What to Put on Oatmeal to Keep It Healthy

by Sara Ipatenco, Demand Media
    Fruit is a nutritious topping for oatmeal.

    Fruit is a nutritious topping for oatmeal.

    A bland bowl of oatmeal supplies fiber, protein and iron, but if it doesn't taste good, chances are you aren't going to eat it. Oatmeal is a healthy way to start your day and even makes a nutritious snack; adding toppings rich in vitamins and minerals boosts the nutrition and enhances the taste. Mix and match a combination of toppings to create new flavors, and you just might enjoy a bowl of oatmeal more often.

    Fruit

    Fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit all pair well with the mild taste of oatmeal. Fruit increases the vitamin C, fiber and potassium content of hot cereal, and it can help protect you from certain chronic health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Scatter banana, strawberry or kiwi slices on your oatmeal or add chunks of mango, peaches, pears or apples. Sprinkle your bowl of oatmeal with dried fruit such as raisins, apricots or cranberries, which each add a small amount of iron to the oatmeal. If you use frozen, canned or dried fruit, look for unsweetened versions so that you don't consume too much added sugar with your oatmeal.

    Yogurt

    Low-fat yogurt adds flavor to oatmeal and also supplies a good amount of protein and calcium. The protein in yogurt helps refuel your body and provides you with energy too. Calcium helps protect your bones and keeps your teeth strong and healthy. Any flavor of yogurt you prefer combines well with oatmeal, but look for brands that don't contain large amounts of added sugar. Some yogurt varieties can contain up to 27 grams -- almost 7 teaspoons -- of sugar per serving. Low-fat plain yogurt and Greek yogurt are usually lower in sugar than traditional blends.

    Spices

    Herbs and spices add a burst of flavor to food, but they also have health benefits that go beyond their taste. A 2008 article published in the "Journal of Nutrition and Biochemistry" notes that herbs and spices are antimicrobial and act as antioxidants, which means that they can destroy germs and free radicals that cause illness. The journal reports that herbs and spices might reduce your risk of cancer and help prevent tumor activity as well. Sprinkle your oatmeal with cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg to enhance the flavor and reap these health benefits.

    Additional Foods

    Scatter chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans over your oatmeal. Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, which helps protect your cells from damage. A tablespoon or two of peanut or almond butter add protein and fiber as well as flavor. Add pumpkin puree to your oatmeal. Sprinkle the pumpkin puree with pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon for a bowl of oatmeal that tastes similar to pumpkin pie but is also a lot more nutritious. Sprinkle oatmeal with low-fat granola or a small amount of toasted coconut as an additional way to add flavor and nutrients.

    About the Author

    Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images