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whOAT's it all about? (a guide to oats and reading nutrition labels)

Updated: Jan 24

This past week, TAJ's (The Average Joe) Instagram transitioned from toasts to oats. But what's so great about oats?... whOATs it all about? ;)


Let's break them down -

Pictured above is a nutritional label for a container of "Old Fashioned Whole Grain Oats"

(kroger.com) . You may be thinking, thanks for the visual, but how do you read this thing??


The first thing to note is that nutritional labels are constructed around a 2,000 calorie diet. This can be referenced where the asterisk (*) is at the bottom of the label. The "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans" (health.gov). HHS and USDA believe that a 2,000 calorie diet is the daily allowance for most individuals. Keep in mind that just because this number may fit some, it does not fit all, myself included. We will dive into figuring each individual's ideal caloric consumption in a later post, but for now back to the label!


One of the most important details of a nutrition label is the "serving size." Unfortunately, this is where a lot of packaged foods can be misleading. All of the values shown on a label are based off the serving size. I can't tell you the amount of times I picked up a delicious looking candy bar that advertised being under 100 calories only to discover it was per serving, and there were 4-5 servings per bar (that's 500 calories!). The serving size and amount per package/container/bar/etc. can be located at the top of the nutrition label.


Next comes "calories." In my own nutritional practice, a lot of what I focus on are calories. Counting calories has been both celebrated and canceled in today's culture; but what I would like to suggest is being mindful of calories - are you consuming empty calories or nutrient dense calories? The idea of empty or nutrient dense calories ties back to my last blog which talks about the macronutrient values (in addition to vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other qualities).


An empty calorie means little to no nutritional value (low in macronutrients and high in trans fat, processed sugar, sodium, etc.). A nutrient dense calorie means full of nutrients (healthy carbs, fat, protein, and more).


Underneath "calories" is the break down of nutrients with the amount per serving on the left, and the percent of the recommended daily value on the right (again, this is based off of a 2,000 calorie diet, and percentages often differ from person to person). Almost every label will display amounts of fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, sugar, and protein. Vitamins and mineral representation vary because often only significant sources are listed. Therefore, if we reference the above label, we would be able to immediately identify that calcium and iron have prominence in oats, making oats a nourishing source for those who may have a calcium or iron deficiency.


Now that we know how to read a label, let's specifically break down the oat and its goodness!


Nutritionally speaking, oats are a good source of carbohydrates and contain more protein than most grains. Oats are also naturally gluten-free, full of fiber, and provide antioxidants. (Nevertheless, please reference the labels of products stating they are gluten-free in case they may have been cross-contaminated with products containing gluten).


Furthermore, oats can help boost energy while lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If you deal with digestive track issues, the fiber in oats can assist in softening stool and regulation. Fiber also helps consumers feel full which can aid in weightloss.


Lastly, oats provide a multitude of recipe options! Oatmeal, pancakes, granola, muffins, breads, etc. I plan to continue adding to The Average Joe recipes, but please feel free to enjoy what has been posted. For more details on each recipe below, check out @theaveragejoewellness on Instagram!


Homemade Oatmeal

Ingredients:

Base

  • 1/3 cup oats (use quick or rolled oats)

  • 1/2 cup almondmilk

  • 1/2 ripe banana

  • Dash of salt

  • Dash of vanilla

  • Dash of cinnamon

  • 1 tsp maple syrup

Toppings

  • 1/2 banana

  • 1 tsp peanut butter

  • 1 tbsp granola

  • Dash of cinnamon

Directions:

  • In a sauce pan smash the 1/2 ripe banana

  • Add all base ingredients and stir

  • Put on medium heat until oatmeal starts boiling

  • Reduce heat to low while continuously stirring until desired consistency is met

  • Carefully scoop mixture into a bowl (contents will be hot)

  • Top with banana slices, peanut butter, granola, and cinnamon

Nutritional Value:

Calories 346

Total Fat 9.8g

Cholesterol 0

Sodium 312mg

Total Carbs 59.1g

Dietary Fiber 6.8g

Total Sugars 26g

Protein 7.8g


Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

Base

  • 1/3 cup oats

  • 1/2 cup almondmilk

  • 1/2 ripe banana

  • Dash of vanilla

  • Dash of salt

  • Dash of cinnamon

  • 1 tbsp non-fat plain greek yogurt

  • 1 tsp maple syrup

Toppings

  • 1 tbsp granola

  • 1 strawberry

Directions:

  • Mash 1/2 ripe banana in mason jar (or any similar container with a lid)

  • Add oats into a mason jar

  • Add in vanilla, salt, cinnamon, yogurt, and maple syrup

  • Pour in milk of choice until oats are covered (roughly 1/2 cup)

  • Stir thoroughly

  • Leave in fridge overnight

  • In the morning enjoy straight from the jar or scoop into a bowl

  • Top with slices of strawberry and granola

Nutritional Value:

Calories 174

Total Fat 4.7g

Cholesterol 0mg

Sodium 216mg

Total Carbs 32.1g

Dietary Fiber 4g

Total Sugars 12.3g

Protein 7g


Oatmeal Pancakes

Ingredients:

Base

  • 1 ripe banana

  • 1 egg

  • 1/3 cup oats

  • 1/4 tsp baking powder

  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tbsp almondmilk

  • Dash of salt

  • Dash of vanilla extract

  • Dash of cinnamon

Toppings

  • 1 strawberry

  • 2 tsp maple syrup

Directions:

  • Pour oats, salt, and cinnamon into a blender and blend until a flour is created

  • Add banana, egg, milk, and vanilla extract and blend until smooth

  • Stir in baking powder and baking soda (depending on your blender, if you blend these in, the mixture may explode when you take the lid off)

  • Let stand for 3 minutes

  • Spray skillet with non-stick spray

  • Warm skillet on medium heat

  • Pour mixture into skillet and bake, flipping until both sides are golden brown

  • Top with strawberry slices and maple syrup and enjoy

Nutritional Value

Calories 311

Total Fat 6.9g

Cholesterol 164mg

Sodium 555mg

Total Carbs 55g

Dietary Fiber 6.2g

Total Sugars 22.5g

Protein 10.6g


*Oatmeal pancakes freeze well (up to two weeks)! Once cooled, store in a sealable sandwich baggie. To reheat, put in the microwave for 20 seconds, or until desired temperature.


Instant Oats

Ingredients:

Base

  • Your favorite package of instant oats (i.e. Quaker Maple and Brown Sugar, etc.)

  • 1/2 cup almondmilk

Toppings

  • 1 strawberry

  • 1/4 banana

  • 2 tsp almond butter

  • 1 tsp granola

Directions:

  • Pour contents of packaged oatmeal in microwave safe bowl

  • Add milk

  • Heat in microwave for 1 min.-1 min. 20 seconds, or until desired temperature is reached

  • Top with sliced banana, sliced strawberry, almond butter, and granola

Nutritional Value

Calories 313

Total Fat 10.7g

Cholesterol 0

Sodium 339mg

Total Carbs 50.3g

Dietary Fiber 6g

Total Sugars 18.8g

Protein 7.8g


*You can also make instant oatmeal into overnight oats! Either prepare oatmeal as directed above and once cooled transition into a mason jar to store in the fridge until chilled. Or empty package contents directly into a mason jar, add milk, and stir, and place in the fridge overnight to enjoy in the morning - no heating needed!


As always, feel free to substitute ingredients (i.e. peanut butter instead of almond butter, oat milk instead of almond milk, etc.) or omit ingredients in order to adhere to dietary needs. You can also utilize the chat feature or visit the contact page for further assistance.


Sources

“Kroger® Old Fashioned Whole Grain Oats, 18 Oz.” Kroger, https://www.kroger.com/p/kroger-old-fashioned-whole-grain-oats/0001111076654?fulfillment=PICKUP.


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 3 Dec. 2021, https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/dietary-guidelines.


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