Taste Test: Fast Food Oatmeal

Oatmeal is the latest healthy food to hit fast food joints around the nation. We tested the most popular offerings see how your favorite stacked up. Is choosing oatmeal as a quick and easy breakfast really your best bet?

Oatmeal is the latest healthy food to hit fast food joints around the nation. But how healthy (and tasty) are these fast food versions? We tested some of the most popular offerings to see how they stacked up.

The Criteria

We visited 4 popular fast food and fast-casual restaurants that offer oatmeal as a breakfast option. We rated each on a 5-point scale (5 being highest) based on flavor, texture, cost and nutritional content, including the type of oats and how they’re prepared. Each restaurant offered various add-ins and flavors, which we found could sometimes sabotage a healthy cup of oatmeal.

Rating: 4.0
Cost: $2.45 plus tax

Nutrition Info Per Serving (38 grams): 140 calories; 2.5 grams fat; 0 grams sugar; 4 grams fiber

Options: Any of the following can be mixed in: brown sugar (50 calories, 12 grams sugar), dried fruit (100 calories, 22 grams sugar), mixed nuts (100 calories, 1 gram sugar)

Our Take: We were surprised to learn that oatmeal is available throughout the day at Starbucks. To make the mix, the barista blends instant oatmeal with hot water and gives you packets of your chosen toppings. The consistency was a bit thick and mushy, but a quick swirl with a spoon helped the water and oats combine better. The first ingredient is whole-grain rolled oats, but other listed ingredients include thickeners like oat flour and guar gum. In addition, the oatmeal includes added B-vitamins, iron and vitamin A. The oatmeal comes unsweetened, so you can cut down on added sugar and calories if you use only a touch of the sugar and choose either nuts or dried fruit.

Rating: 4.0
Cost: $2.99 plus tax

Nutrition Info Per Serving (7.5 ounces): 222 calories; 3 grams fat; 3 grams sugar; 4 grams fiber

Options: Choose any two: pistachios, granola, dried cranberries, fresh strawberries, whipped cream, Cosi Break Bar Bits, raisins, brown sugar.

Our Take: Oatmeal at the local Cosi is only served until 11 a.m., but management was generous enough to whip up an afternoon batch for us. The oatmeal is made from steel-cut oats and is pre-sweetened with brown sugar. There is no need to opt for more brown sugar as the oatmeal is just sweet enough, with a smooth consistency. One word of advice is to skip the Cost Break Bar Bits, which can really rack up the calories (one whole bar has 359 calories, though we're not sure how much you get as a topping.) Instead, opt for the dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts or a touch of granola.

Rating: 3.5
Cost: $2.29 plus tax

Nutrition Info Per Serving (9.2 ounces): 190 calories; 2.5 grams fat; 14 grams sugar; 3 grams fiber

Options: All included with order: diced apples (10 calories, 2 grams sugar), cranberry raisin blend (70 calories, 15 grams sugar), light cream (20 calories, 2 grams sugar)

Our Take: We were impressed from a food safety standpoint as the server excused himself before preparing the oatmeal to wash his hands thoroughly (points earned right there.)  He combined dried instant oatmeal (made from whole-grain oats) with hot water, brown sugar and a small amount of cream. The included topping is a  blend of apples, cranberries and raisins. You can also opt for plain oatmeal, but need to say so when you order. The oatmeal had a good consistency with a good mix of flavors and textures, but it was a bit too sweet.

Rating: 3.5
Cost: $2.95 plus tax

Nutrition Info Per Serving: 340 calories; 9 grams fat; 27 grams sugar; 9 grams fiber

Options: Various options available, including Apple Cinnamon, Berry Cherry Pecan, Blueberry & Blackberry, Fresh Banana and Plain with Brown Sugar Topping.

Our Take: These steel-cut oats are mixed with soy milk and come with the topping of your choice. Upon inquiring about some of the options, we asked if the blueberries and blackberries were fresh and were told they weren’t — they’re packed in syrup (which usually means more sugar and calories.) We opted for the Berry Cherry Pecan, which promised dried cherries, berries and pecans, but was unexpectedly sweet and salty with candied (meaning higher-calorie) nuts. Taste and flavor of the oatmeal was great, it’s steel-cut, which we love; the texture was both chewy and creamy, as it should be. If you decide to pick up oatmeal at Jamba Juice, opt for the plain with brown sugar or fresh banana.

TELL US: What’s your favorite fast-food oatmeal?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

You Might Also Like:

Next Up

Taste Test: Salsa

Which brand of salsa is the best tasting and has the best nutrition? Get an RD's picks before your next fiesta.

Taste Test: Mayonnaise

We taste tested 5 different kinds of mayonnaise and analyze taste, texture, nutritional info and price.

Taste Test: Hummus

Hummus can be the perfect party food, a quick afterschool snack or a preamble to dinner with friends. With so many options at the grocery store, which brands stack up?

Food Network Test Kitchen Taste Test: Plant-Based Waters

We taste-tested a few of the new beverages in our test kitchen so you can pick your favorites.

Taste Test: Hot Sauce

We tasted 5 popular brands of hot sauce and rated them based on flavor, spiciness, cost and nutrition. Find out how your favorite sauce fared.

Taste Test: Healthier Crackers

Have you perused the cracker aisle lately? In addition to the classic wheat crackers, you’ll find the shelves packed with crackers now made from legumes, nuts, grains, or seeds. But are these options really what they’re cracked up to be?

Taste Test: Hot Chocolate

With snow piling up throughout most of the country, a steaming cup of cocoa is a perfect way to warm up. Worried about all the added sugar? We tasted popular brands and will tell you how they measured up.

Taste Test: Veggie Burgers

For a quick meatless meal, veggie burgers are a convenient choice. Since there are only a handful of popular brands out there we turned to our Facebook Fans to tell us their preferred flavors—then we tasted and ranked them. See how they stacked up.

Taste Test: Peanut Butter

If you’re like me, peanut butter is important stuff. Since I eat it in some way multiple days a week, I want to be sure I’m choosing the healthiest brand. I have my favorite (which is included on this list) but we wanted to see how a few of the most popular brands stacked up.

Taste Test: Frozen Burritos

As more burritos have hit the frozen food aisle, we were curious to see which fit the “healthy” bill. Although at Healthy Eats we love to make our own, some nights you’re just in the mood for a grab-and-heat single serving meal.

Related Pages