When you add the right toppings to the mix, oatmeal makes for a breakfast that is equally delicious and healthy. One of the best things about a bowl of oatmeal is that it serves as a blank canvas — it’s probably one of the most versatile meals out there because you can add just about anything your heart desires. While this leaves plenty of room for healthy toppings that can help you on your weight loss journey, it also leaves room for tons of unhealthy toppings that may please your taste buds but take a serious toll on your body. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with certain ingredients. In fact, health experts agree that there are a few you should leave out of the bowl altogether if you care about your health.
For more information, we spoke to experts Rachel MacPherson, certified personal trainer and certified nutrition coach at Garage Gym Reviews and dietitian Trista Best of Balance One Supplements. They told us that refined sugar and other sugary ingredients like chocolate and dried fruit are among the worst options out there.
1. Refined Sugar
It should come as no surprise to learn that the absolute worst thing you can add to your oatmeal or overnight oats is plain old white sugar. While this ingredient will undeniably make your breakfast taste a little better, the health risks just aren’t worth it, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. “The worst ingredient to add to overnight oats if your goal is to lose weight is sugar,” Macpherson confirms, explaining that this sweet ingredient “contributes no nutrients.” And if you’re trying to lose weight or just want to eat healthy, it’s essential to provide your body with adequate nutrients. As she puts it, “nutrient density is vital for sustainable weight loss and healthy weight balance.”
But it’s not just the lack of nutrients that makes sugar a terrible ingredient; eating too much of it can also lead to problems such as inflammation, poor gut health, weight gain and illness over time. Plus, in the shorter term, eating sugar (unsurprisingly) raises your blood glucose levels and makes you crave more sweets later in the day. That means if you start with a sugary breakfast in the morning, you’re probably eating too much. For all these reasons and more, it’s best to skip the sugar in your oatmeal.
2. Sugary toppings like chocolate, syrup and dried fruit
While it may seem obvious that you should avoid adding sugar by the scoop to your bowl of oats, there are many sneaky, high-sugar additions that you may not think twice about. As Best notes, “some of the worst ingredients mistakenly added to healthy oatmeal recipes contain chocolate sauce, sugar, syrup, and dried fruit.”
Wait, dried fruit is bad? Unfortunately, yes. While it’s certainly not the worst thing you can add to the mix, it’s important to be aware that this ingredient has a lot more sugar than you think. Best says it’s “one of those foods that are healthy and unhealthy depending on the amount consumed.” Compared to its fresh counterparts, “this type of fruit is highly concentrated in calories and sugar and is easy to eat much more than one serving.” All in all, it’s probably best to cut dried fruit out of your oats altogether and opt for fresh fruits like fiber-rich berries instead.
Other healthy, filling, low-sugar options you can add to your breakfast without compromising your health include seeds, nuts, and nut butters. All of these options provide a good amount of nutrients and keep you full for longer without packing on the sugar. All in all, when it comes to oatmeal, the possibilities for healthy ingredients are practically endless — just remember to be wary of how much sugar you add.