If you do not have time to spare to make ‘old fashioned’ oatmeal in the morning, then instant oatmeal is a quick and easy solution. Made with whole grain oats, instant oatmeal is also high in the soluble fiber beta glucan, known to help reduce the risk of heart disease, as well as helping us feel fuller for longer.Although instant oatmeal is a source of whole grain, those which are flavored can be higher in sugar and salt than ‘plain’ instant oatmeals and some may also contain artificial additives. In this article we offer the lowdown on instant oatmeal and consider what you should look for when choosing instant oatmeals. To help you in your choice of breakfast oatmeal, we also review ten of the best instant oatmeals, both flavored and plain.
The Nature’s Path original instant oats are our best pick as an unflavored instant oatmeal which is certified organic and free from any GMO ingredients.
The Quaker instant oatmeal flavor variety is our budget pick which is ready to eat in 90 seconds and comes in variety of flavors sweetened with a plant-based sweetener.
Table of Contents
- Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Instant Oatmeal for Breakfast
- 1. Nature’s Path Original Instant Oats
- 2. Quaker Instant Oatmeal
- 3. Bakery on Main Ancient Grains Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal
- 4. Better Oats 100 Calories Instant Oatmeal by Post
- 5. think! Protein & Fiber Hot Oatmeal
- 6. Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods Gluten Free Oatmeal
- 7. Love Grown Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
- 8. Kodiak Cakes Instant Protein Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal
- 9. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats
- 10. McCann’s Regular Instant Irish Oatmeal
- Things to Consider Before Buying Instant Oatmeal
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Instant Oatmeal for Breakfast
1. Nature’s Path Original Instant Oats
The certified USDA organic Nature’s Path original instant oats are suitable for serving as hot oatmeal or as an overnight oatmeal. Taking just five minutes to cook with water, this oatmeal comes as a six boxes of eight 1.7 oz pouches and each pouch contains just pure rolled oats and a little sea salt. Sugar free, trans fat free and vegetarian, these oats are also non-GMO Project Verified.As this is a salted oatmeal, you may not be as keen on its flavor and you may need to experiment a little with hot water to get the consistency that you prefer.
2. Quaker Instant Oatmeal
The Quaker instant oatmeal flavor variety is a box of 48 pouches including maple and brown sugar, apples & cinnamon, cinnamon & spice and peaches & cream. Made from pure whole grains, you just need to add water, stir and leave to stand for 90 seconds before eating. This oatmeal is now sweetened with a plant-based sweetener (Monk Fruit extract) rather than sucralose.You may want to check that you have received the correct flavors when ordered, and you may find some of these flavors on the sweeter side for instant oatmeal.
3. Bakery on Main Ancient Grains Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal
The blueberry scone flavored Bakery on Main ancient grains gluten free instant oatmeal contains rolled oats alongside quinoa, amaranth, flax and chia and is flavored with sweet blueberries. This oatmeal is certified gluten free, kosher and is Non-GMO Project Verified. It does contain natural cane sugar as sweetener which makes it slightly sweeter than other oatmeals and the odd buyer has not been as keen on the flavor of this compared to other blueberry oatmeals.
4. Better Oats 100 Calories Instant Oatmeal by Post
The Better Oats 100 Calories instant oatmeal comes in a variety of flavors, including maple brown sugar. This oatmeal is made with thick cut premium oats and also contains flax seeds. The oatmeal pouches can also be used to measure out the water, and it is ready to eat in 90 seconds. This is also Kosher Pareve. The odd buyer has not been keen on the taste of this instant oatmeal, and it can be on the saltier side.
5. think! Protein & Fiber Hot Oatmeal
Made with whole rolled oats, steel cut oats and quinoa, the thinkThin Protein & Fiber Hot Oatmeal comes in a variety of flavors, including Farmer’s Market Berry Crumble which contains blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. A serving of this contains 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber and is free from artificial flavors and colors as well as being Non-GMO Project Verified and kosher. This does contain dried cane syrup as sweetener and the texture can be different to other types of instant oatmeal. You may also need to adjust the preparation time to find the right consistency for you.
6. Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods Gluten Free Oatmeal
The Straw Propeller Gourmet Foods gluten free maple oats contain 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving. This comes as single serve cups ready to add water and is made with certified gluten free rolled oats, organic maple sugar and sea salt. It is also Non-GMO Project Verified, kosher and vegan. You may not be as keen on the consistency of this and some buyers consider that this is on the higher calorie side of instant oatmeals.
7. Love Grown Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Coming as an eight pack of 2.22 oz cups, the Love Grown gluten free hot oats are available in a variety of flavors including Apple Cinnamon. Certified gluten free and Non-GMO Project Verified, a cup of these oats is ready to eat in three minutes and will provide 7 grams of protein and five grams of fiber.These are sweetened with brown sugar and as well as oatmeal, these hot oats can also be used to make a microwave muffin with the addition of an egg and some water. Not all buyers are keen that this oatmeal does contain sugar.
8. Kodiak Cakes Instant Protein Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal
The Kodiak Cakes Oatmeal Unleashed is available in a selection of flavors includes maple and brown sugar. This instant oatmeal comes in 2.12 oz cups and is made with pure whole grain rolled oats. Ready in less than a minute, one serving of this non-GMO oatmeal contains 14 grams of protein as it also includes pea, milk and other proteins.Some buyers have been disappointed in the texture of this oatmeal and you may need to adjust the cooking time to find a consistency that you prefer.
9. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Rolled Oats
Ready to eat in four minutes, the Bob’s Red Mill organic rolled oats are pure whole grain and a serving of will provide 7 grams of protein. You can make these oats either in the microwave or on the stovetop. These 16 oz packs are certified USDA Organic are Kosher Pareve and come in resealable packs. As rolled oats these are smaller than other types of oats and the odd buyer has been disappointed with the blandness of these.
10. McCann’s Regular Instant Irish Oatmeal
Made with pure whole grain oats that are non-GMO and have been locally grown by Irish farmers, the McCann’s regular instant Irish oatmeal is also certified kosher. As well as oats, this oatmeal contains oat flour, guar gum, salt and added vitamins to make it a source of eight vitamins as well as protein.Some buyers have been disappointed with this as an instant oatmeal which does not have the same texture as regular Irish oatmeal and a number of buyers do add extra flavorings and/or sweetener to this to improve its flavor.
Things to Consider Before Buying Instant Oatmeal
Any type of oatmeal started life as oat groats. These are the whole grain oats that have only had the outer hard husk removed. Oats that are steel-cut are oat groats that are chopped into two or three pieces which means they need longer to cook. Rolled oats are oat groats which are steamed then rolled thin and flaked. These require less cooking time than steel-cut oats.
Instant oatmeal is made with rolled oats which are then cut into small pieces and pre-cooked through steaming. This means that instant oatmeal needs little in the way of cooking time, although it does lack the texture of other types of oatmeal and its natural flavor can be blander.
Oats are an annual grass and were thought to have been first cultivated around 2,000 years ago, before that, they grew wild or as weeds. Oats became popular in the fifteenth century in Scotland, probably due to its short and wet growing seasons. Scottish oats would be prepared by soaking overnight in salted water and then cooked over low heat in the morning. Samuel Johnson’s dictionary of 1755 defined oats as being ‘a grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people’. There was a response to that along the lines of fine men and fine horses; I’m sure you can guess the rest!
A number of cultures used oats as animal feed and some of these actually considered that oats were actually diseased wheat, however, consumption of oats also became popular in Ireland, Scandinavian countries and Germany. They were introduced to America by Scottish settlers in the early 1600s and eventually became a major US crop until the 1920s when marketable crops such as soy beans took over.
Disadvantages of Instant Oatmeal
Many of the flavored varieties of instant oatmeal can be high in added sugar, salt and even artificial ingredients. Ideally, an instant oatmeal should include six grams or less of sugar, but this can be harder to find in flavored oatmeal.
Some instant oatmeals may also contain extra fiber from isolated fiber sources such as inulin. Although fibers, the nutritional value of these are not as valuable as soluble fiber directly obtained from the oats or other whole grains.
Although instant oatmeal does offer advantages for strict portion/calorie control, as food on the go and also as a time saving solution, it can also cost much more in the long run when compared to making old fashioned oatmeal at home.
When choosing an instant oatmeal it is also worth looking for oatmeal that comes in pouches or cups that are easy to recycle after use, rather than those which contain plastics.
Choosing Healthier Instant Oatmeal
Always look for an instant oatmeal which has been made with whole grain oats, and this should always be the first ingredient on the ingredients list. An instant oatmeal which provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving is healthier. Not only because of the benefits that oats offer, but also more fiber helps you to stay fuller for longer. This is especially important with instant oatmeal as our bodies digest it faster than other types of oatmeal because instant oatmeal is processed more to allow it to cook faster.
An oatmeal made in the ‘old fashioned’ way has a GI (glycemic index) value of 55, while instant oatmeal has a GI of around 83, which also means instant oatmeal is more able to raise blood sugar levels quickly. Adding some protein or healthy fats such as some almonds or seeds on top of instant oatmeal can help slow down quicker digestion and prevent some of the blood sugar surges.
The healthiest option is always to consider a natural or unsweetened oatmeal that does not contain any added ingredients. You could always sweeten it with a pinch of cinnamon, which acts as a natural sweetener as well as adding some warming and spicy flavor to the oatmeal. A pinch of nutmeg can also be used to add some spice to it. Adding a tablespoon of syrup to oatmeal will add 60 calories and 16 grams of sugar!
A little fresh fruit such as berries, bananas, apple or raisins or even dried fruits will not only improve the nutritional content of instant oatmeal, but it will also provide some natural sweetness and flavor. Other toppings you may want to consider are Greek yogurt, some avocado or even a fried egg if you prefer savory rather than sweet oatmeal.
If an instant oatmeal contains salt, then consider one that gives less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving.
Many of the instant oatmeals are designed to be made with water, but if you do prefer milk, then opting for a skim milk or a low fat plant milk can also help keep the fat and sugar content of your instant oatmeal down.
Oats and Gluten Free Diets
Although oats are naturally gluten free, they can sometimes be grown near to wheat crops and oats are often processed in the same facilities that process wheat and other grains that contain gluten. If you are gluten intolerant then you should look for instant oatmeal which is certified as being gluten free. This means that the product will contain less than 20 ppm (parts per million) of gluten.
Why Oats Are Important in Our Diets
Oats have been used as a dietary grain for millennia and even centuries ago, their health benefits were recognized. We now know that oats are a source of beta glucan. A soluble fiber (partially dissolves in water), beta glucan decreases the absorption of cholesterol in our intestinal tract as well as lowering the amount of bile acid that is re-absorbed. Bile acid is what the body makes from cholesterol, so when the body cannot re-absorb as much bile acid, it is forced to make new bile acids from the cholesterol circulating in the body.
This means that not only does beta glucan reduce the absorption of cholesterol, it also reduces the amount of cholesterol we have circulating in our blood streams. As beta glucan passes through our bodies, it also takes cholesterol out with it. At least 3 grams of beta glucan a day within a healthy diet can reduce levels of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol by 5% to 7%. Lower levels of LDL cholesterol can help to lower the risk of heart disease.
Because we cannot digest beta glucan, it also promotes gut bacteria health. Because it is a fiber, it also helps us feel fuller for longer and may also help increase the levels of specific hormones that are linked with appetite control.
Beta glucan intake can also help improve blood sugar and insulin management after eating, probably because it acts to reduce interactions between food and digestive enzymes in the stomach. This reduces glucose reabsorption and the glucose or blood sugar ‘spikes’ that occur after eating.
Beta glucan may also help support immunity and oats in general have also been linked with lower rates of asthma in children. Some researchers found that children who were given oats in their diet earlier in life had a lower risk of developing asthma.
It was back in 1997 that the FDA authorized the health claim that beta glucan from oats was able to reduce the risk of heart disease. This claim was also authorized in other countries, including Canada.
As well as insoluble fiber, oats also contain soluble fiber. It is recommended that we should consume 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories (kcal). This works out as around 25 grams of fiber for women and 28 grams for men every day. Unfortunately, many of us do not eat this amount of fiber which gives what is now called the ‘fiber gap’ in our diets. The easiest way to close the fiber gap is by consuming more foods such as oats and other whole grains that are rich in fiber.
Oats are also a source of various other nutrients, including B vitamins.
Although instant oatmeal is a source of beta glucan, we have found in this article that we may need to take extra care when choosing instant oatmeals. Some varieties are higher in sugars and salts than plain oatmeal and may also contain artificial ingredients. Although flavored oatmeals do make a tasty breakfast, for some of us, they are probably better consumed occasionally rather than daily, instead, a more natural instant oatmeal that is sweetened naturally makes a healthier choice as part of a healthy lifestyle.We hope you have enjoyed reading our article on instant oatmeal and that you now know what to look for when selecting the best instant oatmeal. We also trust that our reviews of instant oatmeal will also help you in your future choice of instant oatmeal.