While the popular breakfast cereal may indeed be one of the healthiest weight loss foods on the planet — it can whittle your waist, protect your heart and even add years to your life — very few bowls of the supermarket and restaurant variety get the Goldilocks health seal of approval. In fact, many are pumped full of cheap hydrogenated oils and sweeteners linked to weight gain. The best-body bowl of oatmeal is the one you make from home. And with these seven simple tips, you can boost your oatmeal's weight loss potential, and guarantee a morning meal that's juuust right:
Spice Things Up
Love a good carbogasm but hate the associated blood-sugar crash? Just add cinnamon. One study found that adding a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon to a starchy meal (like a bowl of oats) wards off blood sugar spikes associated with fat gain and energy drain as effectively as older generation diabetes drugs. Researchers attribute the spice's blood balancing benefits to the active ingredient cinnamaldehyde, which stimulates insulin receptors on cells and shuttles excess glucose out of the blood that would otherwise accumulate as body fat.
Add Some Berries
Sweetening your oats with a handful of berries mounts a two-prong attack on weight gain: While the vitamin-rich fruits can replace more caloric sweeteners, the combo may also help lower cholesterol that's both affecting and an effect of weight gain. The cholesterol stabilizing power of compounds in oatmeal called phenols doubled when combined with vitamin C, a study published in The Journal of Nutrition found. And berries are a primo source.
Get to Know Overnight Oats
Not all food trends are good for you; but creamy, dessert-like overnight oats, may be a foodie-blogger favorite worth trying. That's because soaking or "culturing" grains in a mixture of liquid and acid (like almond milk and yogurt) has proven to help break down phytic acid. This anti-nutrient, found in the hull of the grain, inhibits the digestibility of fat-fighting minerals like magnesium, chromium and zinc. Cooking reduces most of the phytic acid in oatmeal, but research suggests soaking oats may be equally effective at breaking down the bad stuff and boosting the digestibility of essential nutrients. Raw oats have the added benefit of having a higher content of resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate that slows digestion and promotes fat-burning.
Downsize Your Spoon
Bigger is sometimes better, but when it comes to your oatmeal bowl and spoon, you're better off sticking to baby-bear portions. People served themselves nearly 60 percent more food when they were given a 34-ounce bowl and 4-ounce spoon than when they used serveware half the size, a recent study published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine found. And over-serving may often translate into overeating, study authors note, as people tend to eat 92 percent of the food on their plate. Trick yourself into eating less with kid-sized serveware.
Stick with Rolled
Listen up, dieters: Rolled oats get a nutritional leg up on the instant variety thanks to their slightly higher fiber content, which is well-known for keeping you fuller longer and helping shrink your waist. But the old-fashioned favorite offers another, lesser-known weight loss benefit: The larger flakes actually trick people into consuming fewer calories, according to a recent study. Researchers from Penn State University found people consumed significantly fewer calories from a larger flaked oatmeal than a similar-sized portion of a smaller-flaked, more calorie-dense variety. So stick with the big boys, and trick yourself into eating less.
Sprinkle on Some Nuts
It may sound counterintuitive: Adding fat to a meal in order to lose fat. But, in fact, a tablespoon of nuts or nut butter has the power to transform your oatmeal into a "complete protein." After the addition, your whole-grain breakfast bowl is packed with all nine essential amino acids and the building blocks of lean, fat-burning muscle tissue. If you're hitting the gym after breakfast, make sure to follow this rule and choose almonds. These specific nuts are rich in the amino acid L-arginine, can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, a study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found.
Muscle Up Your Meal
Study after study affirms the weight loss benefits of high-protein breakfasts — particularly those that include eggs. With their proven ability to stabilize blood sugar, increase satiety and even reduce post-breakfast snacking more effectively than low- or no-carb meals, a protein-packed meal truly is the best way to start your day. But that shouldn't limit the menu to omelets. In fact, you can muscle-up your oats (and make them creamier and fluffier) by cooking an egg right in with the porridge. Simply add a whisked egg or egg white into your go-to oatmeal recipe before microwaving, or into simmering oats on the stove.