Most of us love oatmeal — particularly in cooler weather, and especially when we’re feeling in need of comfort and gentle nurturing.

Alas, the kind of oatmeal most people eat — sugar-sweetened instant oatmeal or homemade oatmeal cooked in water and topped with berries and honey or maple syrup — is not very satiating and can cause your blood sugar to spike.

Indeed, during a two-week trial of a continuous glucose monitor, I was stunned to discover that “classic” oatmeal cooked to the instructions on the Quaker Traditional Oats container, caused my blood sugar to soar to almost 200 mg/dL before gradually returning, over nearly 2 hours, to around 90 mg/dL. (Dietitian Lily Nichols RD had a very similar experience; read her article and see her blood-sugar graph here.)

Here’s why:

Macronutrient profile of “traditional” oatmeal comprising 1/2 cup traditional oats, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup blueberries and 2 tsp honey. Carbs make up 78% of this dish, protein (the most satiating of the three macronutrients) only 9%, and fat 13%. Being low in calories, protein, fat and calcium, and very high in carbohydrate, this breakfast is unlikely to leave you feeling sated for long. It may also spike your blood sugar (and insulin) since nearly 3/4 of the meal is quick-&-easy-to-digest carbohydrate.


So does that mean you should cross oatmeal off your menu? As someone who doesn’t like to issue dietary prohibitions and who often works with seriously ill folks who crave familiar comfort foods at a time of need, I don’t think you need to banish oatmeal. However, I do recommend you make it more nourishing.

One solution could be to eat an oatmeal-inspired dish of seeds and nut flours cooked in plant milk, often referred to as “noatmeal” (geddit? “no-oat-oatmeal”). This oat-free breakfast gruel is made with ingredients like hemp hearts, chia seeds, flax meal, almond, and coconut flour. This is an excellent option for anyone eating a grain-free, low-carb, or keto diet. However, the taste and texture of noatmeal can be iffy; mucilaginous seeds like flax and chia can give it a slimy texture, and several of the above-listed ingredients have a slightly bitter flavor. Moreover, many people don’t tolerate nuts or need to limit oxalates (which nuts and seeds tend to be high in) or have trouble digesting large amounts of fat in one sitting.

For them and other folks who don’t love noatmeal, I’ve devised a different approach to oatmeal: keep the oats (but less of them) and add more protein and fat. Here are just a few reasons why protein and fat can be a game-changer:

  1. Satiety: Protein and fat are more satiating than carbohydrates alone (“naked carbs,” as carbs eaten on their own are often described). Adding protein and fat to your oatmeal can help you feel full and satisfied for longer, reducing the likelihood of snacking or feeling hungry shortly after eating.
  2. Blood sugar regulation: Adding protein and fat can help slow down the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates in oats. This results in a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels, which can help individuals struggling to manage their blood sugar levels, especially those with (pre-)diabetes.
  3. Nutrient balance: Oatmeal alone may lack certain nutrients, such as essential fatty acids and specific amino acids. Adding protein and healthy fats can help balance the nutrient profile of the meal, providing a broader range of essential nutrients for overall health.
  4. Muscle repair and maintenance: Protein is crucial for muscle repair and maintenance, making it an essential component of a balanced diet. Adding protein to your oatmeal can boost your daily protein intake, which is important for those engaged in physical activities or looking to build and maintain muscle mass.
  5. Flavor and texture: The texture is very similar to regular oatmeal, but the taste is richer and creamier thanks to the addition of milk, nut/seed butter, and protein powder.

Try to choose nutritious sources of protein and fat, such as nuts/seeds and nut/seed butter, eggs or egg yolks (beat raw egg, mix with 2-3 tbsp hot oatmeal to temper, then return to the pot and cook for 1 minute, stirring, to thicken — tastes like egg custard!), Greek yogurt, and kefir, to maximize the nutritional benefits. As individual dietary needs vary, tailor your choices to your specific health goals and preferences.

High-Protein Oatmeal

Keyword: 15 Minutes Max., Breakfasts, Convalescent/Comfort Food, Dairy-Free (or can be), Gluten-Free (or can be), Vegan (or can be), Vegetarian (or can be)
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 1
Calories: 364kcal
Add protein & fat to oatmeal to prevent glucose spikes and feel full for hours
Print Recipe



  • cup old-fashioned rolled oats if you have a gluten allergy/sensitivity, make sure the package states they are gluten-free
  • 1 cup whole milk or nutritionally similar plant milk containing about 8 g protein per cup; compare protein, carb, fat, and calcium contents on the labels
  • a pinch salt
  • ½ tbsp almond butter or any other type of nut or seed butter you like & tolerate (sunflower seed butter is lower in oxalate)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract preferably alcohol-free for improved taste
  • ½ serving protein powder unflavored, unsweetened; my favorites are this hemp protein powder or this whey protein powder

Optional Toppings may include any of the following:

  • a pat of butter
  • cup berries such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup stewed fruits such as plums, apricots, peaches, pears
  • coarsely chopped nuts such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds
  • a dusting of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg


  • Place the oats and milk in a small saucepan. If you have time, let the oats soak for at least ½ hour (this speeds up the cooking time); you could even soak them in the fridge overnight.
  • When you’re ready, cook the oatmeal on low-medium heat, stirring steadily, until it thickens (3-4 minutes).
  • Stir in the nut or seed butter (whichever you're using) and cook for another minute, stirring steadily.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and protein powder. If using whey, let the oatmeal cool for 3 minutes before adding the powder as it curdles when added to hot liquids. Hemp protein powder can be added right away.
  • Depending on the type of nut butter and protein powder you’re using, the oatmeal may become quite thick; add a little more milk or water to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Spoon the oatmeal into a bowl and garnish with desired toppings.
  • You can double or triple (etc.) this recipe and store it in the fridge for up to 3-4 days in a tightly sealed container; tastes great when reheated in the microwave.


Serving: 1serving (no toppings) | Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 54mg | Sodium: 118mg | Potassium: 572mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 435IU | Calcium: 391mg | Iron: 2mg