When it seems harder than ever to get out of the supermarket with a cart full of nutritious food and there is still money in your wallet, you are not alone. More than three-quarters of Americans have noticed a rise in food prices in the past year research by the International Food Information Council.
A great way to keep your food budget in check is to use what you already have on hand. Our new recipe series helps you do just that by making tasty, nutritious serving suggestions for the shelf-stable staples in your pantry you may have overlooked. This month’s focus: oats.
Do you know oats
While oats are usually considered a breakfast and baking staple, they can make a great base for a number of healthy, budget-friendly meals, both sweet and savory. You will come across different types of oats in the supermarket:
- Steel-cut oats The oat grains (groats) are passed through steel blades that cut the whole oats into grain-like pieces. They usually have a firmer consistency and nutty flavor than other oats, but take longer to cook.
- Rolled or old-fashioned oats The oat grains are steamed and then passed through large rollers to flatten them, which significantly reduces the cooking time but does not affect the nutritional level. Oatmeal porridge is a good option for all of the recipes below.
- Quick Cook Oats Whole oat grains are cut into a few pieces before being steamed and rolled to reduce cooking time. They can be used in all of these recipes except the granola.
- instant oats These oats are rolled even thinner and are pre-cooked. Unsweetened instant oats can be used in all of these recipes except the granola.
Steel-cut oats go through less processing than the other varieties, but they aren’t exactly more nutritious. All oats are comparable in terms of calories and fiber content, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2021 in The log of nutrition did find that blood sugar and insulin responses were better when people ate whole oat grains as opposed to more processed rolled or instant oats, but that may be because they take longer to digest. These findings may also explain why steel-cut oats may be more satiating than oats made from rolled, quick or instant oats — and why using steel-cut oats may result in better long-term blood sugar control.
What nutritional benefits do oats have?
You can certainly do worse than eating oats more often to use up your supply. For starters, oats provide a range of essential nutrients needed for good health, including magnesium, phosphorus and thiamine, according to the USDA. And while oats may not come to mind as quickly as other foods when it comes to antioxidants, Research has found that these grains are a source of disease-fighting polyphenol antioxidants called avenanthramides. Some other possible benefits of oats include:
Heart health Oats are one of the few foods that contain a unique type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. In a meta-analysis of previous research published in the The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionresearchers found that people who consume 3 grams or more of beta-glucan per day often experience a drop in their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels, two markers that indicate a potential improvement in heart health.
weight loss A study by the New York Nutrition Obesity Research Center that was: published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that people who spooned oatmeal for breakfast were less hungry and consumed an average of 31 percent fewer calories at a follow-up meal three hours later, compared with those who had the same number of breakfast calories from a more processed box cereal. The extra soluble fiber in oats slows digestion, resulting in less hunger and less chance of overeating.
Type 2 Diabetes A study published in 2020 in BMJ found that eating oats can be part of a whole-grain diet that protects against developing type 2 diabetes.
How do you eat oatmeal?
Here are five delicious ways to use oats:
1. Savory egg, cheese and green oatmeal
Oatmeal doesn’t have to be sweet. This savory version works for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and roasting the oats before cooking them improves the flavor.
Heat 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped shallot and 1 chopped garlic clove and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 cups rolled oats and stir for 1 minute, until the oats smell toasted. Add 4 cups of water, ½ teaspoon (tsp) dried thyme, and ¼ teaspoon salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cook, stirring often, until creamy, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in 3 cups baby spinach and heat until wilted. Stir in 1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Divide between serving plates and garnish with half a sliced avocado, a halved hard-boiled egg or a runny fried egg and a few splashes of hot sauce. Makes 4 servings.
2. Oatmeal Pancake Cake
This cross between two breakfast favorites is great to make ahead of time, and it freezes well, too. It’s also a great snack or dessert.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 1 egg, 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 ripe banana, and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a blender container and blend until smooth. In a large bowl, stir 1 cup oatmeal, ¾ cup whole wheat or oat flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir the yogurt mixture into the oat mixture. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to absorb some liquid. Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch round cake pan and bake for 25 minutes (or until top is browned and center is set). Let cool for about 5 minutes before slicing. Serve the slices with berries and a drizzle of maple syrup. Makes 5 servings.
3. Salmon oat bread
This homemade meatloaf contains omega-3 fatty acids from the fish and gets a fiber boost from chewy oats.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, flake 3 cans drained salmon with a fork, and stir in 2 eggs, 1 cup rolled oats or quick-cooking oats, 1 cup grated carrot, 1 chopped shallot, 2 chopped garlic cloves , the juice of half a lemon, ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Add the salmon mixture to a greased or parchment-lined 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and spread until the mixture is an even height and width. Bake for 20 minutes, then divide between ½ cup of barbecue sauce and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the salmon bread has set in the center. Let cool for a few minutes before removing from the mold. Makes 4 servings.
4. Almost instant spicy cocoa granola
Why pay a premium for store-bought granola when it has?‘s so easy to make a batch at home – and with it you can control the sugar level? This tangy-sweet mix hits all the right notes and stays fresh on the counter for a week when stored in an airtight container.
Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter and 3 tablespoons maple syrup in a skillet over medium heat until melted. Add ¾ cup oatmeal, ⅓ cup coarsely chopped almonds, ¼ cup raisins or dried unsweetened cranberries, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, and a pinch of salt to the pan; heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in cocoa powder and heat for 2 more minutes, stirring often. Be careful not to burn the oats. Spread the mixture on a cutting board to cool. The granola will become crispy after resting. Serve over yogurt topped with berries or in a bowl with milk. Makes 4 servings.
5. Golden Overnight Oats
This spiced takeout breakfast can be made up to three days in advance, using any kind of milk or non-dairy milk you prefer.
In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon turmeric, ¼ teaspoon ginger powder, ¼ teaspoon cardamom, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Add 2 tablespoons of boiled water and stir to dissolve the honey. Stir in 1 cup of unsweetened almond, cashew, or oat milk. Place ⅔ cup oatmeal and 2 tablespoons ground flax in each of the 2 wide-mouth jars or bowls of cereal. Add half of the liquid spice mixture to each jar or bowl and stir until all the oats are moist. Chill at night. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped mango, dried coconut flakes, and roughly chopped pistachios or cashews. Makes 2 servings.