Making Sense of All the Different Types of Oatmeal

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So many types of oatmeal – how do you choose. Here is a guide to the different types and advantages and disadvantages of each. Oatmeal is a great quick breakfast that packs a powerful nutritional punch. It is a whole grain, is high in fiber. However, stay away from flavored or sweetened oatmeal with added sugar. Oatmeal should have just one ingredient—oats. Eat it unsweetened, topped with fruit, or with just a little white or brown sugar. All oatmeal is made from oat groats, which are the whole grain of the oat with only the outer hard husk removed. A number of different types of oatmeal are offered on supermarket shelves:

steel cut oatmeal

  • Steel-cut oats (Irish oats): Made by cutting oat groats into tiny pieces. Steel-cut oats are chewier than traditional oats, are digested more slowly, and may provide longer satiety. This type of oatmeal takes about 30 minutes to cook. This should be your go to for breakfast cereal. See the steel cut oatmeal blog on how to cook this super easy.types of oatmeal
  • Rolled oats (old fashioned): The most common form of oatmeal. Rolled oats are made by steaming oat groats that are then flattened (rolled) to create oat flakes. Rolled oats cook in about five minutes. 
Another great choice for breakfast. Many recipes call for old fashioned oats as a binder or for dishes that will be cooked for a longer period of time.types of oatmeal
  • Quick cooking oats: To make this type of oatmeal, rolled oats are pressed into even thinner flakes and cut into small pieces. This type of oatmeal cooks in about one to two minutes. Not as good for a breakfast cereal as it does not have the satiety of steel cut. Some recipes will call for this if they do not have a long cooking time. Check out this wonderful banana pancake recipe that uses quick cooking oats. 
healthy oatmeal
  • Instant oatmeal: Oatmeal that has been precooked and dried. To cook, you simply add boiling water. Instant oatmeal is fast, but it does not have the distinctive chewiness of regular oatmeal. Also, many types of instant oatmeal have added sugar. 
There is one great use for this type of oatmeal – traveling. If you only have access to a coffee pot and not a stove or microwave, you can make oatmeal on the go. Just choose a plain variety and bring a banana.

To learn more about the importance of whole grains, check out this recent Mediterranean Diet webinar: Steps to Eating the Med Way: Eat More Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains.

types of oatmeal


You might also like:

The Easiest and Fastest Way to Cook Steel Cut Oats

Slow Cooker Steel Cut Oats

Living Happily Ever After with Oatmeal

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23 thoughts on “Making Sense of All the Different Types of Oatmeal

  1. Instead of sugar, stir a spoonful or two of applesauce into your bowl of oatmeal. Yummy! Homemade applesauce with much less sugar. Applesauce also tasty with quinoa, yoghurt and cottage cheese.

    1. For those that like cinnamon, I cook my steel cut oatmeal meal with cinnamon an vanilla. Lasts from Sunday to Thursday and I use maybe 1/8 cup of unsweetened almond milk and 2 Splenda packets with 1/2 cup of the cooked oats. Lasts until my late morning snack!!

  2. Thank you for explaining the differences. My nutritionist recommends me eating oatmeal to help with my blood sugar. I am a Dietetic and am glad there are two kinds of oatmeal I can try to eat for this disease. Thank you again for explaining.

  3. At the age of 55 I just started eating oatmeal. Never liked the smith, slimy texture or the look of it. However, I have given it another chance. I eat the pre-made flavored packets, I cook it, then add about 3 heaping teaspoons of steel cut oats to it along with almond milk. The steel cut oats give it a nice, chewy texture and the tiny fruit bits in the packet make it look better. I like it now, Mmmm-good stuff!
    It may not be an ideal way to eat it, but at least I’m eating it!

    1. That is great you are trying oatmeal again, Shu! Instead of flavored packets, which can have excessive amounts of sugar, try adding your own toppings and sweeteners (it’s cheaper too!). Try fresh berries, assorted nuts, stirring in a dollop of peanut butter, and/or a small drizzle of honey. If you choose steel cut oats, we recommend cooking them first. There are a few different ways to cook steel cut oats (links below) and I have also included additional oatmeal recipes to try as well. Welcome back to the world of oatmeal! 🙂

      Fastest and Easiest Way to Cook Steel Cut Oats

      Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

      Healthy Oatmeal on the Go

      Oatmeal with Berries and Nuts

    1. Thanks for your question. You need to use old fashioned oats for overnight no cook recipes. The steel cut oats require cooking.

    2. I use the steel oats in my overnight . I prefer them over the regular oats. Works perfectly if left overnight!

  4. I like the old fashion oatmeal. I will give the steel cut a try. It will be different. Thanks.

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