Instant Oatmeal vs. Whole Oats


A lot of people eat instant oatmeal – it’s quick, cheap, pre-flavored (usually), and fills the shelves in the breakfast aisle of your local mega-mart. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of nutrition in those thin flakes. Here’s a great story from the famous ultra-light backpacker, Ray Jardine, in his classic backpacking book Beyond Backpacking:

I remember my first week-long climbing trip into an area of sandstone towers in the deserts of Utah. This was in the days of heavy steel pitons, and my pack was loaded with about 70 pounds of these and other types of hardware.  My partner and I could not lighten our gear, so we decided to lighten our food. For one continuous week ate packaged instant oatmeal. During the first few days all went well, but soon the rigors of climbing sapped what little energy the oatmeal could impart. Nearing the trip’s end, we were reduced to lying listlessly in our tents. We failed to climb our chosen tower for want of strength; in fact we probably could have done better by fasting. And that was my last experience with lightweight instant oatmeal.

I couldn’t agree more. Why not eat a complete whole grain vs. some denuded pre-cooked and artificially flavored substitute?

3 thoughts on “Instant Oatmeal vs. Whole Oats”

  1. Specious nutritional advice! Instant oats are simply whole oats which have been flattened, steamed, and toasted. 100g of plain instant oatmeal has 375kcal and 10g fiber and 29mg Iron. 100g of whole oats has 389kcal and 10.6g of fiber and 4.72mg of Iron. Look up nutrients at
    Processed foods are usually far less nutritious, but this is not the case with oats! Instant oats are still a “whole food”. Nothing has been removed. Just don’t buy the ones with added sugar.

  2. Thanks for posting that data and you are 100% correct. There are two points I’m trying to make about instant oatmeal:

    – It is more processed. It is basically pre-cooked and chopped into smaller pieces. This will certainly have an impact on the nutrition of the end product vs. eating whole oat groats or steel cut oats. A higher glycemic index reading is also one of the results of pre-cooking and chopping the oatmeal into smaller pieces.

    – Most people consume “instant” oatmeal from the packets, which obviously includes a lot of added sugar, salt, and all kinds of other “stuff.”

    Instant oatmeal isn’t a bad product – especially the plain version. I just know in my house, the plain oatmeal is what gets left at the bottom of the box. On the other hand, I feel a lot better about serving my family whole or steel cut oats with him own ingredients added.

    Thanks again for posting!

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