One of my favorite breakfast foods is steel cut oatmeal. I think many individuals who subscribe to a plant-based diet would agree that it is a great way to kickstart the day given that it calorie dense (so...filling), provides a good deal of carbohydrate energy, and a good deal of fiber too to keep you regular. Of course, all this sounds kind of bland, until you remember that oatmeal actually tastes good, too.
My favorite aspect of oatmeal is how simple it can be to make adjustments so that it tastes radically different each time. While some companies sell artificially flavored oatmeal, often in "instant packets," you can have the same success with organic and natural plant-based diet friendly ingredients.
Some simple ways to naturally sweeten oatmeal
- Organic maple syrup. One of my favorites is natural, organic maple syrup. It is possible to go overboard with how much you add, but adding a small amount goes a long way to sweeten the taste of oats. For some people switching to a plant-based diet, finding replacements for all of the sugary processed foods that they once ate can be difficult. Not that you want to replace all of it, but we should all admit it is nice to have some sugar once in a while for the taste. Maple syrup makes this possible - as nature provides us with good quality sugars on it's own. Be mindful not to purchase an artificially flavored syrup, as they are abundant at the supermarket!
- Raisins. While not nearly as sweet as maple syrup, raisins can certainly add an extra kick of sweetness to your oatmeal. They mix pretty well in the warm breakfast!
- Strawberries. Another favorite - berries in general are great for adding natural sweetness to just about anything.
- Blueberries. Great on their own or mixed with other fruits and spices. Blueberries add a great flavoring to otherwise simple oats.
- Cinnamon. Sometimes I forget about the simple spices sitting in my kitchen. Cinnamon is actually a great sweetener. Mixing cinnamon with other fruits such as raisins or apples could make for a really potent and tasty breakfast meal.
- Mangoes. This one is different, and not one I've ever tried - but quite a few people seem to really enjoy adding mangoes to their oats.
- Kiwis. An overlooked fruit - kiwis have a unique taste that would actually go quite well with steel cut oatmeal.
- Raspberries. Like strawberries and blueberries, raspberries are a great sweetener. They are generally tart as well, so if you are looking for that sour type of taste, these are perfect to add.
- Agave nectar. This is one of the sweetest ingredients on this list, so you should definitely use sparingly. Agave nectar is often used as a substitute for honey or sugar in recipes - and is sweeter than honey itself. In small doses, it can be a great additive to make oatmeal more attractive.
- Bananas. For something more muted but still sweet, look no further than bananas. A great and very healthy option - full of potassium!
- Brown sugar. Mmm...brown sugar flavored oatmeal. This is another one that it is easy to go overboard with, but pairing brown sugar with some other natural sweetening ingredients is a recipe for perfection.
- Dates. Similar to raisins, dates provide a similar simple sweetener.
- Apples. Some feel that apples were made to go with oatmeal. If you chop them up into small bite size chunks, they can make a perfect addition.
- Pumpkin spice. During the fall and winter months, it is easy to start craving the taste of pumpkin. Adding this natural spice can let you experience the festivities right at the start of your day with a nice bowl of oats.
- Cherries. Organic cherries taste great, and can really compliment a bowl of oatmeal. They are generally more tart that most fruits, so you may way to use sparingly.
- Applesauce. A small dose of applesauce can go a long way to influence the taste of your oatmeal. Pair this with a little bit of brown sugar or cinnamon, and you should have a fine breakfast.
- Blackberries. One of my personal favorites, blackberry oatmeal tastes really great. The natural sweetness is to die for!
- Vanilla extract. A small splash of vanilla extract is all you need to bring your oatmeal to life.
- Liquid stevia. Stevia is an organic sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. As far as sugar substitutes go, it is one of the most popular, and most readily available. Stevia can be used in virtually any recipe requiring sugar - oatmeal is no different.
- Honey. The last natural sweetener worth it's weight in salt (or sugar...) is honey. Naturally produced by our bee friends, it is one of the best options for organic and natural sweetness. By consuming locally harvested honey, it is said that you can also help build up your tolerance against pollen allergies.
The whole food, plant-based diet provides many great opportunities to add some sweetness to our meals without relying on artificial sugars. The Western diet has grown to use sugar in excess, which is known to have negative health impacts, especially when used in high quantities as is so commonly found in many poor food options like preservative laden frozen pizzas and most fast food options. It is great to see how easy it can be to get sweet sensations just from a few fruits or organic spices and additives.
Oatmeal itself is pretty diverse in how it can be prepared. It can be as simple as filling a bowl with some oats and adding water or a plant-based milk substitute and eating, or making overnight oats, oatmeal in the microwave, on the stovetop, or in a pressure cooker. You can go a step farther and use oats to prepare other foods like baked goods.
All of these flavor options paired with the diverse cooking prep options has made oatmeal a real staple of my diet. What is your favorite natural sweetener to add to oatmeal?