The Scoop on Oatmeal

"You make such fancy oatmeal."

That was what my husband said to me the morning I made the oatmeal pictured above. It was loaded with butter, dried cranberries, soaked and dried pecans, shredded coconut, and cinnamon. After the photo shoot I added a moat of raw milk. And some sliced banana. And a dollop of peanut butter. I admit, I went overboard a little bit. But man was it good!

Oats are nutritious, cheap, and can be cooked in minutes, so they make a great breakfast! But they present us with a few problems...

problem #1: They contain phytates, substances that block your body's ability to absorb minerals.
problem #2: By themselves, they don't contain enough protein to make a breakfast that satisfies.
problem #3: The husband doesn't like them.

So what to do, what to do? Here are some solutions. (Unfortunately problem #3 appears to be unsolvable despite my fancy toppings. Oh well.)

solution #1: minimize anti-nutrients
This is a problem with all grains, as well as nuts and legumes. Eating too many unsoaked grains can cause nutrient deficiencies. Traditional cultures used to soak their grains for several hours (or sometimes days!) to get the most out of them. Several people (including Katie from Kitchen Stewardship, where I guest blogged last week) have done a lot of research on the effectiveness of soaking in minimizing anti-nutrients. The results have been less than crystal clear, but I'm choosing to stick with it, mostly because I seem to feel better after eating soaked vs. unsoaked whole grains, and I have read several testimonies from people who cannot easily digest unsoaked grains but do fine with soaked ones.

Here's how you do it.
You will need:
-equal amounts rolled oats (I like thick rolled oats best) and filtered water
-1 T. acidic medium per cup of oats: whey (from draining plain yogurt to make yogurt cheese), plain yogurt, buttermilk, or lemon juice
-1 T. whole wheat flour or buckwheat flour* per cup of oats

8-24 hours (24 is best) before you are going to eat your oatmeal, place your desired amount of rolled oats in a small saucepan. Add an equal amount of water (I usually do 3/4 c. oats and 3/4 c. water, which is a good amount for my toddler and I). Add your acidic medium and the whole wheat flour. Heat this mixture gently on the stove, because the process works best if everything is warm. Don't overheat, because then you are cooking the oats, instead of soaking them. You might want to set a timer for a minute or so, to make sure you don't forget about them (not that I've ever made that mistake...) Turn off the heat once they are lukewarm, and cover.

The next morning, add more water (the same amount you added the day before, so for me it's another 3/4 cup...or just eyeball it) and a pinch of salt (salt really enhances the flavor!). Bring to a boil in simmer gently for a few minutes until cooked. Soaked oats cook faster than unsoaked, so this is a great way to get breakfast on the table quickly.

Add your desired toppings and serve! Make sure to put some butter in there!

*Why do you have to add whole wheat or buckwheat flour? Oats are very low in phytase, which is necessary for neutralizing the phytates. Wheat & buckwheat are higher phytase, so adding some gives the oats a little boost. Freshly ground flour contains the most phytase. You can grind small amounts in your coffee grinder if you don't grind your own grain.*

(For more information, see Katie's post on this topic.)

solution #2: up the protein
One reason my husband does not like to eat oatmeal (besides an aversion to its consistency) is that it leaves him shaky-hungry in an hour. If I could encourage him to try it again, these tips might help. How can you add more protein to oatmeal?

My favorite way is to throw an egg in there. No, not a scrambled egg fried-rice style. You can't even tell this egg is in there, but it adds about six grams of protein to your breakfast.

Here's how you do it.
After you have cooked your oatmeal to it's desired consistency, turn off the heat. Crack an egg into it and quickly stir stir stir. If you don't get to it fast enough you might end up with chunks of egg. I always stir quickly and vigorously and I've never had that problem. Stir until the egg is no longer visible - it will only make your oatmeal a little creamier, which is not a bad thing! The residual heat should be enough to adequately cook the egg, but if you don't trust that, go ahead and leave the heat on low.

Other ideas for adding protein to oatmeal:
--chopped crispy nuts
--a dollop of nut butter
--raw whole milk

Or eat it with a side of:
--scrambled or hard-boiled eggs
--bacon or sausage
--cottage cheese

And as for problem #3, you might just have to make your husband some oatmeal cookies instead. Unfortunately, I haven't mastered a soaked/sprouted version of those yet. But they sure are a favorite around here! (I use the recipe from King Arthur Whole Grain Baking - one of my favorite cookbooks.)

So what's your favorite way to eat oatmeal?


  1. We call that "Trail Mix Oatmeal" at our house. :)

    I'm going to try adding an egg to keep my boys satiated a bit longer and I love the idea of soaking in the pot and saving an extra dish!


  2. I hope it helps, Brittany! And that's a great name for oatmeal with all kinds of good stuff added. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I *love* oatmeal. I like to soak it overnight in yogurt and milk with some banana and peanut butter--it's so soft after that it doesn't even need to be cooked.

  4. That's an interesting thought! But I think I would not like it cold as much as hot. :) I do agree on the banana and peanut butter!

  5. My husband grew up hating oatmeal. Would not touch it, said that even the sight and smell of it made him feel ill. But when I made a baked oatmeal recipe a few years back that was almost more of a breakfast bar, he fell in love with it. He's told me he could eat it every day if I'd make it that often!

  6. My husband doesnt like regular oatmeal either, but i got a great recipe for carrot cake oatmeal here http://ohsheglows.com/2010/12/21/holiday-breakfast-in-a-jiffy-carrot-cake-oatmeal/
    I use all coconut milk and change it up a little depending on what i have and he loves it every time. He even asks me to make it and eats the leftovers cold.

  7. Kira and Anonymous, that's encouraging! I really can't complain; my husband eats just about everything I make, even the flops! But I'll keep trying with the oatmeal. :)

  8. Hi Joanna,
    A great post about one of my favorite's, Oatmeal. It all looks delicious to me. Thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and hope to see you again real soon. Have a great week!
    Miz Helen

  9. Hi- I don't know if you've ever tried this or not, but I was wondering what you thought- We're realllllly bad at planning ahead in my house. Would it be possible to pre-soak a large batch of oatmeal, then divvy it up into serving sizes and freeze it? How do you think that would work?

  10. Beth Ann, it might work, but I've never tried it! Why don't you try soaking and freezing a small batch just to see how it works? Otherwise you could soak and dehydrate a bunch of oats and keep them in the fridge. Then they're ready to be turned into oatmeal, oatmeal cookies, granola bars, or whatever else your heart desires. :) Here is a link: http://just-making-noise.blogspot.com/2010/02/video-just-making-soaked-ready-oats.html

  11. Just to clarify so the Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal should be soaked? Why doesn't it say this on these packages like "best if soaked overnight"?
    Thank you,

    1. Yes, any type of oatmeal should be soaked overnight. It doesn't say on the package because our culture has abandoned traditional grain preparation! But soaking it overnight increases nutrient absorption and makes it easier to digest, so I highly recommend it! :)

  12. Your husband might like the texture of the cold overnight soaked oatmeal. I can't stand cooked oats because of the slimy texture but I love the texture cold, it's more creamy. I use Swiss muesli and soak overnight in almond milk. Overnight the dates melt and it's creamy and yummy!

    1. Mmm, I would love that, but I'm not sure he would! Thanks for the suggestion!

  13. If the oatmeal absorbs the liquid it's soaked in, are you then eating the phytic acids it's releasing?

    1. That's a good question - but I don't think so. I think the chemical composition changes and neutralizes the phytic acid. When you soak a bread, you obviously end up eating the soaking liquid, so I think it's fine. Some people do prefer to rinse their soaked oats though, as they tend to be less sour that way.

  14. I am going to start soaking my oats but to make oatmeal you said to add a Tablespoon of whole wheat flour. This I cannot do as I have a very high wheat intolerance. What do you suggest to sub for this?

    1. You can also use buckwheat flour. I'll update the post to say that!

    2. thank-you, I can have that.