I’ve always loved oatmeal, but in my 40s I started to wonder if it was really good for me. I’d heard tales of oatmeal leading to blood sugar spikes and crashes from carb-shunning influencers and diet experts. Since blood sugar can be harder to manage in perimenopause and menopause, I wondered if I might be better off giving up my formerly-favorite breakfast food.
But after doing a ton of research (and talking to my doctor and health coach) I’ve come to believe that oatmeal can be a healthy, nourishing way to start your day. And when I realized that using a rice cooker would allow me to make delicious, creamy, and super-nutritious oatmeal overnight with the press of a button, I was convinced to give this childhood favorite a starring role in my adult diet. Rice-cooker oatmeal is now a regular part of my morning routine.
Is oatmeal bad for your blood sugar?
There’s so much conflicting and confusing information out there that I don’t blame anyone, particularly midlife women, for avoiding oatmeal! But there many variables help determine whether your morning bowl is good for you or not.
It’s true that “instant” oatmeal in pouches digests super fast and is usually loaded with sugar, so yes, your favorite childhood treat of Maple & Brown Sugar is probably going to give you a sugar rush followed by a dip. But steel-cut oats take longer to digest, smoothing out that curve. Soaking the oats overnight (easy to do with the rice cooker!) makes nutrients easier for your body to assimilate and helps give your oatmeal more staying power. And beefing up your bowl with hemp hearts, chia seeds, and collagen or protein powder will add a nutritious boost and keep you feeling satisfied well into the afternoon. Finally, there are ways to subtly sweeten your oatmeal without loading it up with sugar.
Jump ahead to see my recipe, or keep reading to find out more about why I use a rice cooker to make my morning oatmeal, plus a breakdown of the ingredients I put in my bowl to give it more nutritional oomph and keep my blood sugar stable so I feel satisfied and energized longer.
Why I use a rice cooker to make my morning oatmeal
I make my oatmeal in my Toshiba rice cooker. I invested in this rice cooker around Christmas of 2021 and have used it almost every day since.
There are a lot of ways to make steel-cut oatmeal, from stovetop to slow-cooker to microwave. So why did I settle on this rather unconventional method? Two reasons: convenience and health.
- Convenience: My mornings are busy and I’m a slow starter, so I knew I wanted to set up everything I’d need for my breakfast the night before and then enjoy it whenever I was ready to in the morning. The timer feature on my rice cooker means I can get everything ready the night before and wake up to perfectly-cooked, piping-hot oatmeal! Theoretically a slow cooker could serve the same purpose, but I wanted to leave my cooker out on the countertop all the time. The rice cooker made more sense for me since I can also use it to perfectly make quinoa, rice, and other grains, and it’s a lot more compact than a slow cooker.
- Health benefits: There are some well-documented health benefits of soaking oats overnight – soaking can help increase the absorption of nutrients from the oats, and during an overnight soak the oats release enzymes that can break down phytic acid to increase availability, while reducing lectins, which can make the oats easier to digest.
Making oatmeal in the rice cooker allows me to take advantage of the health benefits of soaking the oats overnight, while easily waking up to a piping-hot, perfectly creamy bowl of oatmeal first thing in the morning.
Ingredients in my protein-rich & nutritious rice-cooker oatmeal
While the nutritional profile of different kind of oatmeals may look the same, there’s quite a bit of difference in the way the body responds to them. Of all the varieties of oats you’ll find on your supermarket shelves, steel-cut are the least processed and therefore, are more slowly digested. That means you’ll experience a slow and steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, particularly compared to instant oats at the other end of the spectrum, which are highly processed and partially cooked by the time they’re put in that packet.
Adding hemp hearts to oatmeal gives it a nutritious boost of protein to help stabilize blood sugar even more and keep you feeling full longer. They’re also a good source of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and healthy fats. I really like the nutty flavor and chewy texture of hemp hearts and find that they blend nicely into a bowl of steel-cut oats. 2 tablespoons of hemp hearts will add around 6 grams of protein to your bowl.
Like hemp hearts, chia seeds boost your oatmeal’s nutritional profile with protein, essential nutrients like magnesium, and healthy fats, and they’re a great source fiber as well. Chia seeds have a gelatinous, squishy texture which also accompanies oatmeal well. Adding 1 tablespoon to your bowl delivers 4.7 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.
This stuff is pretty magical, friends. Allulose has a lower calorie content than table sugar, and its effect on blood sugar is negligible due to the way it’s metabolized in the body. But it’s not a chemical or artificial sweetener – it’s what’s known as a ‘rare sugar” and it’s found naturally in fruits like figs and raisins. I like allulose because it’s not overly sweet and it tastes a lot like regular white sugar, and it’s my go-to choice for both oatmeal and tea. That said, I’m not a purist about sugar. If I’m out of allulose I happily reach for the sugar bowl – I just don’t go overboard.
There seems to be a lot of disagreement in the nutrition world about whether or not collagen powder actually delivers on the promise of improved skin health, joint health, bone health, and gut health. I’m not a nutritionist or dietician and am always wary of promoting claims that are unproven or overblown. That said, collagen powder is a great source of protein, and I personally find some of the other alleged benefits promising (and plausible) enough that it’s a worthy addition to my oatmeal bowl.
How to make nutritious, protein-rich rice cooker oatmeal
Place the following ingredients in the cooker pot (curious about the ingredients below? Jump up to learn more.)
- 1/3 cup Steel-Cut Oats. This makes a generous portion for one person – I don’t always finish it all at breakfast but will come back to it as an afternoon snack. You could also make more once a week and then re-heat the leftovers. I sometimes feed my leftovers to the chickens (they love it too!)
- 1 1/2 cups of water. The general ratio of steel-cut oats to water is 1 part oats to 4 parts water. But because I add a lot of other ingredients, I bump the water up just a bit. This part requires a bit of experimentation depending on how thick or thin you like your oatmeal. But don’t overthink it too much – it’s pretty hard to ruin oatmeal!
- 1 tbs Chia Seeds
- 2-3 tbs Hemp Hearts (make sure to adjust your water a little if you are adding a lot of hemp hearts or chia seeds. Feel free to experiment to get this to the texture/flavor you like!)
- 2 tsp Allulose
- 1 scoop Collagen powder
- Dash of cinnamon – optional. Sometimes I play around and add other spices: allspice, nutmeg, and ginger can be really good in small amounts!
- A sprinkle of salt really brings out the flavor of the spices and adds a ton to the flavor. Don’t skip it!
- A drizzle of of maple syrup or a splash of vanilla extract are optional but yummy additions.
Stir it all together – the collagen powder has a tendency to clump up while it’s cooking so I use a whisk to break up big clumps.
Then close the lid on the rice cooker, set the timer for whenever you want the oatmeal to be ready, and choose the “steel cut oats” setting. Hit “start” and in the morning you’ll have a delicious and very filling bowl of oatmeal.
If your morning is busier than expected, it’s totally fine to leave the oatmeal in the cooker on the “warm” cycle and eat it later. I’ve left mine warming for many hours, and the oatmeal is still perfect when I get to it.
I dish mine up with a drizzle of milk or cream and often add diced fruit or raisins as well. Enjoy!