The Quick Oatmeal Upgrade I Use Every Single Morning

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I’ve been eating oatmeal most mornings for more than 10 years. I love the texture, I find warm breakfast comforting, and I’m not shy about throwing on all kinds of toppings — like fruits, nuts, seeds, or chocolate — to keep things interesting. Until recently though, I’d always made my oatmeal with almond milk.

It was a habit that started in college for me. Almond milk was relatively new, and wellness-focused media outlets all seemed to be shunning dairy for reasons I’m now fairly sure were more based on speculation than actual science. But I went with the trend and jumped in, picking up my carton of almond milk on each grocery trip. I thought it tasted fine, and never really felt my oatmeal was lacking because of it. But I recently broke this decade-old habit — and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

After college, I ended up in food media, cooking and eating all kinds of decadent, dairy-filled recipes but never once questioning my almond milk oatmeal. I eventually started writing more about health, nutrition, and wellness, and discovered there was a whole world of “healthier” food swaps beyond just almond milk: zoodles instead of pasta, cauliflower instead of rice and pizza crust, and more. It was fun to experiment with all of this at first, but eventually I started to question why.

As I started making a more conscious effort to ignore wellness trends of the moment, I realized just how deep they run. One day, as I mindlessly poured almond milk into my pot of oats on the stove, I thought, “Why am I not just using regular milk?” I eat tons of dairy, I’m not allergic to it, I’m not interested in losing weight, and almond milk isn’t any cheaper than the regular kind. Buying and using almond milk was a decade-old habit that I realized it was time to get rid of.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

For the past several months, I’ve been making my oatmeal with whole or 2-percent milk, and to say it’s been a game-changer is an understatement. Oats stewed in almond milk taste fine, but oats stewed in regular milk are creamier, heartier, and, when paired with the right combination of spices and toppings, can feel downright decadent.

I’ll usually use a cup of milk for every half-cup of oats, but if I’m running low (and want to save enough milk for my coffee) I’ll combine a half-cup of milk with a half-cup of water for less delicious (but still good) results. Maybe you (unlike me!) have never fallen prey to health food marketing or food trends, and have always cooked your oats in plain ol’ milk. If not, or if you’ve never been interested in eating oatmeal at all for fear that it’s boring and flavorless, I encourage you to try this out as a starter.

If you’re health-conscious, take note: It’s a satisfying and balanced breakfast, thanks to carbs and fiber from the oats, and protein and fat from the milk. If you care more about how it tastes, know that the oatmeal is creamy, carb-y, and the perfect blank canvas for whatever toppings you’d like.

How I Make My Morning Oatmeal

Makes 1 serving

You’ll need the following:

• 1/2 cup rolled oats

• 1 cup whole or 2-percent milk

• 2 teaspoons honey or brown sugar

• Pinch of cinnamon

• Pinch of salt

Suggested toppings: Handful of berries or chopped fruit, spoonful of nuts or nut butter, sprinkle of flaxseed or shredded coconut

Instructions: Combine all ingredients in a small pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 5 to 7 minutes, until oats are plump and mixture is thick. Serve immediately, with your toppings of choice.