I know, I know… Overnight oats are hardly a culinary innovation. But, they’re the ultimate no hassle, no-cook, nutritious whole foods breakfast. Besides, who doesn’t love waking up with breakfast already made? —even if the breakfast fairy was you. And, simply layer your overnight oats ingredients into a parfait and you’ve got a colorful feast worth waking up for. But, for the ‘parfait look’ assemble the parfait after you’ve soaked the oats. Otherwise, just wake, stir and eat.
With endless ingredient options, think of it as breakfast arts and crafts. Keep just a few staples on hand you can have breakfast prepped in about five minutes. Include the little ones and have them make their own. Or, better yet, make one of them your personal overnight oats chef.
Following are a few tips and some of my favorite ingredients I like to keep on hand. These guidelines will give you a balanced breakfast with carbs, protein and fats to sustain you throughout your morning. Use a mason jar (or other seal-able container) for take-it-with-you convenience. Got a busy week? Make several jars at once. They will last up to three days.
OVERNIGHT OATS – BASICS
Base Overnight Oat Recipe: 1/2 cup oats + 1 cup milk + 2 tablespoons Chia seeds
Base Overnight Oat Recipe (no Chia seeds): 1/2 cup oats + 3/4 cup milk
- Old-fashioned rolled oats – This is important. Instant oats will end up too mushy and steel-cut oats (groats) will stay too crunchy.
- Dairy or Non-dairy milk – Go with dairy or any non-dairy milk (almond, rice, hemp, other). Or, for a tangy version, use thinned out yogurt or keifer.
- Seasoning – Add a pinch of sea salt, plus spices of your choice, such as cinnamon or cardamom and perhaps some vanilla extract.
OVERNIGHT OATS – ADD-ONS
- Chia seeds – Chia seeds create a filling, pudding-like texture while adding omega-3s, protein and fiber. Mix them in with the oats and milk mixture or layer Chia gel.
- Sweetener – Date paste adds fiber and minerals with sweetness. Other good options include maple syrup, local honey and coconut sugar. Go easy. This is breakfast, not dessert.
- Nuts – Nuts (or nut butters or cashew cream have healthy fats and protein, which keep you full longer while flavor and texture. If adding nuts (raw or toasted), consider adding right before eating or they will get soggy.
- Fruit – While phytonutrient-rich berries (fresh or frozen) are my favorite, add the sliced or smashed fruit of your choice.
5 Reason to Love Oats (and Oats Love You)
- Oats trump grains nutritionally. While oats have a similar amino acid profile as wheat, they are more nutritious than processed grains. Processing of most other grains removes the nutrient-rich bran. But, milling of oats only removes the outer, inedible husk. The oat bran and all its nutrition magic stays in place.
- Oats fill you up (and keep you moving). Yep, oats are a soluble fiber MVP, containing more soluble fiber than any other grain, resulting in slower digestion and better regularity.
- Oat fiber helps stabilize blood sugar. By slowing digestion, carbohydrates metabolize more slowly, giving you sustained energy and less likely to be on the prowl for mid-morning snacks.
- Oat beta-glucan lowers cholesterol. Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal all contain beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, known to lower cholesterol. Studies show that individuals with high cholesterol consuming just 3 grams of soluble oat fiber per day (about one cup of oatmeal) typically lowers total cholesterol by 8-23!
- Oat avenanthramides protect your heart. Antioxidant compounds unique to oats, avenanthramides, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing oxidative damage to LDL cholesterol. Research suggests you can gain this benefit for a longer time by consuming your oats (or oat bran) with vitamin C.
Gluten? Pure oats do not inherently contain gluten. But, the concern around oats and gluten has to do with cross-contamination. Most commercial oats are processed in facilities that also process wheat, barley, and rye, which are gluten-containing grains. The gluten in these ingredients can contaminate oats. Contamination can also happen in the field, when oats are grown near fields of wheat. Unfortunately, for individuals who are gluten-intolerant, even a trace amount of gluten can cause severe discomfort. So, these individuals need to look for brands of gluten-free oats, such as Bob’s Redmill.
Fun Breakfast Nutrition Fact: Harvard researchers found that among 21,376 participants in the 19.6 years of the Physicians Health Study, that men who consumed a daily morning bowl of whole grain (but not refined) cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart failure. Recent research recommends eating at least 3 servings of whole grains daily.
Acute effect of oatmeal on subjective measures of appetite and satiety compared to a ready-to-eat breakfast cereal: a randomized crossover trial.
Avenanthramides and phenolic acids from oats are bioavailable and act synergistically with vitamin C to enhance hamster and human LDL resistance to oxidation.