We love a much-hyped, mega-exotic superfood trend just as much as the rest, but at the end of the day, most of the healthiest foods to eat are pretty simple. Isn't that kind of the point? They're whole, unprocessed, unrefined, and probably a plant. And while we wouldn't dare deem these basic ingredients—pulses, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other forms of plant-based protein—dull, we can certainly say they're under-recognized and underutilized.
One of the healthiest legitimate superfoods out there worthy of pantry staple status? Oats. Ask any RD or MD and they'll tell you that you should absolutely be eating more of them. They're incredibly versatile, affordable, and nutritious. But speaking of versatility, careful not to write off oats just because you despise eating oatmeal for breakfast. This whole grain is capable of so much more. "I get it—I love a good bowl of oatmeal, but sometimes it's fun to change things up a bit and keep healthy eating exciting," says Mia Swinehart, MS, RD. "There are so many ways you can take oats to the next level."
Here are seven ways Swinehart suggests eating oats that don't involve, ahem, porridge.
Homemade granola is hard to beat. It’s super simple, you can customize it any way you like, and it makes the kitchen smell so good while it’s baking. Swinehart’s ‘recipe’ is easy to remember, too—1½ cups of oats, 1 cup of nuts and/or seeds, ¼ cup maple syrup or honey, 3 tablespoons olive or coconut oil, and a generous dash of cinnamon and salt. Mix everything together and throw it in the oven on a sheet pan for about 20 minutes or so at 350 °F. "That’s all you need as the base, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with different dried fruits like apricots, cranberries or apples, coconut flakes, quinoa, flax seeds, even dark chocolate chips," she says.
“I like to make a big batch of muffins and freeze some for whenever I need a quick morning or afternoon pick-me-up, or a bite to eat before a workout,” Swinehart says. Oats are great for muffins because they add flavor, texture, and fiber. “I also like to add in some applesauce because it’s an easy way to naturally sweeten the muffins and it makes them super moist.”
“I love using oats in pancakes, especially if you want to make them gluten-free,” Swinehart says. Her go-to recipe is 1 cup of oats, 1 ripe banana, ½ cup unsweetened almond or oat milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, a spoonful of chia seeds, and a dash of vanilla extract and sea salt. “I throw everything into a blender and blend on high until the batter is smooth. They’re so easy to make and the clean-up is a breeze. To kick the protein content up a notch (because what’s worst than a grumbling belly long before noon?), she suggests using RX A.M. Maple Oats Packets. “Not only do they add extra protein from egg whites and just the right amount of natural sweetness from dates, the maple flavor is so delicious and complements the oats and banana perfectly. Total game changer.”
You know what TikTok trend we're taking about. To make baked oats, you simply whirl oats in the blender with a banana and a combination of baking ingredients like baking soda and eggs. The resulting batter is so smooth and cloud-like that it bakes into a fluffy, healthy, and breakfast-friendly cake. Don't sleep on this viral baking trick, especially if you love to customize.
Adding oats to your morning smoothie is a no-brainer: It’s an easy way to up the fiber so your smoothies are more satisfying, and you’ll love the nutty flavor and texture it adds. Add nut butter for even more of that—plus, you’ll pack in extra protein.
Savory Dishes, Like Meatballs or Chicken Tenders
“You can also go savory with oats. They add great texture and nutrition to bean-based burgers or meatloaf, and are great for blending up to bread homemade chicken tenders instead of breadcrumbs,” Swinehart says.
If you know, you know: Oats pair perfectly with creamy yogurt. According to Swinehart, pairing yogurt with your oats will not only be a delicious breakfast, it will boost the protein of your meal to keep you fuller longer. “I love sprinkling some fresh or frozen berries on top of my yogurt and oatmeal bowls, too,” she adds.