UPDATE: I have received numerous comments on this post from angry folks telling me I’m crazy, that there’s nothing wrong with oatmeal. PLEASE READ THE ENTIRE POST BEFORE YOU MAKE A COMMENT. I mention in the post that I don’t have any problem with regular, plain oats as long as they work for your body (and I explain how to know if they do or don’t). Thank you for reading! Now, back to our regularly scheduled content.
We all grew up with the USDA food pyramid telling us oatmeal and cereals were a healthy, fiber-filled breakfast fortified with vitamins and minerals. As kids we were bombarded with images of happy tigers or other costumed and cartooned people/animals dancing around, happily chomping on breakfast “foods” in shades of color that don’t exist in nature. And that turned your skim milk bright blue and pink when you ate it.
The food industry is marketing these fun fake foods to your children (and to you as busy parents), so your kids grow up thinking that Fruit Loops are actually “food.” What they really contain is a bunch of GM corn flour, refined grains, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. That is not food, folks. Please don’t feed it to your kids.
But oatmeal is still healthy, right? I mean, it’s just oats! And it keeps you super full for hours! Until you crash at your desk from the carb hangover.
Why Oatmeal Isn’t a Health Food
One of the most common things I see in my practice is new clients proudly handing over their food journals, thinking their diets are healthy for the most part, so they’re confused about why they can’t lose weight and/or feel tired and bloated. Many of these folks are eating the instant oatmeal in the packets because who has time to cook in the morning?! It’s fast and easy.
1 packet of Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar instant oatmeal has
- 157 calories
- 2 grams of fat
- 4 grams of protein
- 32 grams of carbohydrate ( incl 3 g fiber / 13 g added sugar)
Similar in macronutrient profile to
- 4 Twizzlers, or
- a cup of Kellogg’s Scooby-Doo! Berry Bones breakfast cereal, or
- 2 fat Free Fudgesicle bars, or
- a York Peppermint Patty, or
- a Klondike, Slim-a-Bear Chocolate Sandwich, or
- a cup of Kellogg’s SpongeBob SquarePants breakfast cereal
There is very little protein (or enough calories to keep you full, for that matter) in this “meal,” but a lot of carb and refined sugar action. Here is what happens when you eat a grain-based meal with refined sugar: because there is little protein and fiber in this meal, the grains break down quickly into sugars, and the refined sugar is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, raising blood glucose levels, and triggering the pancreas to release insulin to move the glucose into cells so blood sugar doesn’t rise too high. Since only so much glucose is needed in the cell, the rest is converted to fat and stored. You only need around 2 teaspoons of circulating glucose in your bloodstream, so the excess is stored as fat if you don’t burn it off. This is why sugar makes you fat. Even if you do burn all that sugar off, you’re still not going to be burning any stored fat, because you have a steady supply of glucose to burn, so higher carb diets are not ideal for weight loss. Click here to read my post on how many carbs are right for you.
Back to oatmeal. Let’s say you’re eating the regular stuff, making it yourself, avoiding the instant kind. While that’s a better step, it’s still not for everyone (caveat below). 1 cup of cooked oatmeal has 28 grams of carbs and 6 grams of protein. You’re probably not eating it plain (because gross), so let’s say you’re adding a banana and some honey to it. That is an additional 44 grams of carbs for the banana and a tablespoon of honey. That puts your breakfast at 72 grams of carb and about 32 grams of sugars. That’s 8 teaspoons of sugar for breakfast! And we know what happens to all that sugar, right?
If you have sugar sensitivity (meaning you crave sugar, are prone to binging on it, struggle with weight and have energy fluctuations), a grain-based breakfast is NOT for you. Grains are high carb/low protein and will provide you with an energy crash a few hours after you eat it. Probably contribute to more sugar cravings, too. More sugar means the cycle starts all over, and prolonged, it leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
If you struggle with GI issues like bloating, reflux, IBS, Crohn’s, or other inflammatory conditions, oatmeal and grain-based breakfasts are not for you, either. Grains can be very irritating to your GI tract due to the lectins and phytic acid, which contribute to more inflammation.
If you suffer from the 3pm energy crash (or the mid-morning crash), a grain-based breakfast isn’t for you. Too much carb/too many sugars = zzzzzzz.
Focus on protein and vegetables or breakfast, or if you’re in a hurry, try a smoothie. Oatmeal and grain-based refined cereals lack nutrients. If you’re going to eat food, make it count; focus on the biggest nutritional bang for your buck: antioxidants, proteins, beneficial fatty acids. If you really miss your oatmeal, there are tons of grain-free porridge recipes out there that won’t give you a crash. I have quite a few on my pinterest breakfast board.
If you’re an oatmeal eater and any of the above sounds like you, or you’re trying to lose weight, here are some alternative breakfast suggestions for you.
HERE IS THE CAVEAT: If none of this sounds like you (you’re not trying to lose weight, you have stable energy, no GI issues, and no sugar cravings), you’re ok eating oatmeal for breakfast! I myself am a fan of overnight oats occasionally. I add gelatin to mine and make it with coconut milk. I don’t add sugar to it. You can soak the oats for better digestability and add a little apple cider vinegar to neutralize phytic acid.
In general, I don’t recommend regular grain-based breakfasts, because there are far better nutrient dense options out there, like protein and veggie-based meals that provide you with adequate protein, good fatty acids, and plenty of antioxidants to fuel you for your day. If you do choose oatmeal, I recommend adding protein powder , gelatin, or an egg to it for extra added protein. Don’t load it up with excess fruit sugars or sweeteners. Berries are a good option because they are a low sugar fruit.
Please avoid boxed convenience cereals, bars, oatmeal, whatever, at breakfast. This is not real food, having been refined, adulterated, and pumped with synthetic ingredients your body doesn’t recognize, not to mention the added sugar. It’s a simple choice: just eat real food. Understand that the food industry is a profit-driven industry just like any other for-profit business, and they don’t have your best interests at heart. Keep eating the food your body was designed to eat: food in its natural state.
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