Is Instant Oatmeal Healthy?

A bowl of classic oatmeal packs a hearty dose of vitamins, protein and cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. So, what about the packets? We've got the facts on this convenience food.

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April 04, 2022

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Instant oatmeal is partially cooked and dried for fast preparation. Contrary to popular belief, instant oats have the same nutritional benefits of regular oats. The biggest problem with instant varieties? All those flavored options can be bursting with added sugar! Many of your favorite flavored brand will set you back at least 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Some brands may also add sodium as a preservative, but there are brands out there without it. You can also stock up on plain instant oats and simple add 2 teaspoons maple syrup, honey, brown sugar or agave for a flavorful breakfast with half the sugar of most presweetened varieties. A little fresh fruit will also up the fiber content.

Shopping for Instant Oats

The packets and cups can come in super handy when pressed for time or traveling. Add some trail mix and a piece of fresh fruit and you have yourself an easy and healthy breakfast anywhere. Check ingredient labels carefully. Choose a brand with minimal ingredients and the least amount preservatives and added sugars. Here are some brands we swear by.


Available in microwaveable cups or packets and both come in organic and gluten free varieties. Many include flax and chia seeds and come in a wide range of flavors for 5 to 8 grams of added sugar per serving.

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In addition to those beloved waffles and flapjacks, this brand offers oatmeal spiked with 14 grams of hunger-fighting protein per serving. From Cinnamon to Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, these cups also make for a tasty late night snack.

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These satisfying cups pack in oats, dried fruit, spices and seeds. Offered in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, these oats have a thick and chewy texture that cook quickly.

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Enjoy your oatmeal with a built-in dose of mood boosters like probiotics or caffeine. Sweetened with dates and other fruit so there is no added sugars, flavors like “Berry Bliss” with ginger and cardamom or “It’s Nuts” with almonds and coconut are sure to lift your spirits.

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Bottom Line

Instant options can be handy and healthy, check those ingredient lists for the best options.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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