Oatmeal is a nutrient-packed breakfast, filled with healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates that can reduce your risk of diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Whether you choose old-fashioned, quick or instant oats, you’ll get the same calorie amount per 1/2-cup serving. That calorie total begins to vary when you cook your oatmeal with milk, mix in sugar or serve with other ingredients.
Read the nutrition label of your oats carefully. Most varieties of instant, quick and old-fashioned oats have approximately 150 calories in 1/2 cup of dry grains, which cooks up to about 1 cup of cereal. The recommended serving size for longer-cooking steel-cut oats is 1/4 cup of dry grains, which also has 150 calories and produces about 1 cup of cooked cereal.
Keep track of how you prepare your cereal. If you use 1/2-cup measure to scoop it out, you can be reasonably sure you’re getting about 150 calories. If you just spoon out an amount that looks good, you may be getting more. Cooking your oats with water doesn’t add any calories, but cooking with milk does. Using 1 cup of whole milk with your oats will add about 150 calories, and a cup of skim milk will add about 80 calories.
Measure your add-ons to get an accurate idea of the number of calories you’re contributing to the oatmeal. A medium banana adds 105 calories, a 1/4-cup scoop of blueberries adds 20, a tablespoon of chocolate chips adds 70, and a tablespoon of walnuts adds 40. Don’t forget about sweeteners — 1 packed tablespoon of brown sugar has 50 calories and a tablespoon of honey has 65.
Choose your breakfast and its add-ons for their nutritional benefits and the taste. Don’t be put off on adding extra calories if they come from healthful fruits or nuts, and remember that a nutrient-packed breakfast is far preferable to skipping breakfast in an effort to lose weight. In an article for USA Triathlon, registered dietitian Mami Sumbal writes that even packaged instant oats are better than no breakfast. If you are trying to drop pounds, Sumbal suggests starting with just 1/4 cup of dry oats and serving the cooked cereal with a lean protein and healthy fat.