What we choose to eat first thing in the morning can have a massive impact on the rest of our day. If we go for protein rich eggs or slow release carbs like porridge oats we’ll feel ready to take on the day and be fuelled right up until lunch time. If instead we opt for a sugar laden cereal, it’s highly likely that come mid morning we’ll find ourselves crashing down from that sugar high and ready to raid the biscuit tin in a bid for a quick fix of energy.
Some people can’t stomach the thought of food that early in the morning, others claim they don’t have enough time to make anything other than a bowl of cereal for breakfast, and then there are some people (myself included) who are an absolutely hangry nightmare if they don’t get something inside them pronto. Whichever category you fall into, there’s no mistaking the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all it is the meal that ‘breaks the fast’ and so what you choose to break that fast with is actually really important.
In this article I’m going to focus on the role of porridge oats as a healthy morning staple, by firstly looking at some of the reasons oats make such a great breakfast option, and secondly to give you a few ideas of how to use them.
What’s So Good About Porridge Oats Anyway?
Traditionally, porridge would have been made the night before by soaking oatmeal in water and salt and then heated up in the morning with full fat milk. These days porridge is more commonly made in a saucepan with milk and sweetened with syrup or honey and served straight away. It all very much depends on the type of oats you use, and you can see from the range at Mornflake just how much of a difference there is, as to how you should cook them to make the perfect bowl of porridge. From gluten free oats and organic oats, to jumbo oats, oatmeal and oatbran, it is worth doing a little bit of research before purchasing your porridge oats.
One of the great things about oats is that they are a slow release carbohydrate. What this means is that it takes more time for your body to digest them and so energy is released more slowly and more evenly and they don’t cause any blood sugar spikes. This makes them a great breakfast choice if you need to fuel up before any morning exercise or if you know you have a particularly busy morning coming up.
Unlike most other breakfast cereals, you are in charge of how healthy your bowl of porridge is, as it is basically just an ingredient. Simply choose your liquid (water, cows milk, almond milk, coconut milk, any other plant based milk), choose your flavouring (cinnamon, cacao powder, mashed banana, vanilla essence, mixed spice etc.) and if you really want to pimp your porridge up choose a topping (berry compote, stewed apple, sliced banana, dried fruit, honey etc.).
Nutritionally speaking, oats are a fantastic source of fibre and protein and they also contain high levels of thiamine (vitamin B1) which helps to turn food into energy and is good for the body’s nervous system, as well as many other important vitamins and minerals.
So OK we all know oats can be used to make porridge, but if you haven’t got time to be stood at the hob every morning then I’ve got 5 other ideas of how to incorporate porridge oats into breakfast time.
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know just how much I love flapjacks (remember #FlapjackFriday anyone?). They’re tasty, versatile, can be eaten on the go, easy to make, honestly the list of advantages of these power packed oaty bars just goes on and on.
On my last count I’m pretty sure I’ve got well over 70 different flapjack recipes and I’d love to share a few of my favourites with you now:
- No Bake Vegan Apricot and Date Flapjacks
- Fig and Walnut Flapjacks
- Weetabix Flapjacks
- Raspberry and White Chocolate Flapjacks
- Nutter Butter Flapjacks
The beauty of flapjacks is that they can be made in advance and unless you’ve got a couple of hungry snack stealing kids living with you, just one batch will sort you out for breakfasts for the week. Perfect if you love the snooze button, ideal if you’re always in a hurry in the morning, grab a flapjack and a flask of coffee and that’s breakfast sorted.
Overnight oats are literally the easiest thing you can make with porridge oats, because you basically just mix a load of ingredients together and then bung it in the fridge overnight.
The basic mixture is made using 1 part oats, 1 part milk, and 1 part yogurt. Pour these three ingredients into a container (recycled jam jars work well and look super pretty too) and then decide the flavours you want to go with it. Here are some suggestions for you:
- PBJ – Mix in a spoonful of peanut butter (or your other favourite nut butter) and then layer up with slices of fresh strawberries or some homemade strawberry chia jam.
- Banoffee – Drizzle some maple syrup in with the oats, milk and yogurt and then layer up with mashed banana and top with extra slices of banana.
- Mocha – Add a teaspoon of cacao powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of espresso powder to the oat mixture, then top with grated dark chocolate.
Eat on the go or enjoy at home, either way this is a luxury breakfast that requires absolutely minimal effort.
Who said you couldn’t have cake for breakfast? Not me that’s for sure, I personally can’t think of anything better! Well, OK so maybe a whopping great slice of chocolate fudge cake isn’t exactly going to set you on the right track for the day, but how about some oaty breakfast muffins.
Again these can be made in advance and as most recipes usually make 12 muffins that’s a good amount of breakfasts sorted for you and the family. Try to keep the sugar content down by switching out refined white sugar and replacing it with honey, coconut sugar, dried fruit or mashed banana. The oats can be added as part of the muffin mix, or they can be sprinkled on top to give the muffin a bit more crunch.
Oh how we love pancakes, but they’re not necessarily the healthiest option especially when drizzled with golden syrup or lathered in chocolate spread. I’m not saying don’t have them, but they’re definitely more of a weekend treat than a quick and easy week day breakfast that’s for sure.
You can make pancakes healthier by replacing the flour with oats and the sugar with mashed over ripe bananas – the browner the better really as this means they’re lovely and sweet. Cook up a big batch on a weekend and then freeze any leftovers – you can either defrost them the night before you want them, or pop them in the toaster or the microwave for a little bit.
Serve with a big dollop of natural yogurt and berries for a sweet option, or if you fancy something a little bit more savoury leave out the mashed banana in the pancake mix and try topping with smashed avocado and a poached egg, smoked salmon and cream cheese, or bacon and maple syrup.
You can pretty much put anything in a smoothie – just ask my husband, who thought it was perfectly acceptable to chuck in a chocolate bar, rice pudding and some broccoli, it was never going to work! But if you want it to be healthy and to keep you going through the morning, you might want to think about throwing in a handful of oats to bulk it up.
As long as you have a decent blender the oats will grind down so that you barely know they’re there. However, if you prefer you can use oatmeal which has a smoother consistency. A good smoothie base comprises banana, natural yogurt, porridge oats and milk of your choice. After that the decision is entirely up to you. Here are some ideas to help inspire you:
- Tropical – Fresh or frozen mango, pineapple and papaya.
- Choco Nut – Coconut milk, cacao powder and a good-sized spoonful of your favourite nut butter.
- Cherry Bakewell – Almond milk and frozen cherries.
- Eat Your Greens – Frozen Spinach, kiwi, and vanilla protein powder.
If you feel like it needs sweetening up a little you can add a squirt of honey or maple syrup. Smoothies are a great way to get in some of your 5 a day early doors and again they are great to have on the go or for that post gym fuel up.
As you can see, there is more to oats than a simple bowl of porridge. And when breakfast looks this tasty, well there’s really no reason to skip it, is there!