Not just Feb. 13: Any day can be oatmeal day

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By Cheryle Jones Syracuse
Family and Consumer Science Staff
NC Cooperative Extension
Brunswick County Center

Time seems to be flying by. Can it really be February already?
Let this be a “heads up.” Valentine’s Day is next Tuesday, but there’s also a lesser-known holiday to celebrate next week. Feb. 13 is Oatmeal Monday. Never heard of it? Wikapedia describes Oatmeal Monday as a traditional holiday observed by universities of Scotland.
In olden days, the students’ frugal diet consisted mainly of oatmeal. Occasionally, they were given a long weekend to go to their country homes or family farms to replenish their oatmeal supplies or fathers were allowed to bring in sacks of oatmeal to keep the student sustained for the rest of the term.
Eventually, the second Monday in February was established officially as Oatmeal Monday. It is still celebrated at some universities, but it’s doubtful students use it to “fetch” oatmeal.
You don’t have to be a college student to eat oatmeal. A steaming hot bowl of oatmeal provides a delicious and healthy, start to any day, not just Oatmeal Monday. Oatmeal is an excellent source of whole grain.
Eating oats may help protect against high blood cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Here are three ideas to boost the nutrition further:
1. Make oatmeal with calcium-rich milk instead of water. Follow the same directions given for water, just use milk instead.
2. Kick the nutrition up another notch by serving oatmeal with antioxidant-rich berries, either fresh or frozen. Quickly thaw frozen berries and cool the oatmeal at same time by tossing the berries directly into each dish of hot oatmeal.
3. Sprinkle oatmeal with cinnamon for sweetness and possible health benefits. Cinnamon is one of the sweeter spices and adds flavor without calories. With a dusting of cinnamon, a smaller amount or perhaps none at all of caloric sweeteners may be needed.
Some research indicates as little as 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon a day may help lower blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides. It also may improve insulin function, especially in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Large doses, however, could be harmful. If you’re under treatment for high blood sugar, check with your healthcare provider before self-treating yourself with cinnamon, as it could affect the level of medications you need.
Ever wonder about the difference between the different types of oatmeal?
“Instant” oatmeal may have salt added to it and flavored instant oatmeal may also be loaded with extra sugars. Check the Nutrition Facts label if reducing dietary sodium or added sugars are a concern to you. These products are usually sold in single-serving packets that cook in 60-90 seconds.
“Quick” or “quick-cooking” oatmeal will take slightly longer to cook than instant versions. It is usually made without added salt. Check the Nutrition Facts label for sodium.
“Old-fashioned” (sometimes called “rolled”) oats take longer to cook than instant and quick/quick-cooking oats and also are usually made without salt. These oats usually take 15-20 minutes to cook. Instead of salt or sugar, try adding raisins, dried fruits and nuts when cooking.
Don’t have time to make oatmeal every day? A large batch of slow-cooked oatmeal can be made over the weekend and reheated quickly in the microwave without losing any of its nutritional benefits. Cooked oatmeal will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. So any day can be an Oatmeal Day.
References: Thanks to my friend and creative colleague, Alice Henneman, RD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County for research and ideas for this column. For more from Alice, subscribe to her free Cook it Quick newsletter online at food.unl.edu/web/fnh/cook-it-quick-recipes.