Relax -- you don't need to give up that tasty morning bowl of piping-hot oatmeal. This breakfast treat does not make you fat -- in fact, no specific food will cause you to gain weight. Weight control comes down to calories in versus calories out, no matter what you eat. Oatmeal is a nutritious dish that can be part of a balanced diet as long as you watch portion sizes.
Oatmeal and Weight
The average woman under age 51 uses between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day with moderate activity. A cup of cooked oatmeal contains just under 170 calories, meeting less than 10 percent of your daily calorie requirement. It takes an extra 3,500 calories to gain a pound of body fat, so you'd have to eat more than 20 cups of oatmeal beyond your daily calorie needs to put on a single pound. Once you start adding sugar, however, oatmeal loses its low-cal status. Avoid sweetened oatmeal -- which includes most flavored varieties -- and instead spruce up plain oatmeal with nonfat milk, cinnamon and a handful of fresh berries.
Fiber in Oatmeal
As a fiber-packed whole grain, oatmeal may help you manage your weight by staving off hunger pangs. Each cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber, helping you meet your daily intake of 25 grams. Fiber slows food as it travels through your digestive system, causing you to feel fuller longer. Fiber also adds bulk to your stool, helping fight constipation. Plus, high-fiber diets are linked to lower cholesterol levels and healthier blood-sugar levels.
Oatmeal provides carbs, which you may associate with weight gain. But don't condemn carbohydrates -- your body needs them to fuel muscles and organs, including your brain. Oatmeal contains "good" carbs, which take longer to digest than carbs from sugar-sweetened foods and milled grains such as white flour. Unlike carbs from refined foods, carbohydrates in oatmeal are low on the glycemic index and do not cause a spike in blood sugar, according to Harvard School of Public Health. A cup of cooked oatmeal contains 28 grams of carbohydrates; you need about 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day.
Keep your weight in check by eating oatmeal and other whole grains such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice, along with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Forgo adding rich or sugary toppings to oatmeal or other foods -- a tablespoon of butter adds more than 100 calories to your bowl, while 1/3 cup of sweetened, dried cranberries adds about 125 calories. Include some lean protein in each meal to help you feel satisfied; fish, beans and tofu are all good choices. These foods are nutrient-dense rather than energy-dense, meaning they contain plenty of nutrients with relatively few calories. Engaging in near-daily exercise will also help you stay slim.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 08121, Cereals, Oats, Regular and Quick, Unenriched, Cooked With Water
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
- MayoClinic.com: Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet
- FamilyDoctor.org: Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs
- Harvard School of Public Health: Carbohydrates: Good Carbs Guide the Way
- MayoClinic.com: Healthy diet: End the Guesswork With These Nutrition Guidelines
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 01001, Butter, Salted
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for 09079, Cranberries, Dried, Sweetened
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.