So, here we are. It’s the beginning of spring and I’m already looking to ditch my hot breakfast cereals for something a little cooler. For those of you who are still getting to know me, I pretty much don’t like ANY foods that are cold. However, there is an exception to every rule, and this exception is overnight oats. I bike to work about three times a week, and this is getting easier to do as the sun starts to wake up with me instead of 45 minutes after I get to work. I always like to have a few staple ingredients and recipes on hand that I can use to prepare easy breakfasts the night before. That way, when I press snooze so many times that I only have 15 minutes to get on my bike, I already have a nourishing breakfast waiting for me in the fridge. With the warmer weather here to stay for the foreseeable future, these oats have been making more frequent appearances at our breakfast table. Why exactly are they so good? Well, they check off all the major boxes – they’re delicious, simple, can be made ahead of time, are incredibly versatile, and most importantly, they’re full of nutritious ingredients. BOOM. All boxes checked.
Before we get into the recipe, I have to ask: Are you confused about all the different styles of oats out there? Well if you are, then join the club. There is nothing simple about food these days, and even oats can be overwhelming. Fortunately I’ve had too much time on my hands this weekend and as a result, I can now explain the differences! So, here’s the lowdown:
Whole oat groats: These are the kernels from the harvested oat stalks after they have been cleaned and the hulls have been removed. You can find them in some specialty stores and they take the longest to cook.
Steel cut oats (aka Irish oatmeal): These are whole oat groats that have been cut a few times with a sharp blade. This makes them a bit quicker to cook than the whole groats, but they are still considered slow cooked oatmeal.
Scottish oatmeal: These are whole oat groats that have been stone-ground instead of cut with a sharp blade like the steel cut oats. Some people say that Scottish oats have a smoother, creamier texture than steel cut oats.
Regular rolled oats: (aka old fashioned oats): These are made when whole oat groats have been steamed and then rolled into flakes. These oats cook quicker than the oats mentioned above and have a longer shelf life.
Quick/instant rolled oats: These are made when the whole oat groats are rolled out thinner and/or steamed for longer than the regular rolled oats. These oats are the quickest and creamiest version of oatmeal.
The best thing about oats is that no matter how they’re processed, their nutrition content remains virtually the same. All of the oat styles I described are considered whole grains, and the processes of cutting, rolling, and steaming don’t significantly alter the nutritional quality of the final products. This is contrary to popular belief that the least processed oats are higher in fibre than the rolled and steamed oats. I have to admit that I was under the same impression until I took a hard look at the nutrition labels. The biggest differences between the styles is really the taste, texture and cook time. The whole groats and the cut oats take longer to cook and produce chewier, nuttier oatmeal. On the other hand, the quick and instant oats are partly cooked in the rolling and steaming processes, so they need less time to cook and result in a creamier texture and milder flavor. These are great for a quick and nutritious meal, but remember that they won’t keep you full for as long as the cut oats because they are relatively more broken down. Overall, as long as you’re purchasing plain oats, you’re on the right track to a satisfying meal. Stay away from prepackaged instant oats that are loaded with sweeteners and other mystery ingredients.
Now, back to the recipe. These overnight oats will get you bounding out of bed (okay, maybe just moving at a slightly faster crawl) and are guaranteed to keep you full throughout your morning rush. Like most of my recipes, this one is extremely adaptable. Feel free to switch up the topping with your favourite nuts, seeds, and fruit. You can make it as basic as apples and brown sugar, or as crazy as pistachios, strawberries, and mint!
Prep time: 5 minutes Refrigeration time: Minimum 2 hours
Yields approximately 1-2 portions
1 banana, mashed*
½ cup rolled oats, old fashioned or quick
1 tbsp chia seeds OR flaxseeds
¾ cup milk (or milk alternative)
2 tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
1 tbsp nut butter (optional)
Chocolate chips/cocoa nibs
Maple syrup/brown sugar
1. In an individual container, add all of the oatmeal ingredients. Stir until mixed. Put on the lid and refrigerate.
2. When you’re ready for breakfast, add the toppings of your choice and enjoy!
Notes: If the oats are too thick in the morning, add a tablespoon or two of milk. If they’re too thin, add a tablespoon of chia seeds/flaxseeds or instant oats.
* If bananas aren’t your thing, switch it up for ½ cup of any pureed fruit (pureed, pumpkin, applesauce, etc) OR ½ cup plain yogurt + 1 tbsp sweetener.