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6 Oatmeal Habits That Help With Weight Loss, Says Dietitian

Slim down with these delicious oatmeal tips!

Microwave 'em, slow cook 'em, or soak 'em overnight—just about any way you prepare oats, they're a nutritious, weight-loss-friendly breakfast. Not only are oats loaded with fiber and complex carbohydrates that keep you full until lunch, but they're also 100% whole grain. Research shows that eating whole (instead of refined) grains may increase your metabolism and help you burn more calories—woohoo!

Still, as with any food, letting bad habits creep into your morning routine can take your nutrient-dense, low-calorie breakfast into unhealthy territory. Want to stay the course for weight loss with your morning meal? Stick to these six habits. Then, try making one of these 21 Cozy Oatmeal Recipes Perfect for Weight Loss This Fall.

Don't load up on sugar.


Cutting back on sugar is a first-things-first principle of weight loss, not to mention general health. There's strong evidence that excess sugar is a cause of weight gain—and spiking your blood sugar first thing with super-sweet oatmeal could lead to a mid-morning hypoglycemic crash. (Not fun.)

Rather than creating a dessert-level concoction with a mountain of brown sugar, strive for more subtle sweetness. Try a couple of teaspoons of maple syrup for a lower-carb sweetener, or let fruit sweeten your oatmeal naturally.

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Add fruit.

oatmeal fruit

Working toward eating five fruits and veggies a day? It's a worthwhile goal for weight loss. One large study from 2015 found that people who included more fruits and vegetables in their diet were more likely to weigh less. Berries, apples, and pears were especially associated with greater losses.

Getting the recommended five servings of produce per day can be a tall order unless you start early—so let your bowl of oatmeal be the vehicle for a serving of fruit! With a handful of berries, half a diced apple, or a layer of banana slices, you'll boost the fiber content in your breakfast and load up on important micronutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

Include protein.

oatmeal egg

Weight loss experts often tout the powers of protein for dropping pounds. This muscle-building macro is extremely satiating, staving off the hunger pangs that might drive you to overeat. Oats are a surprising source of protein all by themselves (a half-cup serving contains an impressive 6 grams—as much as an egg), but adding, even more, is a cinch. A dollop of nut butter, a sprinkle of seeds or nuts, or a scoop of protein powder incorporate beautifully into a hearty morning bowl.

Watch your portions.

oatmeal bowl

Oats are considered both nutrient-dense and calorie-dense, so although they're an excellent choice at breakfast, they're not a low-calorie food. If you're watching your weight, it's smart to stick to moderate portions. The official serving size for rolled or instant oats is a half cup. This might not seem like much at first, but don't forget that, with the addition of liquid, oats expand to about twice their original size.

Here's a pro tip: make oatmeal in a smaller cereal bowl, not a soup bowl, to create a more satisfying visual.

Make it convenient (and make it yourself).

overnight oats

Forty minutes in front of the stove on a Wednesday morning? Ain't nobody got time for that! For successful weight loss, choose an oatmeal prep method that fits your lifestyle. If you're the on-the-go type, reserve a few minutes the night before to toss together a jar of overnight oats. Or, on hectic mornings, microwave a cozy bowl of instant oats in two minutes flat. (Here's my personal favorite for a simple, healthy recipe.)

That said, while convenience is a top priority, pre-packaged, commercially produced oatmeal packets aren't always a friend to weight loss efforts. Some are little more than desserts in disguise. Read labels and ingredient lists carefully to spot sneaky sugars and high carb counts. You may be better off DIYing your own oatmeal from simple, whole foods ingredients.

Keep it interesting.

oatmeal fruits seeds

Eating the same old breakfast every single day can get awfully boring (even if it's something you like). And when you're bored, it's all too easy to jump ship from your healthy breakfast.

To keep things interesting—and keep yourself on the right track for weight loss—be sure to occasionally switch things up in your morning oatmeal. Try a new spice blend, match your fruits to the changing seasons, or experiment with different prep, like overnight or slow-cooked oats. The element of variety will keep you coming back morning after morning.

For even more oatmeal tips, read these next:

Sarah Garone, NDTR, CNC
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more about Sarah