Overnight Oats: A How-to Guide

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Oatmeal can be one of the healthiest and quickest breakfasts, a simple food packed full of whole grains and fiber. If consumed in its most basic form, it can also be one of the blandest, most unexciting options you’ll find. I often eat a plain bowl of quick oats cooked in water. My wife can’t stomach such a thing.

Brown sugar’s long been a constant and favored companion to oatmeal in many households, especially in an effort to coerce children to eat their oats and like them. But while a spoonful (or two or three…) of sugar makes the oatmeal (and medicine) go down, regular consumption of those sweet granules will also have a downward impact on your health. The issue’s not sugar because there’s sugar naturally in many foods, but the problem is the added sugar. So what’s a family to do?

Enter the Overnight Oats trend, a popular substitute for cooking hot oats due to its night-before preparation and its creative options. You can prepare a jar any time of day, store it in the fridge until you’re ready for breakfast, pull it out and dive right in. And it can still be a very healthy and nutritional meal to kick start your day.

Here’s how we like to do overnight oats and all the basics you need to know to do your own.

WHAT YOU NEED TO START: Mason-style jars, oats and a liquid for soaking

WHICH KIND OF OATS: From experience we prefer regular rolled or quick-cook oats. Either seems to work well when soaking all night. We don’t suggest steel-cut oats because they’re much heavier and chewier.

HOW YOU PREPARE THEM: Take a clean jar and add 1/2 cup of uncooked oats. (We actually discovered we like shorter, squatty jars better than the typical small Ball jars we’ve also tried because they’re easier to reach both with a spoon for eating and when it’s time to clean them.) Pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of liquid over the oats for soaking. We usually use the 2 percent milk in our fridge, but you can also use almond or soy milk or another liquid of your choice. And you can adjust the amount of liquid to suit your preferences. We do not suggest water for soaking oats. And that’s all you need for completely basic overnight oats! The rest of the process varies from here.

WHAT ELSE YOU CAN ADD: The possibilities are endless, and that’s what makes this compact meal so fantastic! A basic guideline: If you’d put it in your fresh and hot oatmeal, it goes well in overnight oats. Just layer your ingredients in the jar on top of the oats and liquid. In addition to various liquids you can add any kind of peeled and diced fresh fruit or berries, chopped nuts or seeds like flax or chia, yogurts, raisins or dried cranberries, or powders like protein or unsweetened cocoa or a spice like cinnamon or nutmeg. You’ll want to definitely include a sweetener of some kind, especially if you don’t soak the oats in a sweetish milk or cream. Many yogurts, other than plain, may provide all the sweetness you need. If you use cocoa powder, we suggest a hint of sugar, or your oats will likely be very bitter. Natural honey is also a great sweetener choice that we love in oats prepared any way!

WHEN THEY’RE READY TO EAT: Just tighten the lid on your jar and place it in your fridge overnight while you sleep. You can keep overnight oats in the fridge for about 5 days. They get softer and mushier the longer they sit, so you might not want to store them longer.

OUR SIMPLE GO-TO COMBO: In the picture above, I’ve included my most common Overnight Oats ingredients. I like to combine 1/2 cup oats, 3/4 cup milk, a sliced and diced banana, strawberry Greek yogurt and a palmful of raisins or nuts. Here’s the basic nutritional breakdown for that combination.

Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats

Calories: 300

Fat: 5 g

Fiber: 5 g

Protein: 15 g

Sugar: 15 g

We do not recommend Overnight Oats if you’re attempting a low-carb or no-carb diet. This method simply won’t be likely to appropriately satisfy your requirements for that regimen.

Enjoy your Overnight Oats, and be sure to tell us which ingredients you like to use in yours!

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