6 Non-boring Ways to Eat Your Steel-cut Oats

Sure, oats can be a bit bland, but think of them as a blank slate: They absorb the flavor of whatever you mix in. Plus, they pack a ton of health benefits—especially the steel-cut variety. “The grain’s nutrients, like fiber, are fully intact. Plus, they’re sodium-free, which is rare when it comes to breakfast foods,” says Elisa Zied, R.D., a nutritionist based in New York City.

Ready to dig in? Skip the sugar-heavy insta-oatmeal packets, and go for the real deal. Leftovers keep in the fridge for a week, so make a big batch over the weekend and reheat before you dash out the door. Here’s how to do it: Bring about three cups of water or milk to a boil, then mix in one cup of steel-cut oats and a pinch of salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20–30 minutes, stirring every few minutes so that the bottom doesn’t burn.

Once that’s done, it’s time to take your bowl from “ho-hum” to “holy crap!” Amp up the flavor—and nutritional content—with these six add-ins.

1. Banana-nut butter

Mix in a spoonful of protein-heavy peanut, almond, or sunflower butter to make your oats even heartier and more filling, then top with potassium-packed banana slices, which can help you maintain your level of electrolytes and prevent muscle cramping during workouts. Finally, sprinkle a handful of flax seeds for a dose of Omega-3 fatty acids—they can help prevent inflammation, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.

2. Savory spinach and parm

Elevate oats to full-fledged hearty brunch fare with grated Parmesan, sautéed spinach, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of coarse salt, and a dash of pepper. To up the protein even more, add a poached egg—or splurge with a piece of chopped turkey bacon.

3. “Chai” mix

Bust out of the brown sugar rut with this grown-up version of oats, which tastes perfect on a cold morning. Inspired by the warm, spicy tea, it’s similarly sweet but with a kick. Just add a pinch of crushed nutmeg, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.

4. Fruit medley

Whether fresh, frozen, pureed, or dried, fruit is a great complement to oats. The juices provide just enough sweetness, without having to resort to artificial additives. Try a spoonful of blueberries, which are packed with antioxidants, or stir in some all-fruit jam for a thicker consistency. Dried cranberries and apricots are also delicious, especially when paired with some crushed walnuts, almonds, or pecans. The nuts pack health benefits, too: A daily dose of walnuts could help lower your LDL cholesterol, according to a 2010 study.

5. Coconut milk

Super-hydrating coconut milk will fuel you up. Top with pistachios, cinnamon, and shredded coconut, and you’ve got a healthy take on rice pudding. (Bonus: This flavorful combination can stew in a slow-cooker overnight, saving you precious morning minutes.)

6. Pumpkin and protein powder

For a healthy fall breakfast that tastes more like a treat, warm up 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree, and add a pinch of pumpkin pie spice and some vanilla-flavored protein powder. It’s like pie, without the gut-busting crust. Plus, it’s super-rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene.

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