Recipe for Success: Instant Oatmeal

Instead of heating up a packet of instant oatmeal in the microwave, soak rolled oats overnight in milk. They’ll soften just as if they’d been cooked and then you can either heat them up or eat them cold (which I highly recommend!). If you’re like me and eat oatmeal every day, make a big batch for the week and just keep it in the fridge to use when you’re ready, even divide it up into individual containers (I love wide-mouth ball jars) if you like! But first, let me convince you why this is such a great idea.

Oatmeal has a lot of benefits. It’s a complex “slow carb” full of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which means it fills with water and moves slowly through your system, leaving you feeling fuller for longer, decreasing bad cholesterol, and helping to control blood sugar, yet at the same time, adding bulk to your diet. It’s truly a great choice for your first meal of the day, which has a big impact on your energy, metabolism, and hunger for the remainder.

But not all oatmeal is created equal. Steel cut oats are simply oat groats that have been cut into little pieces. Rolled oats have been de-hulled, steamed, and flattened. Instant oatmeal has gone through the same process as rolled oats, but are steamed long enough to completely cook them. And remember, the more processed a grain is, the fewer nutrients it retains and the higher it falls on the glycemic index, which means the higher your blood sugar will rise after eating it, thus raising your insulin (adding to risk of Type II diabetes) as your blood sugar crashes and you start feeling tired and hungry again.

But who has 10-20 minutes to cook steel cut oats or even rolled oats? I see a lot of people at work heating oatmeal in the microwave, but it’s always those nifty little packets of instant. And I get it, nobody has time. But if you know you’re going to eat oatmeal tomorrow or even any day during the week, all it takes is a few minutes the night before to fill a container with oats and liquid. With rolled oats, you can actually do it as soon as 15 minutes before you plan to eat the oatmeal, it just won’t absorb as much liquid, but it’s sure still delicious!

And don’t forget toppings! Choose honey to sweeten, which doesn’t raise blood sugar and contains vitamins and nutrients (unlike refined sugar). Top with fresh or dried fruit (for more fiber and natural sweetness) and toasted nuts (for even more protein and good fats that will help you feel full while raising good cholesterol and lowering bad). Plain yogurt is a great idea too (good bacteria for your gut!), turning oatmeal into muesli, a very popular dish in Switzerland and Germany.

Here are a few recipes for homemade instant oatmeal (each containing 4-6 servings):

Instant Steel Cut Oats


  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice/apple cider vinegar/plain yogurt (your choice)
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Pour the water into a medium saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Add the oats and salt and boil for 1 minute.
  3. Remove from the heat.
  4. Stir in the lemon juice.
  5. Cover the pot and leave at room temperature overnight.
  6. In the morning, simply reheat with your choice of toppings and (if you like) more liquid, such as whole milk.

I should note that the lemon juice is not for flavor. This is an essential ingredient that neutralizes an enzyme inhibitor in the hull of the oats, which prevents absorption of certain vitamins and minerals as well as making digestion more difficult. Always soak whole grains overnight (at room temperature) in water with a small amount of acid.

Instant Rolled Oats


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups milk (or water, your choice)


  1. Stir together the oats and milk, cover, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. In the morning, simply eat cold or reheat with your choice of toppings and extra liquid, if you like.

Don’t forget that you can make this at the last minute, just give the oats about 15 minutes to soak and they’ll still be soft and delicious.


Every Sunday I make this recipe and divide it into six ball jars to use during the week. Just mix the following together:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey (you actually can’t taste the honey the next day, though it sweetens the dish, which I think is a bonus)

Then I top with fresh blueberries and blackberries, set them in the fridge, and I’m all set for the rest of the week! Don’t forget to crush the berries into the muesli to release all those yummy juices before you eat it 🙂


Crush up some berries for a pretty color that’s appealing to children 😉


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