When I first started training for endurance sports, I made the mistake of eating flavored instant oatmeal for breakfast. Just add boiling water and a tasty bowl of sugary oats was ready within minutes. I’ve since learned that steel cut oats (also known as Irish oats) is much healthier.
- Steel cut oats contain no sugar, unlike flavored instant oatmeal which is loaded with sugar. Some rolled oats also contain sugar.
- Both steel cut oats and rolled oats have a lower glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) measures how carbohydrates in foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower the GI, the slower the glucose enters the bloodstream. Because steel cut oats are denser, they will take longer to digest and be absorbed. This causes a steady rise in blood sugar rather than a sudden spike. Foods with a lower GI will also make you feel full longer. (For more information on glycemic index: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/glycemic-index-good-versus-bad-carbs)
- Steel cut oats undergo less processing than rolled oats and instant oats.
The problem with steel cut oats is that it takes about 20-30 minutes to prepare. I tried soaking steal cut oats in water overnight. Although that helped to reduce the cooking time, it still wasn’t fast enough for me. So I tried preparing the oatmeal the night before, storing it in the refrigerator, then warming it up in the microwave the next morning. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy how the oatmeal congealed into a mushy glob. Finally, I tried cooking the oatmeal in a slow cooker overnight. That was a huge success!
I mixed all of the ingredients into a slow cooker before I go to bed and then voila, I wake up to warm, cooked and delicious oatmeal.
Since it’s important to refuel within 20 minutes after a workout, I will pack another serving of oatmeal to bring to work. I’ll either eat it cold or warm it up in the microwave. Yes, this means that on the mornings I workout, I have 2 breakfasts. In addition, I like to consume a protein along with a second serving oatmeal, such as a hard boiled egg or Greek yogurt with fruit and/or granola.
Serving size: 4
- 1 cup steel cut oatmeal (also called Irish oatmeal)
- 2 cups water
- 1 apple, pealed and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup Almond milk
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar*
- 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 (pinch) of ground nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)
- Unsalted roasted chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)
Note: Ideally, if you can do without the dark brown sugar, that is the healthiest option, but I personally prefer to have a small amount of it in my oatmeal. Since this recipe is a serving size for 4, one tablespoon isn’t so bad. The apples also help to naturally sweeten the oatmeal. If you prefer your oatmeal on the sweeter side, you may want to add up to another tablespoon full, however I encourage you to try to savor the natural sweetness from the apple and avoid adding more sugar.
Mix all of the ingredients and pour into crockpot.
I used a 6.5 quart slow cooker with a non-stick insert but a smaller 4 quart slow cooker is all you need. If the insert is not a non-stick surface, you will want to spray it with oil.
Cover and cook on a low temperature for 7 hours. If you prefer, serve with chopped walnuts or almonds.
I recommend you test this recipe out during the daytime, to determine if you can achieve the desired results with your slow cooker. If the oatmeal is too dry, you may need to add more liquid at the beginning. You may also want to experiment plugging your slow cooker into a timer and cooking the oatmeal for fewer hours. My slow cooker does not work with a timer, so I need to leave it on for at least 7 hours.