendations for adults. The FDA recommends that no more than 10 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars. That’s about 12.5 teaspoons (if you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet). The American Heart Association recommendations are even lower. They suggest men keep added sugar consumption to 9 teaspoons or less per day, and women to 6 teaspoons or less per day. If you eat this oatmeal and you are a woman, this leaves you with an allowance of 3 more teaspoons of sugar for your entire day (and you are likely still on breakfast). Eek!
Furthermore, when reading labels always consider the ingredient list. I am not going to discuss this much on this particular post since I know what you are really looking for is the recipe, but consider reading a few eye-opening articles and digging into some research on these ingredients yourself. As far as ingredients in the Quaker oatmeal, you can read more about caramel color here. Manufacturers put this artificial color in just for looks. It serves no nutritional value whatsoever and unfortunately poses health risks to adults and kids. Check out this article on food dye (including caramel color) and ADHD. More information can be found here and here. As far as “natural flavors”, you can stick that into the Google search bar and find hundreds of reputable articles on just what that “really” means.
What is better?
Homemade of course! Don’t panic! Homemade does not have to take a ton of time or even cost more. Actually, it saves you money in the long run. You can stock up on the items when they are on sale and store the mix in a mason jar like the picture I have here. These Gluten Free Healthy Homemade Oats are super simple to make and versatile so you can change up ingredients each time you make them.
Here is how I make our recipe. Note – this is an approximate. I change the mixture depending on what dried fruit I have stocked up in our pantry.
Gluten Free Healthy Homemade Oats
Fill a large mason jar (or other airtight container) 2/3 of the way with plain, gluten-free oats. My favorite brand to use right now is Bakery on Main, a certified gluten-free facility out of Connecticut. The only ingredient in the oats is: Certified gluten-free whole grain oats, as it should be. The sugar content in the package I use is = 1 gram per serving (A LOT better than 12 grams).
Next add your fiber & healthy fats. First put in 3 heaping tablespoons of ground flaxseed. One serving size of flaxseed (2 tablespoons) gives you a whopping 2.9 grams of brain and heart protective Omega-3 ALA (this is over 180% of the RDA), 3 grams of protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Next throw in 3 heaping tablespoons of chia seeds. This is going to add 9 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, 30% of your RDA for magnesium and more calcium and iron.
Adding in Real Sugar
Now we have to sweeten it because let’s face it, a little sweetness makes it taste better. However, instead of dumping straight sugar in the jar (like most companies do) we are going to add dried fruit. This will pack in more fiber & antioxidants with the sweetness, giving you a healthy source of sugar. Add 1/2 cup of any assortment of dried fruit. Check the ingredients here! You want the fruit to be in its natural form. Most dried fruits (even the beloved Craisins) have added sugar, or worse yet, artificial sweeteners). My favorite brand is the Made in Nature brand. I love the Fruit Fusion Super Berry mix made with organic tart cherries, blueberries, goji berries, raisins, cranberries and crunchy pepita seeds. If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder goji berries can be a trigger. Please make sure you have tested these before you assume your body can tolerate them. Target has a few good options from Simply Balanced as well.
Next for some more flavor & healthy fats we add a few tablespoons of unsweetened coconut flakes. Unsweetened coconut is composed of mostly saturated fat. However, this type of saturated fat is good for you. Really! Coconut contains medium chain fatty acids which aid in increasing HDL cholesterol (the good stuff), and actually increases metabolism.
Lastly we are going to add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg for more flavor. These spices can be increased or decreased based on your tastes, but this is how I enjoy mine.
Mix It Up
Once all these ingredients are added, seal the lid & shake vigorously until all ingredients are mixed.
Cook in the microwave with your favorite milk alternative. If you like more sweetness you can add a little honey or maple syrup once cooked. I like to add frozen blueberries to the oatmeal before I cook it, adding even more antioxidants and cancer fighting polyphenols.
The options to mix ingredients up are endless, you just have to use your creative mind. However, keeping the ingredients pure and simple allows you to know exactly what you and your family are eating. Way less sugar, no artificial flavors, packed with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Plus, it is delicious! Remember, it may take awhile for your taste buds to adjust to eating less sugar. Keep exposing yourself to foods that do not have added sugar. Over time you will enjoy these foods even more. For many, sugar addiction is so high they are not able to enjoy the taste of wholesome low-sugar foods until their taste buds adjust. Give it time. You are changing the way your body reacts to food and making healthier choices for yourself!
If you like this Gluten Free Healthy Homemade Oats recipe, check out the Banana Oat Pancake recipe I make using these oats.