While oatmeal may bring you memories of mornings before high school or all-nighters in college when those small packet of quick oats and water were enough to keep you satisfied, those days are most likely over. Today, you’re probably looking for a breakfast (or late-night snack) that will both satisfy your hunger and keep you energized through tough workouts or long work days. Revamping your traditional oatmeal into a meal that’s high in protein is an easy and nutritious way to keep you fueled.
Throw away any of those old oatmeal packets and buy a large container of rolled oats instead — this will ensure that you can build your oats from the ground up using only the best ingredients for your body. Once you’ve got your basics, you’ll want to take a look at these seven ways that you can sneak protein into your oatmeal to ensure that your breakfast has as much muscle-building power as possible.
1. Skip the water — cook your oatmeal with milk
Though you may have traditionally made your oatmeal with water, try using skim or whole milk for an added protein boost. According to Healthy Eating, one cup of whole milk provides you with 7.7 grams of protein. The recommended daily amount of protein for men is around 56 grams, and you should aim to get 10% to 35% of your total calories from protein as well. With this in mind, cooking your oatmeal with whole milk can offer you about 14% of your daily amount of protein.
Whole milk aside, skim milk and milks lower in fat actually contain even more protein than its full-fat counterpart — one cup of 2% milk contains 8 grams of protein, and 1% milk contains 8.2 grams of protein. If you’re aiming to keep your oatmeal on the vegan side, go for soy milk instead of milks that are derived from almonds, coconuts, or rice. You’ll find about 7 grams of protein in one cup of soy milk, which is comparable to the amount found in dairy milk, so don’t sweat it too much if you’re not a dairy consumer.
2. Stir in nut and seed butters
One of the easiest and tastiest ways to improve the protein content of your oatmeal is to add in peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter to any of your traditional recipes. While folding in two tablespoons of traditional peanut butter can also add a whopping 8 grams of protein to your oatmeal, there are plenty of other nut butters that add just as much protein and even more health benefits along with slightly different flavor profiles — you’ll never have to worry about another boring bowl of oatmeal again.
Greatist describes the benefits of butters such as cashew, almond, and hazelnut, but the list doesn’t just end here — for an added protein boost, consider soy butter, pecan butter, pistachio butter, and even seed butters like pumpkin or sunflower. While cashew butter and hazelnut butter does not have as much protein as other butters (about 4 grams per serving), adding in some skim milk to your oatmeal can add quite a big protein boost. Almond butter, however, holds 7 grams of protein per serving.
3. Fold in Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt can add a tangy flavor and luxurious, silky texture to your oatmeal. While regular yogurt can also add a creamy texture and a bit of protein into the mix, the U.S. News & World Report found that Greek yogurt is far superior in the protein department.
A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains between 16 and 20 grams of protein, which is comparable to the amount in 2 or 3 ounces of lean meat. This makes Greek yogurt particularly appealing to vegetarians, as they may struggle to find this high level of protein in other vegetarian options. While regular yogurt is not a protein powerhouse, it’s also worth considering, as an identical serving still offers around 9 grams of protein. Regular yogurt is also more likely to come in a larger variety of flavors over Greek yogurt, so if you’re looking for protein and a flavor boost, then your typical yogurt cups may be the option for you — just watch out for added sugars, high fructose corn syrups, and the extra calories that often come with the flavoring.
4. Top it off with almonds, walnuts, or pistachios
Much like nut butters, adding in nuts to your oatmeal not only will give you that extra protein you’re looking for, but it also add texture and flavor, making your meal feel more satisfying and complete.
According to Bodybuilding, almonds are among the highest holders of protein in the nut family, and they don’t carry a price tag that’s as hefty as other nuts, like walnuts. One serving (about 22) almonds holds nearly 6 grams of protein — chop them up and put them in your oatmeal for an easy boost that will keep you fuller for longer.
While walnuts are a bit more expensive, they’re also delicious in oatmeal, and they come with a decent amount of protein. In just 14 halves of walnuts, there’s nearly 5 grams of protein. Pistachios are excellent as well, and they are not as highly caloric as other nuts — in 49 dry-roasted pistachios there are nearly 6 grams of protein and only 161 calories.
5. Add flaxseeds or chia seeds
They may not look like much in the bag, but seeds such as chia and flax can add a powerful health boost to your oatmeal while also bringing a nutty flavor and crunchy texture to your dish. Livestrong records that just one ounce of chia seeds holds 4 grams of protein, and this is in addition to their high calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus content. When heated, chia seeds absorb liquid and can transform into a pudding-like texture, which can also transform your oatmeal from an everyday breakfast into a delicious and decadent treat.
Flaxseeds, on the other hand, are also a great and easy way to add in protein. While they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids like chia seeds, they also offer 5 grams of protein per ounce. To get the full benefits of flaxseeds, you’ll need to ground them before putting them in your oatmeal to release all of their nutritional value, so take this into consideration when deciding what kind of seed you’d rather have.
6. Stir in protein powder after cooking
If you thought that protein powder was reserved for smoothies and shakes, think again — you can make your oatmeal using plain rolled oats and milk, and then once the cooking process has finished, stir in a protein powder of your choice for added health benefits and flavoring.
If you’re not already familiar with protein powders and which one may be best for you, Healthy Eating suggests going with a powder that contains whey, casein, egg whites, or soy. These ingredients will supply you with protein that is good quality and will best assist you in muscle development and feeling fuller for longer periods of time. If you have a dairy, soy, or egg allergy or you’re vegan, there are still options for you — try adding in protein that is derived from hemp, rice, or peas.
When it comes to the actual combining of the oatmeal and powder, make sure to cook your oatmeal first and wait to add in the protein until after the oats are fully cooked — this will prevent your powder from cooking and becoming lumpy. Try going with a flavored protein like chocolate or vanilla to fool your pallet into thinking your breakfast is actually dessert.
7. Go savory
Not all oatmeal has to be sweet — though the packets of apple cinnamon oatmeal may still reside in your mind, you can make a delicious and protein-packed meal using savory ingredients with your oatmeal instead. The Food Network shows this simple and savory protein-filled oatmeal recipe using black forest ham, Gruyere cheese, and an egg on top.
A 2-ounce serving of black forest ham holds about 10 grams of protein — and that’s just one part of this delicious meal. One slice of Gruyere cheese holds about 8 grams of protein, and if you were interested in getting even more protein out of your choice of cheese, go with non-fat mozzarella. At 9 grams per 1-ounce slice, you won’t have to feel too guilty about the extra calories that mozzarella may add to your dish.
Eggs are packed with protein as well — at about 6 grams of protein per egg, they’re an easy and delicious way to add richness to your dish. And, if you’re looking to simplify this dish using fewer savory ingredients, no problem — you can make delicious oatmeal using just cheese or eggs, or you can go for any lean meat like chicken or ham for a salty bite.