March 10th, 2015

Getting to Know Your Oatmeal: The Different Types of Oats

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Getting to Know Your Oatmeal: The Different Types of Oats Groovy Green Livin

Oatmeal is a pretty common breakfast food in our house. If I remember the night before, I prep a batch for the next morning in my favorite slow cooker. I’m able to delay the start time so that it’s ready when we wake up. A bowl of oatmeal is an easy, nutritious crowd pleaser. Add a few mix-ins to that bowl of oatmeal and you have your own fabulous creation. Perfect on a cold, winter morning.

The oatmeal aisle at the supermarket can be overwhelming. There’s the prepackaged oatmeal in single servings, the boxes of oats and  bulk oats. If you don’t know your oatmeal, it turns into a guessing game. Here are a few tips to help you make your next bowl of oatmeal healthy and perfect.

Oatmeal: The Different Types of Oats

All oatmeal starts off as oat groats (say that three times fast). An oat groat is the most complete grain of oat, with only the inedible hull removed. Oat groats can be used straight up to make oatmeal. These are best in the slow cooker since they take about an hour to cook. Here’s a simple recipe.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are also sometimes called “Irish Oatmeal” and “Pinhead Oats”. Steel cut oats are oat groats cut into several pieces. This type of oatmeal is the least processed and as a result it takes a long time to cook. Well worth the wait. This is my favorite type of oatmeal.

Rolled, Regular or Old Fashioned Oats 

Rolled oats, regular oats and old fashioned oats are all one and the same. They are created when oat groats (whole oats) are steamed, flattened and dried. This is what most of us think of when we envision a bowl of oatmeal. They are slightly processed, but still a whole grain (the whole oat).

Quick Oats

Now we’re talking processed oats. The quick oats used to make your oatmeal are no longer whole grains and loose much of their nutritional value when processed. Quick oats go through the same process as rolled oats, but even more processing. They’re actually rolled thinner than rolled oats. The added processing allows them to cook quickly, thus their name.

Instant Oats

Instant oats are the most processed of all the oatmeal. These oats are pressed even thinner than quick oats, enabling them to cook very quickly. You can add boiling water to these oats and they’ll thicken almost instantly. Instant oatmeal is high on the glycemic index, causing your blood sugar to sky rocket and then drop back down quickly.

Oatmeal quick tips

  • Be on the lookout for added sugar, salt and other ingredients that don’t belong in your oatmeal. Read labels carefully. Be especially wary of the single serving oatmeal in a variety of flavors.
  • When possible opt for steel cut oats and old fashioned (rolled or regular). They are the least processed.
  • Buy organic when you can. There are no GMO oats at this time, but pesticides can be used in the growing process.

What’s your favorite type of oatmeal?


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photo credit: Coffee Granola via photopin (license)

19 Responses to “Getting to Know Your Oatmeal: The Different Types of Oats”

  1. Hi Lori,

    I make steel cut oats the night before in our rice cooker! We like to mix in some of my homemade granola, which, like the oatmeal, is made of mostly organic ingredients. If you don’t know (and as the mother of three boys you might like to know) that Costco sells large bags of dried organic fruits like the dates I like to cut up in my homemade granola. They also sell large bags of frozen organic fruits which are a godsend during the winter, especially, when any kind of organic fruit is scarce here in Massachusetts.
    Judith A. Ross recently posted..February WhitesMy Profile

  2. I love steel cut oats. The texture makes my mouth happy. I would just make a big batch of them and eat them throughout the week!
    Krystyn @ Really, Are You Serious? recently posted..Guacamole in 30 SecondsMy Profile

  3. Honestly that was so so helpful. I am told by everyone to try steel cut oats and when I ask what they are I get a vague response. I am going to have to check them out.
    Divina recently posted..2015 the Year of #FamiliaFirstMy Profile

  4. Old fashioned are still our family’s favorite. It’s one of our go to meals, breakfast, lunch or dinner!
    Emily @Random Recycling recently posted..8 Ways to Make Stitch Fix Work for YouMy Profile

  5. […] continue reading this post → […]

  6. Of course oats are perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner Emily! I expect to see them on your weekly meal plan sometime soon.

  7. So glad it was helpful Divina. Steel cut are the best!

  8. Me too Krystyn. They’re great to warm up again.

  9. Great idea Judith! I love my rice cooker and it’s smaller than my slow cooker. Probably better for oatmeal. I think I need to head over to Costco and join! I belonged years ago, but it sounds as though they have so many more organic options now.

  10. […] to Know Your Oatmeal: #SustainableBody #GreenLiving… […]

  11. Fantastic guide and it’s very reliable sources about the different types of oats. Thanks for sharing this post. Great!

  12. We have become steel cut fans lately. (Steel cut also happens to be a nice description of my abs.. not) We cook the night before too. I had a mountain biking buddy who was raving about steel cut oats and I had to check it out. Thanks Lori!

  13. Steel cut are the best Tim, both in taste and nutrition. Cooking the night before is key since they take so long to prepare. Great to hear from you!

  14. I was wondering if you could discuss “baby oats.”

  15. I like steel cut oats. Here is an easy 2-step way to cook them on the stove.

    At bedtime I fold 1/2 cup oats into two cups of boiling water with a pinch of salt. I cook it on medium-high for 4 minutes, stirring often so it doesn’t overboil, then remove it from heat and put a lid on it.

    In the morning I just add 1/4 cup of 2% milk (make it half and half for more richness) and finish cooking it for a few minutes. Makes 2 winter servings.

    Add berries, or other fruits, or whatever strikes your fancy. I like to try it with different kinds of berries and a small amount of low-sugar jellies or preserves stirred in. (Huckleberry jelly is my present favorite.) Add in small amounts so you don’t put in too much for your taste.

  16. Never been much of a fan for oatmeal although I know it’s good eating food in the winter time. Glad I read your article on the different types of oats. I’m a cream of wheat farina type gall but the kids love oats. I’ll look into it and share with them. Hopefully, they’ll like the other choices.

    Great article.

    Barbara Charles
    Barbara Charles recently posted..Is the Flu Shot a Good Idea?My Profile

  17. Hi Barbara, My kids also love oatmeal. They each have their own spread of mix-ins that that add. Great choice in the winter and all year round!

  18. Hi Lori,
    What do you think of Bob’s Mill Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats?

  19. […] with Bob’s Red Mill organic, gluten free oats. I knew this would not go to waste since Oatmeal has always been a staple in my […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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