I Switched Out Cereal for Oatmeal for Breakfast—Here's What I Learned

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homemade oatmeal with berries on white wooden board
Photo credit: Yulia Davidovich/shutterstock

Ditching Cereal

I love cereal for breakfast -- to me it tastes like milk and cookies. Unfortunately, when I realized that it also has roughly the nutritional value of milk and cookies, I figured it was time for a change. Oatmeal seemed like a reasonably similar breakfast option, and although it requires a little more effort to prepare, it's a cheaper and more nutritious substitute. And that's not all I learned since making the switch.

Steel-Cut Oats Are My Favorite Option

I found that eating oatmeal for breakfast at least five times a week made a huge impact on my overall diet and energy levels. To maximize versatility and find which variety I liked best, I stocked up on slow cooking steel-cut oats; quick cooking rolled oats; and instant oatmeals. The slow cooking steel-cut oats were my favorite, offering the best flavor and texture, and also the highest nutritional value. To save time, I would make a big batch at once to last a few days and just reheat one portion at a time. From eating less in general -- thanks to how hearty and satisfying oatmeal can be -- to getting more creative in the kitchen, the changes were all positive.

My Appetite Has Shrunk Immensely

I'm a big eater in general, mostly because I love food and I'll take pretty much any opportunity I can to eat. This makes me prone to overeating, especially in the form of snacking between meals. After a big bowl of oatmeal loaded with fruit and nuts, I felt satisfied for longer, which meant I didn't snack between breakfast and lunch. This cut out a significant amount of food and calories per day, thanks to the high fiber content in oatmeal that keeps you full for a long time.

I Have More Energy in the Morning

Sometimes after eating a big bowl of cereal I would have the urge to get back into bed, or laze around on the couch before getting to work. With oatmeal I felt full, but still light, and energized rather than lethargic. When eaten before exercise my body felt strong, even during intense workouts, rather than strained or dizzy. I got used to having a burst of energy in the morning that lasted through to midday.

I Have a More Regular Bathroom Routine

Anyone with a sensitive gut knows how disruptive and uncomfortable an irregular bowel movement schedule can be. After a week of oatmeal for breakfast I was as regular as a clock, and I felt like my entire digestive system was working more efficiently at eliminating waste. I felt lighter and more energetic as a result. This is again thanks to the high fiber content in oats.

My Grocery Bill Is Smaller

Cereal can be expensive, especially premium granolas and other cereals that contain high quality and organic ingredients. At $5 to $8 per box, I was spending up to $16 per week on cereal. With oats, I spent $10 on a container of oats that lasted me all month. Even considering mix-ins such as fruit and nuts, my grocery bills were about $10 less per month.

I'm Able to Get Creative in the Kitchen

At first I was worried that oatmeal would get boring day after day, but I started looking into different ways to prepare it. The basic recipe of oats simmered in water is surprisingly versatile, since you can change up what you mix into the oatmeal. Using seasonal fruit is a cheap, nutritious and tasty way to keep it fresh. Spices are another inexpensive way to change the flavor profile, using things such as cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, cardamom, and allspice. While it's not my preference, some people prefer to make their oatmeals savory -- for example, seasoning it with salt and scallions, or even a cooked egg and avocado. In addition to just flavoring oatmeal porridge differently, you can make baked oatmeal, or even oatmeal cakes.

Once you get started, there is so much room to play around with oatmeal with different recipes -- most of which can be done in advance to make mornings quick and easy. Letting my creative juices flow in the kitchen was one of the most unexpected but rewarding aspects of making oatmeal part of my routine.

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