In my early 20s, during my five year stint of working for Starbucks, they launched the perfect oatmeal, or so it was labeled. It was here I began to see value in this wonder porridge—value I failed to see as a child, unless this value involved having a spoonful of oatmeal with an entire bowl of brown sugar. In between mixing it up for customers, I began to occasionally welcome oatmeal into my life (generous amounts of brown sugar and dried fruit included). Still, shamefully enough, I primarily remained someone who, on most days, swore by iced coffee as fuel of choice. I continued to miss the point. And in turn, I continued to miss out on the value of breakfast.
I’ve recently come to fully understand not only the value in oatmeal, but the value in breakfast, and the damage I was causing my body and mind by skipping out on what I now recognize as the most vital meal of the day. Just over two months into my newfound love for breakfast, I can already say that it has changed my life, or at least my outlook and energy level throughout the entire day at stake. And as for my breakfast of choice? That was an easy one. Yep, you guessed it—oatmeal! At the beginning of 2014 I made a pact to eat a bowl every morning to accompany my cup of coffee and glass of water. I am pleased to report that I have honored this pact 90 percent of mornings to date. In fact, oatmeal has become such a part of my daily ritual, if I don’t have a bowl of oats to start my day, things feel off. My morning oatmeal energizes me without sitting heavily and weighing me down. This oatmeal offers plenty of fiber, and keeps the blood readily flowing, and the heart pumping strong. Plus it aids in stabilizing blood sugar, and helps keep cholesterol levels in check, making it an all around morning win. Still, perhaps the best part about oatmeal (aside from the pleasure of eating it) is that making the perfect bowl is literally as easy as one, two, three, which is a bonus if you are like me, and are not naturally a morning person.
1. Pick Your Oats: Hot oatmeal of the instant variety can be heated in the microwave in just over a minute’s time, or prepared by boiling water. I go the boiling water route every morning, and like to fill up my electric kettle the night before so all I have to do in the morning is plug it in, push the button and in just a couple of minutes I have boiling water ready to pour over my bowl of oats. Although you can opt for a flavored variety, I prefer starting with a neutral base. As far as brands go, my current favorite is Nature’s Path Organic. In addition to my preferred packs of Original, or Gluten Free Homestyle Oats I most often select, they offer numerous hot cereal varieties, including flavored choices with added sweetness. That said, depending on where I am or what is available at select stores, classic Original Quaker Oats is always my staple backup, or McCann’s Irish Oatmeal.
2. Mix It Up: Once you pour the boiling water over your dry oats of choice and mix it up, you will find the oatmeal quickly thickens. While some like to sip their breakfast, others, like myself, prefer a thicker porridge. You can always add more water or oats to your mix so there is no excuse for not being able to get your oatmeal to your liking. If you are looking to get more inventive and make your porridge a bit creamier, you can always add a splash of your favorite plant-based milk. Back at Starbucks, I often steamed a bit of Vanilla Soy Milk to pour over my bowl, truly giving it the star treatment.
3. Add Toppings: This is where the creativity comes in, and oatmeal becomes a bit more playful. Some mornings I enjoy crafting a straightforward berry-filled bowl. Others I like to branch out a bit. If there is one topping that regularly finds its way into my bowl, it’s blueberries. These vibrant, juicy blues rank the highest in the fruit world when it comes to being loaded with antioxidants that help fight off free radicals. Plus, these particular berries truly act as brain food as they have been linked to slowing cognitive decline and age-related memory loss. And they are known for their power in aiding kidney function.
A handful of blacks and blues, plus a few sprinkles of Hemp Hearts results in a naturally semi-sweet, fiber-licious bowl (pictured above). This Vitamin C-filled helping of strawberries mixed with blues, and topped with a heavy dusting of Chocolate PB2, makes for a colorful, performance-boosting ensemble (pictured below).
If you are looking to make your oatmeal that much more super, you can add “superfoods” like cacao nibs and chai seeds. Sliced banana, chia seeds and cacao nibs come together for a super-charged combination (pictured below). Both chai seeds and cacao nibs are small versatile additions offering resounding health benefits.
Since the topping combination is truly endless, you can change things up every single morning, mixing and matching, as you gradually introduce more toppings into your regime. Or if you find one or two you love, you can stick with these as long as you choose. And remember, if the natural sugar in the fruit you select isn’t quite sweet enough for you, there is no shame in adding an extra dash of sweetness, or starting off with a sweeter oat base and stepping back from the sweetness gradually, especially if you are new to the oatmeal world. I must admit I have been known to mix in a few sprinkles of raw sugar, every now and then, when I have an extra taste for the sweets. The most important thing is coming up with flavorful bowls that suit your fancy and keep you coming back for more, morning after morning. Ultimately, breakfast should never become a chore. Breakfast should be a warm and welcoming start to your day—one that is simple, yet powerful enough to fuel you for the hours to come.