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The Healthiest Instant Oatmeal: Fast and Satisfying Protein, Fiber, and Magnesium

- Written by on July 11th 2015

Oatmeal is an extremely popular and extremely versatile breakfast food. You can enjoy it sweetened with brown sugar and nuts, with fresh fruit and shredded coconut, or even with chocolate and peanut butter. If you don't have a sweet tooth, you can eat it savory with a fried egg or even bacon and cheese. Not only are the possible toppings endless, you aren't limited to making it on the stove top. Overnight oats have been all the rage in the food blogosphere, and baked oatmeal is no stranger to Pinterest fame.

healthiest instant oatmeal

As little effort as some of those options require, cooking oats can still be too much effort when you spent the night tossing and turning, or if you are in such a rush you need to make your breakfast at the office. On these occasions, it's nice to have instant oatmeal as a back up. However, people who think of oatmeal as a healthy breakfast often scoff at the notion of eating instant oatmeal.

But in fact, different types of oats have very similar nutritional profiles. It is not necessarily crucial that you pick steel cut oatmeal over instant oatmeal if don't enjoy it as much. Just make sure you aren't buying instant oatmeal with lots of added ingredients, sodium, sugar, etc., and ideally add some protein and fat to your instant oatmeal to reduce its glycemic load.

Below you'll find our recommendations for the healthiest instant oatmeal, depending on what dietary considerations you have. We left out the plain options, since we figure those won't be that different from one another.

High Protein Instant Oatmeal

You probably can't write a post about oatmeal and not mention Quaker Oatmeal. They have a ton of oatmeals to choose from, admittedly including some of the least healthy options (their Real Medleys instant oatmeal contains up to 22 grams of sugar per serving - stay far away from those!)

Their protein line, on the other hand, packs in 10 grams of protein without going way overboard on sugar with 12-13 grams per serving. The protein comes from whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, but the ingredient list isn't too off-putting (though I could do without the vegetable oils):

whole grain rolled oats, sugar, whey protein concentrate, almonds, dried cranberries, whey protein isolate, salt, maltodextrin, natural flavor, rice flour, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola, safflower oil and/or almond oil), soy lecithin

Overall not a bad choice if you want the extra protein built in to your instant oatmeal. Otherwise you could choose another cleaner, lower sugar option and add your own protein powder, nut butter, etc. to make the healthiest high protein instant oatmeal.

Quaker Protein Instant Oatmeal - Cranberry Almond

  • 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber
  • easy to find, no flax (in case you find that hard to digest)
  • a bit high in sugar, some unnecessary additives

High Fiber Instant Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a good source of fiber in general, but some brands add other fiber-rich ingredients to pump up the fiber content of their products. Fiber supplements like chicory root fiber are common, but they can cause gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals. For this reason, we wanted to find an option if you want to go the natural route. Earnest Eats Hot & Fit Cereal Mayan Blend boasts 9 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber thanks to the addition of quinoa, puffed amaranth, pepitas, sunflower seeds, cashew pieces, chopped almonds, and flax seeds. That sounds better to us.

Earnest Eats Hot & Fit Cereal - Mayan Blend

  • 9 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber
  • no fiber supplements or artificial ingredients
  • harder to find than other brands, but available on Amazon

Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal

You might be surprised to learn that although oats are naturally gluten free, cross contamination with wheat can happen in factories and, even harder to track, in the field! If you have a serious intolerance, look for oats that specifically state they are gluten free on the box. Nature's Path, Chex, and Glutenfreeda all sell gluten free instant oatmeal without too many additives, earning them all a mention in this healthiest instant oatmeal list.

Glutenfreeda's instant oatmeal, if you can find it, is an especially good choice because it also contains 9 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.

Glutenfreeda Instant Oatmeal

  • certified gluten-free oats
  • high in protein and fiber
  • 14 grams of sugar
  • not sold everywhere, but available on Amazon

Low Sugar Instant Oatmeal

Better Oats' Oat Fit line of instant oatmeal makes a nice treat if you're watching your sugar intake. They have just 100 calories per serving and 0-1 gram(s) of sugar depending on the flavor. They do, however, contain the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium. You can choose from Maple & Brown Sugar, Apples & Cinnamon, and Cinnamon Roll.

Better Oats Oat Fit - Cinnamon Roll

  • 100 calories per serving
  • little to no sugar
  • uses artificial sweeteners
  • just 3 grams of protein

If you'd rather avoid any artificial sweeteners, you might look out for the brand Pacific. Some of their instant oatmeals contain a reasonable amount of sugar—6-11 grams—compared to the 20 grams some brands dare to put in their more-dessert-than-breakfast oatmeal. The Organic Flax & Chia Power flavor also has 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber without using any protein powder or fiber supplements!

Pacific Steel-Cut Oatmeal - Organic Lightly Sweetened

  • organic
  • clean ingredient list (just water, oats, rice starch, cane sugar, and sea salt)
  • just 6g of sugar
  • flavors aren't too exciting, might need to add some goodies of your own!

All things considered, we think Earnest Eats' and Glutenfreeda's instant oatmeals are definitely the healthiest instant oatmeal and worth tracking down! They have clean ingredient lists and are good sources of protein and fiber. Add some fresh berries and a dollop of Greek yogurt or nut butter and you're good to go!


Crystal Schlegelmilch

Written by on July 11th 2015

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