If you're trying to lose weight but want to curb the constant hunger, an oatmeal diet may be perfect for you. Oatmeal has been shown to be heart healthy, lowers diabetes risk and helps to control weight. Yes, you can lose weight by eating nothing but oatmeal — and some nutritious additions.
Why Focus on Oatmeal?
When you think of an oatmeal diet, you may imagine making instant oatmeal, but oats are so much more than the sugary, boxed oatmeal of your childhood. Oats are the seeds of oat grass — a type of cereal grain stemming from Poaceae grass plants — and they contain loads of nutritional benefits, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Oats are filled with fiber and nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium and zinc. They're also helpful in promoting weight loss because they can keep you full for longer and help curb your hunger. An August 2016 study published in Nutrients found that both long- and short-term consumption of oats helped control hyperglycemia and boosted weight loss, as well as being a good dietary solution for people with diabetes.
The first step in your oatmeal diet is to choose healthy oats over instant oatmeal, which often contains added sugars. Oat bran, steel-cut oats, Scottish oats and rolled oats are all good options to start with.
Balance Out Your Oatmeal Diet
Because it's never healthy to only eat one type of food in a diet, and your body requires a diverse array of foods and nutrients to remain healthy, eating nothing but oatmeal may not be the best choice. One easy way to diversify your oatmeal diet is to add strawberries, bananas or blueberries to your breakfast oats. You can also garnish your meals with nuts or cinnamon for taste.
Making overnight oats can be an excellent way to experiment with different tastes. Place one-half cup of oats in a jar mixed with milk or plant milk, fruit, yogurt, honey, nuts, spices or chia seeds (or any unique combination of these types of foods) and then store it in the fridge overnight. Your oatmeal will be transformed into a delicious "pudding" by the next morning.
And as with any diet, you likely won't lose weight or keep it off unless you're routinely pairing it with exercise. Fortunately, oatmeal is filled with carbs and protein, which will make it a great energy source to keep you sustained during exercise without the negative factors of other types of carbs, like unhealthy baked goods.
Create Interesting Oatmeal Dishes
The oatmeal diet doesn't have to be bland. There are plenty of unique and creative ways to incorporate oats into your diet, without having to eat the same dish for every meal.
A February 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology noted that the nutritional properties of oats are well-balanced. As carbs, they provide energy, but also contain protein, fiber and antioxidants. Because of these nutritional benefits, oat-based foods, like certain types of oat breads, biscuits, cookies and cereals, have gained popularity.
You don't even have to search your grocery store for oat-based foods. You can cook oatmeal into your own interesting dishes as well. Don't shy away from making oats savory — use them as a substitute for rice in risotto or meat in veggie burgers.
And since you don't want to live entirely on oats alone, you might also find ways to combine oats with fruit, vegetables or protein in new ways — this is essential to making sure your diet is varied and well-balanced.
As an example of a savory oatmeal dish, cook up a serving of oatmeal and combine it with a small amount of a healthy oil and low-fat cheese for a risotto-like base. Then add roasted Brussels sprouts, squash and onions and top with a poached egg.
For a sweeter breakfast dish, mix a serving of cooked oats with chopped bananas and strawberries, a drizzle of almond butter, a tablespoon or so of raisins and a sprinkle of coconut flakes.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Oats"
- Nutrients: "Short- and Long-Term Effects of Wholegrain Oat Intake on Weight Management and Glucolipid Metabolism in Overweight Type-2 Diabetics: A Randomized Control Trial"
- Journal of Food Science and Technology: "Nutritional Advantages of Oats and Opportunities for Its Processing as Value Added Foods - a Review"