Oatmeal Guide

By: EatingWell Editors

Pictured Recipe: Quinoa & Chia Oatmeal Mix

Oatmeal is a satisfying, healthy morning meal. It’s high in soluble fiber, which may help to lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and has a healthy amount of protein, both of which will help you feel satisfied. Plus oatmeal is a low-glycemic-index (GI) food—and research suggests that eating a low-GI meal before you exercise may help you burn more fat. For a boost of calcium, make oatmeal with low-fat milk instead of water. Then top it with your favorite fruit to add more fiber and nuts for (filling) healthy fats. Here are cooking instructions for the most common types of oatmeal, plus some of our favorite toppings. Use these instructions to prepare 1 serving of oatmeal or follow package directions. One serving of each type of oatmeal below is about 150 calories and 4 grams of fiber.

Quick-Cooking Oats

Quick-cooking oats have been precooked then dried and rolled. They are sometimes labeled “instant oats.”

Stovetop: Bring 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk) and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup oats and reduce heat to medium; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.

Microwave: Combine 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk), 1/2 cup oats and a pinch of salt (if desired) in a 2-cup microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Stir before serving.

Old-Fashioned Oats

Old-fashioned oats have been steamed and then rolled. They are sometimes labeled “rolled oats.” 

Stovetop: Bring 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk) and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/2 cup oats and reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.

Microwave: Combine 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk), 1/2 cup oats and a pinch of salt (if desired) in a 2-cup microwavable bowl. Microwave on High for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Stir before serving.

Steel-Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats are toasted and cut oat groats—the oat kernel that has been removed from the husk. They are sometimes labeled “Irish oatmeal.” 

Stovetop: Bring 1 cup water (or nonfat or low-fat milk) and a pinch of salt (if desired) to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup oats and reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, until the oats are the desired texture, 20 to 30 minutes.

Topping Ideas

Jazz up your morning bowl of oatmeal with one or more of these tasty toppings.

  • Dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or chopped apricots or dates
  • Ground cinnamon or ginger
  • Chopped toasted nuts, such as almonds, pecans or walnuts
  • Chopped or sliced fresh fruit, such as bananas or apples
  • Fresh or frozen berries
  • Low-fat (or nonfat) milk or plain yogurt
  • Jams, preserves, maple syrup, brown sugar or honey
  • Applesauce
  • Ground flaxseed


Related: Healthy Oatmeal Recipes