Every Instant Oatmeal in America in 2021—Ranked!
When it comes to quintessential healthy breakfast food, oatmeal is at the top of the list. It's easy to see why, as oatmeal is loaded with benefits. It's a fiber and protein-packed dish that can keep you fuller longer and can help you lose weight if prepared properly, just to name a few. There are many types of oats out there—steel-cut, rolled cut, and even overnight oats—but instant oats are easily one of the most popular oat options. A flavorful bowl of warm oatmeal that is ready in minutes? The dream.
Except not every pack of instant oats belongs in your kitchen, and some options are better for you than others. The best oatmeals are low in sugar (most of which should be from unrefined sources like fruit and less from refined sources like cane sugar), high in fiber, high in protein, and contain moderate fat levels (which are all from healthy sources). The worst oatmeals are high in sugar, have artificial sweeteners and flavors, and are devoid of any redeeming nutritional value beyond being a plain source of oats. Eating oatmeal is healthy, but you should opt for one that has some satiating macronutrients like fats, fiber, and protein so you'll feel fuller. Make it closer to a meal!
To best help you navigate all the instant oatmeal options you're bound to encounter in the grocery store, we ranked 45 oatmeals from 21 different oatmeal brands, from worst to best. If you're looking for more foods you should be stocked up on, check out The 100 Healthiest Foods on the Planet.
McCann's Vanilla Honey Single-Serve Microwaveable Cup
This microwavable cup of oats is said to be made of "a special blend of ingredients to create a delicious hot breakfast dish." But it's packing 17 grams of sugar—the highest of all the options on this list—and all of which are added sugars. (And despite the flavor, there isn't actually any real honey in this cup—just honey flavor.) That's the same amount of added sugar you would get from five and a half Oreo Thin Cookies. Doesn't really seem so special after all…
Quaker Instant Oatmeal (Classic) Cinnamon & Spice
Oh, Quaker. It's a beloved favorite, yes, but the Cinnamon & Spice flavor from the Classics line isn't really all that stellar of an option. The oats here are whole grain, which helps promote heart health, but those 10 grams of added sugar are not ideal. Keep in mind The American Heart Association recommends men should consume no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and women shouldn't have more than 25 grams per day. While this one packet isn't going to completely derail your day, eating plain oats topped with fresh fruit and some cinnamon for a touch of sweetness is a much better choice.
Better Oats 100 Calories Apples & Cinnamon
Apples pair perfectly with cinnamon and mixed into warm oatmeal, it's easy to see why it's a popular flavor. Better Oats' instant mix might be clocking in at 100 calories, but take a look at the ingredients and you'll likely raise an eyebrow. You'll see Acesulfame Potassium and Sucralose, which are artificial sweeteners. No thanks! (Related: What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Artificial Sweeteners.)
Better Oats Classic Strawberries & Cream
Better Oats strikes again, this time with the Strawberries and Cream flavor. This one fares slightly better, but 11 of the 12 grams of sugar here are added, and it contains artificial flavor.
McCann's Apples & Cinnamon Instant Irish Oatmeal
McCann's makes one of our absolute favorite steel-cut oats, but we can't say the same for the brand's prepared options. Their take on the Apple and Cinnamon flavor does contain 12 grams of natural sugar here, but it's coming in with a rather long list of ingredients. You don't really need any Guar Gum in a bowl of oats! Instead, opt for their famous Traditional Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal and DIY with the help of these 11 Healthy Oatmeal Toppings That Help You Lose Weight.
Better Oats Thick & Hearty Blueberry Muffin
Is there really such a thing as a "hearty blueberry muffin?" Better Oats whipped up a thick and hearty version of this flavor that contains caramel color. And this is troublesome. See, caramel color is often found in sodas to give these drinks their hue—think Coca-Cola. Data that was published in PLoS One actually found that those who drink beverages that contain caramel color can be exposed to 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI), a possible cancer-causing substance. Not something you want in your morning bowl of oatmeal!
Quaker Instant Oatmeal Dinosaur Eggs Brown Sugar
We get it—a packet of these oats brings on a wave of nostalgia. Plus, seeing those dinosaur shapes appear from the eggs really never gets old. But there are plenty of other instant oatmeal options that are just, well, better for you than this one. Sorry.
Better Oats Steel Cut Maple & Brown Sugar
Again, Better Oats serves up a packet of oats that are artificially flavored and come with 10 grams of sugar, all of which are added. What's the issue with added sugar? A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who get 25% or more of their calories from added sugar are actually more than twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who eat less than 10%. Yikes!
Earnest Eats Blueberry Chia Superfood Oatmeal Cups
One of these cups from Earnest Eats is made with a super grain blend of oats, quinoa, and amaranth, which is all blended with dried blueberries, chia seeds, and a touch of cinnamon. Sounds delicious, but with 15 grams of sugar, there are some other options on this list that are better suited to balance that sugar count with higher fiber and protein counts.
Quaker Lower Sugar Apples and Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal
Lower in sugar you would hope means no added sugar, but alas, that isn't the case with these oats.
Quaker Protein Instant Oatmeal Apples & Cinnamon
Quaker's take on amping up your protein in the morning ranks a little bit better than its Classic Cinnamon & Spice predecessor. Despite the solid protein serving, you're still getting those 13 grams of sugar here.
Nature's Path Organic EnviroKidz Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon
OK, we must say, this box will catch your eye (just look at that baby elephant!) and does a great job of appealing to the little ones, as oatmeal isn't typically the top option for a kid's favorite breakfast. It would be better if there were more protein and fiber served up here, both of which will help keep anyone fuller (and more focused!) for longer.
Bakery on Main Ancient Grain & Seed Superfood Apple Pie Instant Oatmeal
The ingredients list here isn't terrible but the fact that 10 of the 11 grams of sweet stuff here is added sugar is again, not ideal.
Quaker High Fiber Instant Oatmeal Maple Brown Sugar
This packet of oatmeal is loaded with fiber and even contains monk fruit extract, a natural sweetener. However, plain 'ole sugar is the third ingredient listed and contributes to the 7 grams of the sweet stuff you're munching on. It'll help you chow down on this high-fiber version of oatmeal, but know what you're getting yourself into before eating it: having 37% of your daily value of fiber in one meal can put a strain on your digestive system if you don't consume the nutrient frequently.
Love Grown Blueberry Banana Walnut
Love Grown Blueberry Banana Walnut oatmeal cup is rather low in sodium, which is solid to see. The same can't be said about the number of calories and amount of sugar you're getting here, though.
Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Blueberry Hazelnut Oatmeal Cup
There are actually hazelnuts and dried blueberries in here, which is nice to see. But the sugar is still a bit too high in this specific Bob's Red Mill oat cup as compared to some of the brand's other offerings that are also higher in protein.
Nature's Path Gluten Free Brown Sugar Maple Oatmeal
You just need to add hot water, stir, and then these oats are good to go, which makes this blend "great for your choice of mix-ins," as it's advertised. Since you're only getting 3 grams of fiber, you'll want to jazz these oats up, but be careful as you're already getting 8 grams of added sugar.
Maypo Vermont Style Maple Oatmeal
Maypo is said to be the world's first maple-flavored oatmeal cereal. That is a major accomplishment! If you ate it growing up and want to give some to your own children now, it's a better option than some of the other oats marketed toward kids.
Better Oats Organic Bare
A packet of oats with zero sugar? Didn't think we would see the day! We love that Better Oats blends their oats with barley, wheat, quinoa, and rye for a healthy blend of nutrient-dense whole grains. It only falls in the middle of our list because it will require you to prepare it to your liking with your own choice of toppings—just make sure you're not doing The Unhealthiest Way to Prepare Oatmeal, According to a Dietitian.
One Degree Sprouted Quinoa Hemp Instant Oatmeal
Every oat in the bag is said to be "lightly sweetened with coconut sugar and delicately flavored with vanilla." The oats here come in one big bag, so just be careful when you're scooping them out to make your morning bowl you're actually sticking to the serving size, as it's very easy to end up eating more!
Kodiak Cakes Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Power Cup
Peanut butter and chocolate forever make for a heavenly flavor combination, we'll just start there. While you are being treated to a solid protein serving, this cup is a bit higher in calories and contains more sugar and sodium than other options on this list—just keep that in mind if you're counting calories for weight loss.
Lilly B's Glutenfreeda Maple Raisin With Flax Instant Oatmeal
Raisins are typically a common oatmeal mix-in, and while they do have health benefits (hello antioxidants!), you want to be mindful, as they are high in sugar. Make sure they're sprinkled in and if you need to take some out of the pouch of oats, that's OK!
Nature's Path Flax Plus Instant Oatmeal
You can't get much better than instant oatmeal with four ingredients—as is the case with this pick from Nature's Path—we just wish there was slightly less added sugar so you could top this nutritionally stellar oat and flax blend with your own fruit.
think! Protein + Fiber Oatmeal Cup, Madagascar Vanilla, Almonds, Pecans
This think! oat bowl is packed with protein, but 8 of the 9 grams of sugar are added, so just keep that in mind.
Quaker Fiber & Protein Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal
Less than one gram of sugar from a packet of Quaker oats? Love to see it. We do wish the protein serving was a bit higher, as these oats are targeted as fiber and protein-packed (and there are other options on the list that are slightly higher in that department); however, out of all the instant Quaker options, this one is your best bet.
Daily Harvest Cinnamon + Banana
Hidden in this delicious bowl of overnight oats is a secret ingredient: organic butternut squash! Vegetables are notoriously missing from breakfast tables across the country, so opting for this offering from Daily Harvest will help you get in an extra serving of healthy produce.
McCann's Quick Cooking Rolled Irish Oats
If you're looking for a plain base for your morning oats, grab a pack of unsweetened, unsalted quick-cooking oats from McCann's.
Earnest Eats Apple Crush Protein & Probiotic Oatmeal Cups
Not only do we love that Earnest Eats uses a blend of oats, seeds, nuts, and grains, but we also love that they add 16 grams of protein (some of which comes from grass-fed whey protein) and gut-friendly probiotics.
Nature's Path Blueberry Cinnamon Flax Instant Oatmeal
There are few instant oatmeal packets that are as nutritionally balanced as this one.
Bob's Red Mill Apple Pieces & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal Packets
Bob's Red Mill has obviously heard about KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Kodiak Cakes Maple and Brown Sugar Protein-Packed Oatmeal Packets
You'll find 12 grams of protein from a blend of pea protein, milk protein, and whey protein isolate in this instant oatmeal packet.
RXBAR RX A.M. Chocolate Oatmeal Cup
If you're sensitive to whey protein, but you like a little boost of protein in your instant oatmeal cups, check out this offering, which gets a solid dose of the muscle-building nutrient from dried egg whites.
MUSH Strawberry Overnight Oats
Looking to reap the Amazing Benefits of Overnight Oats, According to Science but don't want to make your own at home? MUSH has you covered with this incredibly well-balanced, ready-to-eat oatmeal bowl that contains just oats, coconut, strawberries, apples, and salt.
Bakery on Main Organic Oat Probiotic Oats & Ancient Grains Premium Oatmeal Cup
For having 0 grams of added sugar, this nutrient-dense oatmeal cup is a pretty sweet deal from Bakery on Main.
RXBAR RX A.M. Cinnamon Spice Protein Instant Oatmeal Packet
The same egg white protein oats as before, but with less sugar—a smaller, but equally balanced portion for those who are looking to lose weight at breakfast.
purely elizabeth. Raspberry Dragon Fruit Vibrant Oat Cups
You know how they say we eat with our eyes? This bright and beautifully colored oatmeal cup comes to life with the help of pink raspberry and pitaya powder, but there's more than meets the eye than just a pretty picture. Purely Elizabeth also includes a nutrient-dense blend of ancient grains and seeds.
Nature's Path Qi'a Superseeds & Grains Cinnamon Pumpkin Seed
Low in sugar while also being high in fiber and protein, we're big fans of this superfood cereal made with oats, buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and a touch of cinnamon—no added sugar to be found here!
purely elizabeth. Original Superfood Oat Cups with Granola Topper
Opt for this cup, and you'll be eating 8 grains and seeds but only 3 grams of sugar.
The GFB Fruit, Nuts and Seeds Gluten Free Oatmeal
We swear this isn't only on the top of our list because the pop-up bowl packaging is genius. The GFB (Gluten-Free Brand) oatmeal is protein-packed with whole food sources like hemp seeds, cashews, and fava bean protein.
Straw Propeller PB&J Oatmeal Cup
Once you try this oatmeal, it's going to be the only way you'll want to consume your PB&Js moving forward—and we're not just saying that because it tastes good. To have 9 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein in an oatmeal cup with only 11 grams of sugar is impressive, and will surely help you feel full for longer.
KIND Oatmeal, Cranberry Almond
Widely available, always reliable, KIND Oatmeal is a solid choice for your morning meal if you're looking for lower-sugar options that still contain decent levels of fiber and protein.
Bob's Red Mill Organic Fruit and Seed Oatmeal Cup
Coming in as one of the healthiest instant oatmeal on our list is an oatmeal cup from one of the most well-respected, highest-quality brands in the business: Bob's Red Mill. This oatmeal has everything you could want in a healthy breakfast: whole grain oats, a blend of fiber- and protein-rich seeds (like flax, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin) that boost the fiber content of this cup to an impressive 8 grams or 32% DV, and whole fruits.
Nature's Path Golden Turmeric Superfood Oatmeal
One of the few options that uses whole grain steel-cut oats rather than rolled oats, these instant oatmeal packets are high in fiber and protein, low in sugar, and feature a potent anti-inflammatory spice: turmeric.
purely elizabeth. Blueberry Walnut Collagen Protein Oats
Supercharge your morning oats with a boost of collagen protein. Purely Elizabeth bumps up the protein count of this cup to 11 grams with grass-fed bovine collagen: a type of protein that has been linked to such benefits as increased muscle mass, improved skin complexion, stronger hair, and more.
Mylk Labs Roasted Hazelnut & Dominican Cacao Oatmeal Cup
Simple and straightforward. All you need to make a healthy cup of oats is everything you may already have in your pantry: oats, nuts, a touch of sugar, chocolate, and a pinch of salt. Follow that recipe as Mylk Labs does, and you'll attain a nutrient balance of healthy fats, fiber, and protein that will keep you full all morning. And for more on one of our favorite breakfast foods, don't miss What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Oatmeal.
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