By Dana Leigh Smith
What if we told you that you could lose weight, lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes for as little as 13 cents per day? You probably wouldn’t believe it, but thanks to oatmeal—which costs less than a quarter per serving—it’s totally possible.
There are some big reasons that oatmeal is such a power player: Not only is it packed with fiber, a nutrient that’s been shown to improve health and accelerate weight loss, it’s also one of the very best sources of resistant starch. That’s the kind that digests slowly and triggers the release of digestive acids that suppress appetite and accelerate calorie-burn. In fact, one study found that swapping just 5 percent of daily carbohydrates for resistant starch could boost your metabolism by a whopping 23 percent!
With oatmeal overflowing with so many health benefits, it seems silly not to think outside the breakfast bowl and add it to more dishes, right? All of our creative uses for the superfood are sure to excite your tastebuds and turbocharge your trim down efforts. Read on to find out what they are! And once you see how easy it is to lose inches around your middle with the help of oatmeal, check out these 55 Best-Ever Ways to Boost Your Metabolism.
1. USE THEM IN PLACE OF BREADCRUMBS
Did you know that rolled oats can be used as a substitute for breadcrumbs in recipes like meatballs, chicken nuggets and meatloaf? It may not be conventional but it works like a charm and it’s an easy way to sneak some extra nutrition into family meals. Oatmeal-crusted chicken tenders, anyone?! No kiddo (or adult) would say no to that!
Eat This! Tip
Depending on the type of dish you’re preparing, you may want to throw the oats into a blender to create a finer texture more similar to that of breadcrumbs.
2. MAKE LOW-COST SKINNY SNACK BARS
Sick of shelling out cash each week on granola and snack bars? Extend your grocery budget and keep hunger at bay by making a homemade oat-based batch instead. We love these 4-Ingredient Banana Oat Bars from The Kitchn. Each serving has just 130 calories and 7 grams of sugar, and, better yet, they’re beyond easy to make.
3. ADD THEM TO PANCAKES
Traditionally, homemade pancakes are filled with nutrient-void calories and carbs—which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to lose belly fat. But that’s no reason kick your beloved breakfast cake to the curb. Make the dish weight loss friendly by swapping out the flour, white sugar, milk and butter for bananas, eggs, oats, baking powder and salt. The result is a fluffy hotcake packed with satiating fiber and muscle-building protein. And if breakfast is your favorite meal of the day, be sure to read up on these 50 Best Breakfast Foods for Weight Loss.
4. FIX A BATCH OF OAT FLOUR
If you typically make homemade bread, waffles and desserts with conventional four, you’re missing a major opportunity to add waist-whittling, healthy nutrients to your diet. Although store-bought oat flour is better for you than the white variety, it can be pretty costly. To reap the benefits without going broke, toss some old fashion oats in a food processor and let ‘er rip! The resulting mixture can be used exactly how you’d use white flour in all of your favorite recipes.
5. MAKE ANTI-MUFFIN TOP MUFFINS
Not only are traditional muffins sweetened with sugar, they’re also made with flour, a refined carbohydrate that the body converts to into sugar and then glucose, which is stored as body fat if it’s not used for fuel. Although a muffin isn’t exactly the healthiest breakfast choice, if you’re not willing to give them up at least make them a healthier treat by swapping flour for rolled oats. We also love the idea of cutting out refined sugar and replacing it with ripe bananas. Follow our lead by making our go-to recipe below:
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 ripe bananas, mashed
HOW TO MAKE IT
Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
Combine and mix dry ingredients. Then, add the coconut oil, mashed bananas, and eggs. Mix well.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the muffins feel firm.
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6. COOK UP A STEALTHY BRINNER
Nothing in your kitchen but oatmeal, eggs and some basic odds and ends? There’s no need to resort to a classic brinner again, you can have a comforting risotto-inspired dinner on your table in 30-minutes flat. Seriously! While you’re preparing your oats on the stove as you usually do, crack an egg in a pan and sprinkle on some salt and pepper. Then, once it’s fully cooked, transfer the oatmeal to a bowl, and top it with the egg, some cheese and some chopped onion. The result is a healthy, waist-trimming meal totally worth Instagramming. And speaking of cracking open some killer weight loss benefits, be sure to check out our exclusive report, What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Eggs!
7. THROW THEM IN A MASON JAR
They may be called overnight oats, but making them doesn’t actually require PJs or twilight. The dish serves as a great dinner alternative, too! Before you head to work for the day, throw oats, your liquid and toppings of choice into a mason jar and the flavors fuse together in the refrigerator while you’re at work. With just a few minutes of prep work, you’ll have a homemade, healthy meal ready to eat the minute you walk back in the door. Rather follow a recipe that mix and match your own add-ins? Check out these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes!
8. BULK UP A SMOOTHIE
If your morning smoothie typically leaves your stomach growling you may want to consider adding some ground oats to your glass. After blending a handful of raw oatmeal in the blender, add the rest of your smoothie ingredients and blend until well combined. The result is a thicker, more fiber-filled smoothie, that’s sure to keep you feeling full well until lunch time.
9. SET IT AND FORGET IT
Stressful holiday brunches, meet your match! Thanks to your trusty slow cooker, making a healthy a.m. meal for the masses has never been easier. To whip up a batch of slow cooker oatmeal, just throw oats, milk and cinnamon into the machine, set it and forget it. The next morning set up a do-it-yourself topping bar so your guests can customize their own bowl. Fruit, nuts, unsweetened coconut and cacao nibs are all tasty options, as are these 24 Best Toppings for Overnight Oats.
10. THICKEN THINGS UP
Whether you want to boost the thickness or the health factor of a soup, sauce or stew, oats are the answer. But before you toss the grain into your dish, pulverize it into a fine powder so you don’t wind up with a lumpy consistency. And while you’ve got soup on the brain, check out these 20 Best-Ever Fat Burning Soups.
11. TRY ZOATS
Have you heard about zoats yet? The funny sounding name actually describes a very straightforward—but delicious—dish made with shredded zucchini, oatmeal, milk, spices and mix-ins. Although the zucchini may give your cereal a bit of a green tint, don’t let that put you off—eating zucchini oats is an easy way to add veggies to your breakfast bowl—somewhere it’s rarely found. Want to give it a try? We like The Breakfast Drama Queen’s take on the dish, pictured above. Her Zucchini Oat-Quinoa Porridge recipe is filled with banana, spices, walnuts and raisins, and is sure to become your new favorite!
12. ADD IT TO A VEGGIE BURGER
Having trouble getting your homemade veggie burger to bind together and keep you full and satisfied? Add oats! You won’t even taste the difference, but you’ll love the improved texture.
13. USE IT TO SAVE CASH ON BBQS
Though it may be a bit unconventional, the super grain can also be thrown into beef burgers. Not only does this cooking hack sneak some fiber and immune-boosting vitamin A into your meal, it also allows your meat to yield additional patties, stretching your dollar further. The best part: It won’t alter the taste in the slightest!
And speaking of protein-packed dishes like burgers, check out these 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss.
14. SWAP IT IN FOR GRANOLA
If you typically sprinkle granola over your yogurt your slowing your weight loss progress tremendously. The crunchy cereal may carry a health halo, but that doesn’t change the fact that a small 1/2 cup serving packs 300 calories, 14 grams of fat and 12 grams of sugar! Our advice? Swap the granola for oats—it’s far easier on your waistline. But don’t just toss the oatmeal into your bowl raw. Heat it up in the microwave with some water, vanilla extract and cinnamon. After it’s cooked, layer the oatmeal mixture with plain greek yogurt, almond slivers and fresh fruit.
15. TRY FROZEN
Low-sugar zappable oats are a go-to for many time-strapped folks trying to lose weight. The only trouble? Finding a savory dinner-worthy variety. But now thanks to health food company Grainful, oatmeal made exclusively for the dinner table finally exists! The 4-minute zappable meals come in mouthwatering flavors like Tuscan Bean&Kale (230 calories, 9 g fiber) and Porcini Mushroom Chicken (270 calories, 6 g fiber). Yum! Looking for more frozen meals that can keep you on track toward flat belly success? Pick up a few of these 46 Best Frozen Foods in America.