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Is Oatmeal a Carb? Carbs In Oatmeal
When we think about the quintessential “healthy” breakfast one particular food comes to mind: oatmeal. You might be picturing a bland bowl of off-white, but if you have ever had a really good bowl of oatmeal, you may picture one topped with berries or bananas, nuts, raisins, and a little brown sugar. We all know plain old oatmeal is loaded with nutrition but is it a good choice for you when it comes to the carbs in oatmeal and the keto diet?
Today, we’re going to clear everything up around carbs in oatmeal, answer the question “is oatmeal good for you?” and talk all about keto oatmeal and low carb oatmeal alternatives.
What is Oatmeal? What is Oatmeal Made of?
Don’t be ashamed for asking this basic question – I mean, really, if you weren’t brought up eating bowls of oatmeal for breakfast, it’s a legitimate question. Oatmeal is made of oats, known as Avena sativa to botanists. Although oats are now widely consumed by humans, originally oats were primarily grown for livestock feed. Oats are a darling to nutritionists as they’re a great source of whole grains and are packed with beneficial nutrients. They contain soluble fiber called beta-glucan which helps with digestion, increases satiety, and can suppress the appetite. In the late 1990’s oats made history as the first food with an FDA allowable health claim for their role in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.
Oats also contain a smattering of essential vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of the B vitamins, Vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium. Oatmeal is made by simply adding oats to milk or water, and since they are so absorbent, they quickly soak up much of the liquid. You can eat oatmeal cold or hot, though if you want the oats to soak up a good amount of liquid and soften, heating them in the microwave or leaving them overnight to soak are the two best ways to do so.
While traditional oats are best allowed to soak up the moisture for some time, there are now plenty of instant oats and quick oats available that are designed to soak up the moisture and soften much more quickly. The quicker the cooking time, generally the more processed, so technically the healthiest option for oats may be those with the longest preparation time. Bottom line is that no matter how processed, all types of oats contribute health benefits and nutrient profile will vary slightly, but the less processed the more nutrients are retained. To summarize: Oat groats are the least-processed and are simply toasted after removal of the hard outer husk, they take the longest time to prepare. Next are steel-cut oats (also called Irish or Scotch) which have had the oat kernel sliced into smaller pieces to help them cook. Rolled or old-fashioned oats are next, followed by quick-cooking oats, then instant.
How Many Carbs Are In Oatmeal? Oatmeal Nutrition and Facts
First, we’ll cover the most common oatmeal nutrition questions, then we’ll take a look at the nutritional content of oatmeal overall.
How Many Carbs in a Cup of Oatmeal?
It’s important to know whether you’re talking about 1 cup cooked or 1 cup raw, because that differentiation can lead to you eating double (worst case scenario) or half (best case scenario) what you thought you had.
My guess is that not many people eat oats dry, but when we’re talking about 1 cup of dry oats – there are almost 60g of carbohydrates, 9g of fiber, and about 340 calories. One cup of cooked oats has around 28g of carbs, 4 g of fiber and around 160 calories. So subtract the fiber and a cup of cooked oatmeal has ~25 g of net carbs, that is a significant level for someone adhering to the keto diet.
How Many Carbs in Half a Cup of Oatmeal?
To work this out, we just need to halve the numbers above. For ½ a cup of dry oatmeal in water, there are approximately 30g of carbs and 4g of fiber. For a small ½ cup serving of cooked oats, you are looking at about 13 g of net carbs.
How Many Carbs in a Bowl of Oatmeal?
That depends, how big is the bowl? Of course, the measures we’ve talked about above aren’t going to get you very far, as half a cup of oatmeal is only a few spoonfuls, and unless you’ve lost your sense of taste or are a horse, you probably aren’t going to eat your oats dry or in water with no flavorings. So if you are counting carbs, consider that you need to take portion size into account, plus you will need to consider any additional carbs added from milk, nuts, fruit etc. used as toppings.
How Much Protein Does Oatmeal Have?
One cup of cooked oatmeal has about 6 grams of protein which is a good source. Adding a high protein milk to your protein, or even mixing it with protein powder and water, can increase this if you’re looking for a way to consume higher protein.
How Many Carbs in Steel Cut Oats?
Steel cut oats are only different in the way they are prepared, so the carbohydrate content stays almost the same. Steel cut oats are prepared by running the whole oats through a steel mill where they are chopped into small pieces, which means they have a slightly nuttier taste than whole oats, and a slightly more chewy texture.
Anything Else I Should Know About Oatmeal Nutrition?
We now know that although oats are extremely nutritious, they are also carb-dense, with as much as 60g of carbs in one cup of dry oats.Even with the high fiber count (8.5g per serving), one cup of dry oatmeal still nets over 50 grams of carbs per serving, which is far too high for most low-carb diets.
Is Oatmeal Keto-Friendly?
If you just read the last section thoroughly, and you know your keto macros, you’ll be hitting reverse and swerving away from your ideas about oatmeal as a good breakfast. Yes, oatmeal is nutritious, but it’s not exactly low carb! If you haven’t yet calculated your keto macros it’s well worth your time, and there are plenty of calculators available online, as it will make it much easier to track your food and ensure you actually stay in ketosis throughout your keto journey.
You can eat a small amount of oatmeal on keto if you really want to, but there are so many great keto-friendly oatmeal alternatives (listed below) that you would only really need to eat oatmeal in an emergency, if nothing else is available.
Can You Eat Oatmeal on a Low-Carb Diet?
It depends on which low-carb diet you’re doing and on your own personal dietary choices, but generally, the answer for strict carb restrictive diets like keto is going to be a resounding no. Oatmeal is the unsung hero for bodybuilders, who rely on oatmeal as a healthy source of carbs and protein and great for mixing their protein powder into, but for those of us on keto…not so much.
For most keto dieters, one bowl of oatmeal would knock us right out of ketosis. If you’re keto, stick around for some great keto oatmeal alternatives.
If you’re just trying to eat right and go low carb, you can work in some oatmeal without it being a huge issue, especially if you plan to eat your only real intake of carbs for your first meal and then avoid carbs almost entirely for the rest of the day, and if you’re willing to half the recommended serving size.
Even on keto, you could eat a quarter of a serving and stay in ketosis if you’re careful with every other meal. Is it worth it on keto? Probably not, once you’ve seen the great alternatives, and it is definitely worth avoiding in your first few weeks on keto as you try and get your body to settle into using fat as its main source of fuel.
Is Oatmeal Good for You?
Yes, it is good for you – at least as long as you don’t smother it in brown sugar, syrup, or other sugar-filled toppings. Oatmeal contains many of the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals our bodies need to function properly and even improve our health, if we’re doing our best to eat properly throughout the day and not just at breakfast.
Does Oatmeal Make You Gain Weight?
Not on its own, no, but too much of any one food can cause weight gain.If you eat too much oatmeal, add a calorie-dense milk, use sugary syrups or add too much sugar it certainly won’t be doing you any favors.Including oats as part of an overall healthy diet can contribute to satiety and healthy digestion which are both key factors in healthy weight management. when you don’t eat enough” calories, your body will be forced to look for other sources of energy to “make up the difference”, and you’ll start to lose weight. If you eat too many calories, you’ll gain weight as your body stores excess calories if you don’t burn it off.
The keto diet does work around this some – because when our body enters ketosis it is forced to use fat as a source for energy instead of carbohydrates, thus mimicking a state of starvation, even though we ensure we eat enough calories from other sources. But, if you manage to eat 4000 calories from fat sources every day and your body only needs 2000 to function, you’ll likely gain weight, so it’s well worth calculating your ideal keto macros (your ideal intake of carbs, protein, and fat) and trying to stick as close to those as possible.
Can Oatmeal Be Part of a Diet?
Yes, it can, depending on the type of diet you’re doing. If you’re doing the keto diet, you’ll be better off staying away from true oatmeal and looking at the alternatives, but if you’re dieting in a different way, such as eating carbs only in the morning, oatmeal is a good choice because it’s good for you and it will keep you full until lunchtime, by which time you will be avoiding heavy carb foods.
If you’re simply trying to eat a healthy diet, oatmeal is always a good choice because it is so nutritionally dense, but you should still keep an eye on your portion size and the toppings you choose.
Easy Low Carb Oatmeal Recipes
Looking for easy ways to eat oatmeal on a low carb diet? Here are some low carb recipes:
Diabetic Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie
This Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie is even good for diabetics, because it is low sugar, though you could certainly lower the carb content even further by cutting the number of oats used in half again, so each serving contains just ¼ cup of oats,.
Keto Almond Flour Porridge
This Keto Almond Flour porridge takes just 7 minutes to make and nets just 6g of carbs, so is perfect for keto, paleo, or any other low-carb diet. If you’re keto, just make sure to ditch the fruits (most of them, anyway) and use a different topping like super-dark chocolate or some flaked almonds or coconut. This recipe won’t produce a chewy oatmeal like texture, but it will be a warm and hearty breakfast.
Easy Low Carb Keto Oatmeal Recipe
This easy low carb Keto Oatmeal Recipe is very versatile, as you can make it on the stove or in the microwave and add whichever flavorings you like best – provided they’re low carb, of course. This recipe uses hemp seeds for the base, which are incredibly nutritious, as well as flax seed meal and chia seeds.
Low Carb Keto Oatmeal
For another easy homemade keto oatmeal alternative, this recipe has slightly more accessible ingredients than the last. If you’re already on a low carb or keto diet, you’ll likely have most of these ingredients to hand; almond flour, coconut flakes, flax meal, chia seeds, monk fruit (for taste, so you could use a sweetener instead), and cinnamon. The result is a hearty, creamy oatmeal like breakfast that anyone in the family can eat.
Keto Mocha Chia Breakfast Bowl
If you definitely don’t want mushy oatmeal, a keto chia breakfast bowl makes a great alternative when you don’t have branded oatmeal alternatives to hand. Chia pudding is easy to make and keto-friendly, yet isn’t often mentioned as a keto-friendly breakfast. This recipe for a chia breakfast bowl is creamy, nutritious, contains just 2.4g of sugar and nets just 5.2g of carbs. Not as good as some of our branded oatmeal alternatives, but not bad at all for a high fat, low carb breakfast!
Popular Low Carb Oatmeal Brands
If you love oatmeal and can’t picture a world in which you aren’t eating it daily (or at least weekly), there are some great low carb oatmeal brands out there with fairly low carbs. If you’re committed to an ultra-low-carb diet, like keto, you’ll be better off with an oatmeal alternative (see the next section), but the oatmeal brands listed below get as close as possible.
Pure Traditions Unsweetened Hot Cereal
Pure Traditions is a paleo-focused, low carb brand, but their unsweetened instant hot cereal can also be used for keto – just make sure it’s the unsweetened version. This cereal nets just 2g of carbs, but since it’s completely flavorless and unsweetened, you’ll have to work some of your own magic to get it to taste good. A little added nut butter, cinnamon, or even dark chocolate would help it along the way.
LowKarb Keto Hot Cereal
LowKarb’s keto cereal won’t appeal to those who like to chew their food – it’s got more of a cream-of-wheat consistency, but at 2g net carbs it may be worth it. They share many of the same ingredients as HighKey’s own cereal, but with more “unnatural” additives, depending on the flavor you choose. They make three flavors: cinnamon bun, chocolate, and peanut butter.
BariWise Low Carb Protein Oatmeal
BariWise offers “weight management nutrition”, which is a pretty unsexy way to say it’s low carb, but that’s exactly what it is. They offer their oatmeal in four different flavors; Apples & Cinnamon, Maple & Brown Sugar, Peaches & Cream, and Regular, which is unflavored. Each serving only contains 110 calories and 6-8g net carbs, so while not as good as some alternatives, it is still low carb.
Keto and Co Hot Breakfast
Keto and Co’s hot breakfast is based on coconut, so it has a much sweeter flavor and chewier texture and is said to be fairly comparable to oatmeal. Each serving nets 3.5g of carbs and 13g of fiber, though reviews are extremely hit and miss, so they’re worth looking at to see if someone else’s negatives are your positives or whether this is an oatmeal alternative you should skip.
ProtiDIET Instant Oatmeal Mix
ProtiDIET Instant Oatmeal Mix is the protein powder of the oatmeal world – it’s for people who want to consume their protein and oatmeal ASAP and they care a lot less about whether or not they enjoy it. Each serving contains 90 calories, 15g of protein, 6g of carbs, and 1g of fiber, so it nets 5g. According to the reviews, if you like your oatmeal like cupcake batter you’ll love it, if you want to chew it, you won’t.
If you want to stick to a low carb diet like keto, you’re best off ditching the oatmeal and choosing an alternative that gives you the same, warm, homey feeling oatmeal does. (And might even taste better!) Here are some of the best oatmeal alternatives:
HighKey Cinnamon Spice Hot Cereal – What’s Included in the Ingredients?
If you don’t mind us taking a moment to boast, our HighKey instant hot cereals have become famous for their taste and their texture. All our instant hot cereals replicate a similar consistency to oatmeal but contain absolutely no oats. Our Cinnamon Spice flavor contains:
- Hemp seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Monk fruit extract (as a natural sweetener)
- Stevia extract
- Milk protein isolate
- Plant protein
- Sea salt
Not an oat in sight! Our keto friendly ingredients allow us to achieve a net carb of just 1g for a serving of this cereal. In that same serving, you’ll also get 4g of fiber (14% of your daily recommended amount) and 9g of protein. That is the same amount of fiber, 3 grams more protein, and 23 g less net carbs than a cup of cooked oatmeal!
HighKey Cocoa Almond Hot Cereal – What’s Included in the Ingredients?
Our Cocoa Almond flavor is one of our customers’ favorites (and ours, too!), and despite having a rich, nutty, chocolatey flavor, retains almost exactly the same nutritional benefits as our cinnamon spice flavor. Cocoa Almond contains:
- Sunflower Seeds
- Chia Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Monk fruit extract (as a natural sweetener)
- Stevia extract
- Cocoa powder
- Milk protein isolate
- Plant protein
- Sea salt
One serving contains just 1g net carbs, thanks to 4g of fiber and our keto friendly sweetener that won’t increase your blood sugar level. It also contains 8g of protein, which is a major plus of our cereals if you’re trying to keep your protein intake high.
Samoa Cookie Hot Cereal Recipe
Our Keto-Friendly Samoa Cookie Hot Cereal recipe will hit the spot for those craving a hot, sweet, and comforting breakfast. This recipe contains just 4.5g net carbs and will take you from cravings to steaming bowl in just 15 minutes flat: each bowl contains 325 calories, 26.8g of fat, 17.7g carbs – with a whopping 13.2g of fiber for 4.5g net carbs, and 10.4g of protein.
What Can I Eat for Breakfast on a Ketogenic Diet?
So what can you eat for breakfast on keto if you can’t eat oatmeal and don’t want to try an alternative?
If you have a little time to spare to cook in the morning or are willing to prepare egg breakfast muffins on a Sunday evening, eggs are an obvious choice of breakfast foods for those on keto.
Eggs are super high in protein and low in carbs, and they can be prepared in so many ways that you’ll probably never get bored with them. Try them poached, fried, hard-boiled, scrambled, made into an omelet or frittata with spinach – whatever you like best.
Homemade egg muffins, mini quiches, and are great for those of us who end up eating breakfast as we dash out the door or as we sit in traffic on our way to work.
(HighKey) Pancakes and Waffles
We have plain and chocolate-flavored pancake and waffle mixes that are so keto-friendly you could eat them for breakfast every morning. You’ll probably still feel like you’re eating something that’s bad for you, but that’s half the fun!
Try wrapping salmon in lettuce leaves or adding a side of eggs to get a good dose of protein with little-to-no carbs included.
These are great for a snack or for lunch, too, so if you aren’t too attached to a traditional breakfast try prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. If you’re late you can walk out the door eating them, too – just ignore the strange looks from your neighbors.
There are a ton of keto-friendly smoothie recipes out there just waiting to be tried, so do a little Googling, find one you like the sound of, and give it a try. The low-carb oatmeal smoothie recipe we included above is a great place to start. Of course, keto-friendly smoothies can be taken on-the-go so are great for busy people and as snacks for that mid-afternoon slump. Check out the basics to building a keto friendly breakfast smoothie in our Keto Friendly Breakfast article!
Granola and Muesli
If you like oatmeal, keto granola and muesli are great alternatives you can buy or make yourself. Our HighKey granola is super yummy and has only 2 grams of net carbs per serving, it can be eaten as a snack or as a breakfast cereal. You can also make your own cereal with healthy flax seeds, chia seeds, coconut, almond flakes – any keto friendly ingredient you like!
Breakfast Sausage Sandwich
If you’re eating at home, cook two small patties on the grill and fry an egg in a pan beside it. Chop up a little avocado and place one patty, then the egg, then the avocado, and then the second patty on top to make a breakfast sandwich – no bread needed. Grab a recipe for this idea from Delish, here.
Cabbage Hash Browns
Just because potatoes are off the table doesn’t mean you can’t do your own decadent version of a full English breakfast – you can make hash browns with cabbage, cook some sausages, fry a couple of eggs, even a grill tomato halved and there you go – a keto full English! See the recipe for cabbage hash browns here.
Keto Breakfast Cups
Use mincemeat in a cupcake baking tray and bake the meat until cooked through. Then, break an egg on top and allow it to cook until it's your desired consistency. These are super easy to make, easy to season however you please and are even easy to take with you on the go for lunch or dinner.
Eating breakfast – even hot cereal– is possible on a keto diet, especially if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone and try some new alternatives. While oatmeal is, indeed packed with good nutrition it’s generally not friendly to those who are on the keto diet.
If you love oatmeal, you’re bound to love some of the great alternative brands and recipes we’ve shared that won’t ruin your diet or kick you out of ketosis, if you do it right. Going on a low carb diet opens up your eyes to a new world of what is possible with food, and you learn that you don’t have to stay constrained to traditional carbohydrate staples to get a filling and nutrition packed meal.
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