The Oatmeal Challenge

The Oatmeal Challenge

I was out with some friends tonight at Denny’s, after which I rather felt like I should eat something desperately healthy. So, I made a vow:

I am going to eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast every day for two weeks.

As challenges go, this one isn’t that earth-shaking, but I’m curious to see if I notice any change at all. My working theory is that ANY mindful change at all will yield personal insights; that is, if they are really are done mindfully and contemplatively. It helps that the idea of eating oatmeal every morning seems so boring and trivia that I am half-expecting nothing significant to be yielded at all. In fact, it’s almost a parody of the self-help empowerment process, which amuses me deeply. However, if I garner some kind of amazing epiphany from this exercise, I imagine that I will have to amend my model of what productivity is made of. And I will look forward to future exercises like a fortnight of watermelons and 1001 Macademian Nuts.

Any oatmeal-related facts, tips, or cautionary tales will be heartily appreciated!


  1. brad 10 years ago

    I was thinking of the same thing. I’m sure you saw this lifehacker tip on making good oatmeal.

    I would image one could use the coffee pot idea all the time if one were to eat oatmeal everyday.

  2. Jeremy Wilkins 10 years ago

    Would definitely advise trying steel cut oats, or Christine and Rob’s (available online).

    Takes more time, but makes all the difference—and if you work from home often anyway….

    Both have more of a pasta (less of a gruel) consistency.
    Add-ins are also a way to make oatmeal interesting: big fan of agave, berries, peanut butter (yum!), and whole milk.

  3. David 10 years ago

    If you can find steel cut oatmeal, it holds its texture much better than rolled oats does…so it avoids the “wallpaper paste” consistency that comes from overcooking the rolled oats.
    Instant oatmeal, too, tends to be rather dreadful compared to the old-fashioned slow cooking variety.
    Since I am diabetic, I’ve had to learn to like oatmeal without sugar—which took a while. However, my cholesterol numbers have improved since starting the oatmeal for breakfast habit about a year ago.
    Good luck to you—and I appreciate your blog…

  4. J.V.Mallory 10 years ago

    Hee. My mum used to feed me oatmeal every day when I was starting school. (Not sure for how long, but for no less than a year, that’s for sure.) The only insight I have from that experience is that you can grow really, really bored with having the same thing for breakfast for any length of time. I still like oatmeal, though, so no lifelong trauma resulted.

    You can vary it by adding healthy things like apple, raisins, honey, cinnamon, seeds and nuts, and unhealthy things like sugar and marshmallows. Have fun :)

  5. Pouncy 10 years ago

    I make oatmeal every morning for my husband.  I’m usually awake before him, and it’s a fun bit of creativity to start my day, though it’s quite easy to prep it the night before.  He carries it into work in his backpack and it holds heat really quite well.

    Basic canvas: 1 cup oatmeal, 1.5-2 cups milk

    Add in ideas:
    – dried cranberries and hot chocolate mix
    – 2 big spoonfuls of apricot jam, slivered almonds, and a dollop of cajeta (Mexican goat’s milk caramel)
    – applesauce, brown sugar, and pecans
    – fresh or frozen blueberries, vanilla sugar, blackberry jam

    Mix everything together and nuke for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.  I usually add a little more milk after cooking to make it less concrete-like.  Jam/jelly is a good sweetener that brings another flavour with it.

  6. Oliver 10 years ago

    Cool! Love oatmeal.

    I started eating oatmeal for breakfast last year in a similar challenge and I kinda stuck to it. I eat it with half an apple (cut up) and some whole almonds.

  7. Richard Harrison 10 years ago

    I eat porridge every weekday for breakfast. Make sure you give yourself enough time because it takes longer to make/eat than a bowl of cold cereal and is easy to skip if you’re running late.

    My receipe is to cook rolled oats in water and then add a splash of milk at the end (less calories but still some milkyness). Add chopped banana and perhaps some sultanas, mmmm.

    I prefer it without flaxseed, but it is a simple way to include flax in your daily diet (it’s not like I eat porridge for the taste anyway). The flax seed will make the mixture stickier, so I cook it a little more watery and then use the flax at the end to thicken it a bit.

  8. Mary 10 years ago

    I’ve been eating oatmeal, daily, for several months now and have found it to be very satisfying.  After much experimenting I prefer the Old Fashioned brand, which I microwave [raisins added, so they soften]. Then I add some honey, a handful of lightly salted peanuts stir and enjoy.

    The big bonus is the oatmeal and peanut containers! Once emptied, I strip them of their labels, wipe them clean and the become fabulous storage [or wrappings] for all sorts of things.

  9. Terry 10 years ago

    Use Brown sugar instead of white.

  10. Steve Ames 10 years ago


    Great idea.

    Here’s how I do it:
    One cup of oatmeal (and the instant stuff is just as good as the long boiling stuff – it’s just sliced up more), two cups of water, and salt.

    Sometimes a little sugar, but it seems unnecessary. Then milk. If you use milk with fat, then forget the sugar. the milk is too sweet.

    Yum. I just had some,



  11. Colin 10 years ago

    If you have a rice cooker with a timer, use real oats instead of instant. 

    1 cup steel cut oats
    3 cups water
    Porridge setting.

    When it’s done, stir in some milk (or cream).

    I like to also add brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins after it’s cooked.

  12. Ned Wolpert 10 years ago

    Steal-cut rolled oats, with a little maple syrup is a great way to start the day. Trader Joes actually has good oats. And it forces to take it easy in the morning and not rush.

  13. mike 10 years ago

    Pay attention to your energy level throughout the day. Also, notice how you feel as you approach lunch.

    You should notice that you aren’t as hungry and so can make healthier lunch choices and that overall, your energy is more “level” as the day goes on.

    Benefits include better focus on work and less total calories consumed by day’s end.

  14. Pat 10 years ago

    You can cook a largeish pot of steel-cut oats and keep it in the refrigerator for a week, reheating individual servings as needed each day.  This makes it a lot easier since the cooking is already out of the way. I usually start with about 1 1/2 cups of the oats, and add water as needed while cooking. It takes about 20 minutes to cook, and makes enough for about a week of breakfasts.

    Add whatever dries fruit/spices you like – raisins, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, etc.  Heat the daily portion for a minute in the microwave, and add milk and sugar to taste.

  15. CricketB 10 years ago

    I like 3-minute oats. It’s a compromise between texture and time.

    Experiment. If you add oats to hot water then simmer they hold texture better than if you put them in with cool water. Fresh off the stove is different than simmered. A lump left in the fridge can be sliced and fried like polenta. If it falls apart stir-fry it.

    I used to do it in the microwave, but now prefer the stove. (Hot chocolate with real milk is in the microwave—as healthy as most people’s morning coffee.)

    I like mine with cream, brown sugar and a bit of salt, maybe raisins.

    There’s an over-night slow-cooker recipe somewhere online.

    Soak the pot, bowl and spoon in cold water before you leave the kitchen. Makes clean-up a breeze.

  16. sfassmann 10 years ago

    You should stay away from instant oatmeal. I remember reading about a rat study to fed them nothing but instant oatmeal and they all died.

  17. R. M. Koske 10 years ago

    It’s worth it to take the time on the first day or two and really work out what works as far as cooking the oatmeal – especially if you’re going to be microwaving it.  Figuring out exactly how long at what power levels gets you the consistency you want without boiling over takes a bit of time.  Once you know, though, it gets much quicker and easier, and you don’t have to stand over the microwave to head off a volcano. 

    I’m really detailed with mine – it’s two minutes on full power, then another 3 minutes on power level four, then it sits for about five minutes.  I can set my microwave to do a two-program run, and walk away.  When I come back, all I have to do is add my toppings.  Because I like my oatmeal very chewy, I can get steel cut oatmeal every day in less than fifteen minutes, with less than a minute of hands-on time.

    And once you know WRITE IT DOWN!  You’ll think you can remember, then you’ll switch to a cold breakfast for a few weeks and when you come back to the oatmeal, you’re got to reinvent the wheel again.  (We’ll pretend I learned that lesson the first time it happened to me, okay?)

  18. R. M. Koske 10 years ago

    Oh, and one other thought – I could not make myself like oatmeal until I learned to add a pinch of salt to it.  I eat it sweet, but rolled oats seem to need the salt to me.  Steel cut oats, oddly, do fine without.  If you have trouble making it appetizing, give that a try.  A tiny pinch is all it takes, and add it before you cook them, so it mixes better.

  19. penny 10 years ago

    Adding to the steelcut oat chorus and agreeing with a pinch of salt and adding in a good nob of butter. (or salted butter and cut the salt). YUM.

  20. lunohodov 10 years ago

    Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast. It is nutritious and provides quick energy for the brain. Use honey instead of sugar (no sugar can beat it’s pallet of nourishing substances) or dried fruits (raisins, plums etc.). Savor the taste of milk. Do not count breakfast calories – all of them will be gone before you go to sleep. If you are concerned about your weight or figure do exercise.  This way not only your body but also your brain will feel better :)

    p.s. Google for Steve Maxwell’s kettlebell workouts

  21. Rose 10 years ago

    Would this be cheating: Oatmeal cookies? Any recipe, use butter instead of shortening. Add craisins and nuts. Good for on-the-go.
    Oh yeah, butter on the bowl version goes along way.
    I think there are oatmeal pancakes too.

  22. Dave Seah 10 years ago

    wow! I’m amazed at the love that people have for oatmeal! Oatmeal, I am starting to think, is one of the very pillars of a good life, community, and productivity! All in one ancient grain! Very cool!

    I was just reading that oatmeal is a hardy plant, choking out weeds with its rapid growth, and has lots of health and weight loss applications. I just ate a big bowl of the stuff for lunch (I’d missed breakfast) and will see what happens. Will post the photos soon.

  23. Von Fueberg 10 years ago

    I prefer it without flaxseed, but it is a simple way to include flax in your daily diet (it’s not like I eat porridge for the taste anyway). The flax seed will make the mixture stickier, so I cook it a little more watery and then use the flax at the end to thicken it a bit.

  24. Julian 10 years ago

    When sweet oatmeal gets to be too boring, try savory oatmeal and treat it like rice congee. Here’s a nice article that gives a wealth of ideas from cultures all over the world to spice up any bowl of grains.

  25. Filio 8 years ago

    Hi Dave. Try steal cut oatmeal, you will be doing yourself a great service. Some oatmeal brands are over processed and convert to sugar very quickly with a possible side effect of having a ‘crash’ in sugar levels. The steal cut version is less processed and a more complex carb. I like to cook my oatmeal with 1/2 soy milk and 1/2 water (as the cooking liquid) for added benefits.