This heart-healthy whole grain doesn’t have to be a last-resort breakfast. Dress up your oatmeal with these delicious add-ins.
Jessica Leigh Hester 1 / 7
<p>Sure, oats can be a bit bland, but think of them as a blank slate: they absorb the flavor of whatever you mix in. Plus, they pack a ton of health benefits—especially the steel-cut variety “The grain’s nutrients, like <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/10-best-sources-of-fibe..., are fully intact. Plus, they’re sodium-free, which is rare when it comes to breakfast foods,” says Elisa Zied, R.D., a nutritionist based in New York City.</p>
<p>Ready to dig in? Skip the <a href="http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/sugar-makes-you-stupid"... insta oatmeal packets and go for the real deal. Leftovers keep in the fridge for a week, so make a big batch over the weekend and reheat before you dash out the door. Here’s how to do it: Bring about three cups of water or milk to a boil, then mix in one cup of steel cut oats and a pinch of salt. Simmer, uncovered, for 20–30 minutes, stirring every few minutes so that the bottom doesn’t burn.</p>
<p>Once that’s done, it’s time to take your bowl from “ho-hum” to “holy crap!” Amp up the flavor—and nutritional content—with these six add-ins.</p>
1. Banana-Nut Butter
Mix in a spoonful of protein-heavy peanut, almond, or sunflower butter to make your oats even heartier and more filling, then top with potassium-packed banana slices, which can help you maintain your level of electrolytes and prevent muscle cramping during workouts. Finally, sprinkle a handful of flax seeds for a dose of Omega 3 fatty acids—they can help prevent inflammation and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
2. Savory Spinach and Parm
Elevate oats to full-fledged hearty brunch fare with grated Parmesan, sautéed spinach, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of coarse salt, and a dash of pepper. To up the protein even more, add a poached egg—or splurge with a piece of chopped turkey bacon.
3. "Chai" Mix
Bust out of the brown sugar rut with this grown-up version of oats, which tastes perfect on a cold morning. Inspired by the warm, spicy tea, it’s similarly sweet, but with a kick. Just add a pinch of crushed nutmeg, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves.
4. Fruit Medley
<p>Whether fresh, frozen, pureed, or dried, fruit is a great complement to oats. The juices provide just enough sweetness, without having to resort to artificial additives. Try a spoonful of blueberries, which are packed with antioxidants, or stir in some all-fruit jam for a thicker consistency. Dried cranberries and apricots are also delicious, especially when paired with some crushed walnuts, almonds, or pecans. The nuts pack health benefits, too: a daily dose of walnuts could help lower your LDL cholesterol, according to a <a href="http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20100510/eating-nuts-daily-lower... study</a>.</p>
5. Coconut Milk
Super-hydrating coconut milk will fuel you up. Top with pistachios, cinnamon, and shredded coconut, and you’ve got a healthy take on rice pudding. (Bonus: this flavorful combination can stew in a slow-cooker overnight, saving you precious morning minutes.)
6. Pumpkin and Protein Powder
For a healthy fall breakfast that tastes more like a treat, warm up 1/3 cup of pumpkin puree and add a pinch of pumpkin pie spice and some vanilla-flavored protein powder. It’s like pie, without the gut-busting crust. Plus it’s super rich in Vitamin A and beta-carotene,