Health: Put to the Test: Instant Oatmeal

Is your go-to breakfast as good for you as you think?

It’s getting to be that time of year when the temps finally start to drop, sweaters are pulled from the back of the closet and I notice my co-workers forming small lines at the microwave each morning to heat up their new breakfast of choice: instant oatmeal.

The little brown paper packets might all look similar and the Quaker’s face might be plastered on all of the boxes, but not all instant oatmeals are created equal. They all have the heart-healthy oats, so you’re definitely doing better than skipping breakfast all together or grabbing a donut (or even worse, a Frisbee-sized bagel), but why not get the most out of that little 90-seconds-and-it’s-done shakable packet we all seem to love?

Here are four regulars I’ve seen my office mates toting about and where they fall in my good-for-you rating. (Go ahead, call me Goldilocks.)

Quakers’s Instant Maple & Brown Sugar gets two thumbs down. It has 13 grams of sugar and only 4 grams of hunger-staving protein. Eat this at 9 a.m. and you’ll most likely be eyeing the vending machine by 11 a.m.

Quaker’s Nutrition for Women Golden Brown Sugar comes in third. It has 10 more calories than the regular instant above and still packs 12 grams of sugar. It does have an extra gram of protein, but there are still better oatmeals to be had. Finish the box and then trade up for a better model.

Quaker’s Lower Sugar Maple and Brown Sugar cuts the sweet stuff down to only 4 grams, but I would recommend tossing on a half cup of milk to up the 4 grams of protein and take the measly 120 calorie count closer to 200 to keep stomach growls at bay.

Quaker’s Weight Control Maple and Brown Sugar is juuuust right for this little porridge taster. It has — drumroll, please — only one gram of sugar! Not to mention it blows the competition away with double the fiber and 7 grams of protein — all things that will keep you fuller longer and able to wait for your co-worker to finish that never-ending conference call without eating your stapler. Not to mention that one package makes at least double the amount of the regular instant flavors, so you can savor that maple goodness a little bit longer.