Healthy and delicious ingredients to add to oats

Create hundreds of nutritious oat recipes with these tasty topping suggestions from Nutritional Therapist Jessica Andersson.

If the thought of porridge brings to mind a picture of a sloppy bowl of grains steeped in hot water, think again. Porridge oats are not only healthy and energy-rich, they’re also incredibly versatile.

High in both fibre and protein, they provide the perfect combination for steadying your blood sugar levels and ensuring you maintain energy for longer. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, vitamin B6, iron and calcium.

But eating healthy doesn’t have to mean eating drab. Oats can be prepared in many different ways, both hot and cold, and mixing and matching different toppings creates endless delicious combinations.

Here are a few ways to prepare your oats, and 50 tasty toppings to help turn your humble porridge oats in to a delicious and nutritious meal.

Preparation and cooking tips.

1. Porridge 
For colder months the classic porridge breakfast can’t be beaten, but it can be given a modern twist. 

Heat 50g of porridge oats with 150ml of milk or milk alternative in a saucepan. You can also use ground flaxseeds and half milk, half water if you’re looking to reduce calories. Add your favourite ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.

I add 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds. Serve with banana, chopped nuts and berries, you can also add a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.

2. Overnight oats
Soaking oats overnight creates a thick and filling consistency, providing a cold variation to porridge that can easily be transported for a healthy breakfast on the go. You can soak oats in a variety of liquids depending on your tastes.

Combine 40g of oats with double the quantity of liquid - milk or milk alternative (coconut, soya, almond or rice milk for example), and add your favourite ingredients before leaving to soak overnight in the fridge.

I recommend half a grated apple, a teaspoon of chia seeds, 1 tsp cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of chopped almonds.

3. Homemade muesli
Make your own muesli to create your favourite flavour combinations.

Mix together 200g oats with dry ingredients to make five breakfast servings and store in an airtight container.

I’d suggest 2 tablespoons of coconut flakes, 3 tablespoons of chopped nuts, 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds and 100g of chopped dates.

I serve mine with fresh blueberries or chopped banana and milk topped with a tablespoon of Greek yoghurt.

Ingredients to make your oats taste delicious

Adding delicious ingredients to your oats can also provide nutritious benefits. Here are  some of the tasty additions that will provide health benefits too:

Fruits and berries
Fresh fruits and berries are full of vitamins and minerals and are a great way to add natural sweetness to your oats. Keep dried fruit to a minimum since they are high in sugar. Many fruits - especially berries, cherries and pomegranate - are high in antioxidants and are particularly good for cardiovascular health. We recommend using fruits that are in season - you could use anything from bananas or cherries to goji berries or pumpkin.

Add a tablespoon of honey, maple syrup, jam, lemon curd or date syrup to add sweetness to your oats. You could also add chocolate, but go for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate to reduce sugar intake. The higher the bean content e.g. 70% cocoa, the lower the sugar. Xylitol, a natural sweetener that's available in most health stores, can also be added. It looks like sugar but doesn’t rot teeth and because it has a lower glycaemic load it doesn’t create as dramatic a sugar crash compared to normal sugar. Avoid artificial sweeteners such as aspartame as they interfere with satiety hormones in the gut, therefore keep people feeling hungry.

Combining protein with high fibre oats will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Almonds are high in magnesium and all nuts are a good source of unsaturated fats. Brazil nuts are also a very good source of selenium. Add no more than one tablespoon, since nuts are also high in calories. You can also add 20g of natural protein powders to a post-workout porridge, or for when you don’t feel like eating a big meal.

Seeds are a great source of those essential omega 3 fats which we can only get through our diet. Omega 3 has natural anti-inflammatory properties so is good for recovery and general health. Flaxseeds are also high in fibre and support digestive health. Two tablespoons per serving sprinkled over the top adds a lovely crunchy texture to your oats. You could try pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds or chia seeds.

Spices and other flavours
For real flavour add some dried spices such as cinnamon, which tastes delicious with grated and stewed apples in porridge. Fresh turmeric and ginger are both known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Bee pollen is a very nutritious food which is high in protein but is not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women. 

Last updated Tuesday 2 January 2024

First published on Tuesday 8 November 2016