As summer comes to an end and the children go back to school, parents are busy buying school supplies and getting ready for the year. For families whose children remain at school for lunch, the challenge always seems to be what to pack as a healthy snack. Besides fresh fruit like an apple or a banana, a sweet treat is always appreciated. However, snacks pretending to be ‘healthy’ fill the aisles at the grocery store. Have you ever noticed that they are place at eye level too? They entice with bright colourful packaging and BIG SALE back-to-school prices! BUT, by now consumers are a little smarter and look at the ingredients and eventually choose the product that is ‘not as bad ‘ as another one. To make your own healthy version of the granola bar, try this one. It is made with oats, one of my ‘Greatest Of All Time’ foods!
It’s a grab-and-go world out there but that does not mean that it has to be junk that we grab, especially for students, who spend the better part of the day focusing and learning. My previous recipe post Refrigerator Oatmeal Breakfast is just one way to start the day with a nutritious blend of oats and yogurt and fruit. Oatmeal has been a breakfast staple for many many years. And on colder days, hot oatmeal is the best!
So what about those instant oatmeal packets that you simply add boiling water and stir? Have you ever looked at what’s inside the pouch? On some, sugar is the second ingredient on the list! YIKES! But it’s supposed to be healthy, right? Sodium and artificial ingredients are in there too. Sure, they are made with whole grain rolled oats but I would rather have control over the sweetness by adding my own fresh fruit, honey and maybe a sprinkling of brown sugar.
Let’s look at simple oats. The choices can be a bit confusing, but a source (WebMD, 2005-2016) has helped me in explaining the differences:
Oat Groats are the whole oat kernel, which take about an hour to cook. Once they are steamed and flaked, they become Instant Oats. These are the kind you just pour boiling water over and they are ready to eat.
The Rolled Oats that I typically use in my recipes are groats which are steamed and rolled into flakes but are a bit thicker than the instant oats. These are also called Regular or Old Fashioned Oats.
Steel-Cut Oats are also known as Irish Oats and are basically the whole oat kernel, cut up, and these will take about 20 minutes to cook.
Scottish Oats are ground up Steel-Cut Oats.
In terms of health benefits, there are many when oats are part of a balanced diet. Oats are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, copper, Vitamin B1, iron, selenium, magnesium and zinc. They contain some unique plant compounds as well including soluble fibers called beta-glucans, which are very effective at reducing blood cholesterol levels.Oats may reduce blood sugar levels, improve immune function and make you fill full longer thereby reducing calorie intake.They also contain more protein and fat than any other grain (Adda Bjarnadottir, 2012-2016).
Pure oats are gluten-free, however, they are often contaminated during processing unless certified as pure or gluten-free. So be sure to check if sensitivity to gluten is an issue.
Adda Bjarnadottir, M. (2012-2016). Oats 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Retrieved from Authority Nutrition: https://authoritynutrition.com/foods/oats/
WebMD. (2005-2016). Oatmeal: Tasty, Healthy, Quick. Retrieved from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/diet/oatmeal-benefits#1-3