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 taste buds 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.
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 texture that's more similar to that of breadcrumbs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 special report, What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Eggs!
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 than mix and match your own add-ins? Check out these 50 Best Overnight Oats Recipes!
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 grinding up 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
SWAP IT IN FOR GRANOLA
If you typically sprinkle granola over your yogurt, you're 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.
GO SAVORY & FROZEN
Low-sugar zappable oats are go-tos 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 microwavable 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.
MAKE YOUR OWN OAT PACKS
If you love the portability, flavor, and convenience of those pre-flavored oat packets, but hate their high sugar counts and creepy chemicals, consider making your own "to-go" packs. To make 'em, simply spoon oats, and mix-ins like chia seeds, nuts, no-sugar-added dried fruit, and spices into small snack-sized baggies. This way you can grab one and combine with water or milk at your office—or wherever you wind up eating breakfast. Some combos we love: apple and cinnamon, dried strawberries and coconut, cinnamon with walnuts and raisins, and dried banana with PB2.
MIX IN PROTEINS
If your breakfast tends to leave your tummy rumbling before lunchtime, try mixing in a source of protein into a bowl of oats—a dish that offers up 4.5 grams of satiating fiber per dry half-cup. When paired with protein powder or a quarter-cup of mashed chickpeas (their creamy texture blends right into the oatmeal, promise!), these filling additions will help to keep you away from the office candy jar—a habit that's likely slowing your slim down progress.
MAKE A PILAF
The cool thing about oats is that it can be used interchangeably with other grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and rice. The dish pictured above, for instance, is a play on rice pilaf that combines, oats with chickpeas, mustard seeds, curry, turmeric, and a host of other spices and herbs. Get the full recipes from One Green Planet.
MAKE HEALTHY PIZZA CRUST
You don't have to make your pizza crust out of grated cauliflower for it to be healthy and full of nutrients. You can also swap in whole grain, almond or coconut flour for the white stuff, or my personal favorite, use a blend of sweet potatoes, rolled oats, and eggs. Not only do these things bind together to create a sturdy canvas—something many other low-carb crust alternatives cannot claim—but the flavor is one that pairs perfectly with a variety of topping and spices. Get the lowdown on how to make it at Pinch of Yum.
TRY BREAKFAST POPSICLES
We know what you're thinking: "What the heck is a breakfast popsicle?!" In short, it's the greatest portable meal you didn't know you were missing. Breakfast pops are basically frozen yogurt parfaits on sticks, and they're perfect for warm weather mornings. To make a batch, blend low-sugar vanilla yogurt (we like Siggi's) with chopped fruit, chia seeds, and a few tablespoons of oats. Pour the mixture into a popsicle mold and freeze until solid. This typically takes at least 8 hours. Let them sit at room temperature for a few minutes before unmolding and gobbling 'em up!
MAKE A "SKINNY" APPLE CRISP
If you consider apple crisp a healthy dessert, you're not alone. Studies show that people often think a sweet treat that contains fruit is healthier than those that don't—even though that's not always the case. Apple crisp is no exception to this rule. When traditionally prepared with sugar, butter, and refined flour it can be a real doozy for your waistline. However, a few simple swaps can make this oat-topped dessert one that's weight loss friendly. Here's our go-to recipe:
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon warmed honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3-5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
HOW TO MAKE IT
While the oven is preheating to 425 degrees F, wash, slice, and toss the apples with lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside.
In a separate bowl combine the oats, walnuts, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and honey until well combined. Next, spread a thin layer of the mixture on a piece of tin foil and bake for about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch the oats carefully to avoid burning.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the apples, adding a tablespoon of water each time the pan begins to dry up. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the fruit reaches desired doneness.
Put the cooked apples in a bowl and sprinkle with the oat and nut crumble. Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt for added creaminess.
TURN IT INTO A BITE-SIZED DESSERT
Whether you treat these as an afternoon snack, or a party appetizer or dessert, one thing remains unchanged: there's no tastier or easier way to create a nutritious, craving-crushing bite. The snack-sized energy balls pictured above (get the recipe here), are made with wholesome ingredients, including oats, almond butter, and chia seeds, and taste just like an indulgent cookie.
STOCK YOUR FREEZER
Overnight oats and make-it-yourself oatmeal packets are perfect solutions for people who meal prep each week. However, for those of us who like to stock up on homemade freezer meals once a month and call it a day, those solutions aren't much help—and that's where frozen oatmeal tins come into play. All you have to do is cook up a batch of oatmeal, dollop it into a muffin tin, and freeze! When you want to enjoy a wholesome bowl of oats, just pop two or three of the freezer oatmeal cups into a bowl, zap in the microwave, and add your favorite toppings. And if that even sounds like too many steps, you can freeze the toppings right into the oatmeal. Put blueberries and almonds on one and peaches and pumpkin seeds on another. They don't all have to be exactly the same. For tips that will help to ensure a successful batch, check out these 18 Tips for Making Frozen Oatmeal Cups!
GIVE BRUNCH A HEALTHY MAKEOVER
There's a really logical reason why indulgent things like pancakes, french toast, and pastries are synonymous with big weekend brunches: they're super easy to make and have pleasing, sweet flavors that are sure to please just about any palate. Thankfully, there's a better way to walk the lines between easy, healthy, and crowd-pleasing, and it comes in the form of an oatmeal breakfast casserole. The middle of the casserole pictured above is like oats on steroids, stockpiled with milk, sweet potato, banana, chia seeds, and various flavorings. The top layer adds crunch with the help of pecans, butter, and brown sugar. Get the full details of how to make the dish at Oh She Glows.
MIX IT WITH AN ANCIENT GRAIN
Sick of eating plain ol' oats for breakfast? Cook up a batch of quinoa and make your morning bowl a blend of the two grains. Sure, the quinoa is a bit more caloric than oatmeal, but it provides more protein and fiber, so it's a mix-in we feel is worthwhile—at least on occasion when your taste buds are craving something different. Mix-ins that pair well with the combo include: pumpkin seeds, toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds, sliced banana, and coconut flakes.