Mornings can be hectic.
After hitting the snooze button a few too many times, the twenty minutes before I leave for work are frantic. I’m usually throwing random food into my lunch bag, trying to untangle my hair enough to look human and scouring my closet for something to wear.
This leaves hardly enough time for breakfast at home.
In the office, we actually have a small, basic kitchen, with enough space to prepare my daily oatmeal. Yes, I’m one of “those” people who eat their breakfast at work, while sifting through their emails.
Read more: Office Life: From 9-5, 5 Days A Week
While I would love to play around with different combinations of oatmeal toppings and make a “pumpkin-cinnamon-coconut milk” on Monday, and then go for a “seared plums-flax-almond butter” combo on Wednesday, I actually don’t have much time for such creativity at work. At least without getting weird looks from my colleagues.
Instead, about once a month, I create a healthy mix of oatmeal toppings, one that makes my oatmeal as tasty and nutritious as possible (anyone who eats oatmeal plain needs to be given the gift of flavour). The items in my mix are carefully selected, bought in bulk and stored in a mason jar in my desk drawer for easy access. Already mixed together, all I have to do is scoop out a few tablespoons of my toppings onto my oats, add a spoonful of peanut butter, pour in some hot water, and I’m done.
No wondering “what am I going to have for breakfast today” and no wasting time.
This is one way I try to simplify my life during the chaotic workweek, especially in the mornings. It’s similar to the strategy used by a Mark Zuckerberg. He opts for the same dark hoodie and grey t-shirt every day. It also explains why whenever you see former president, Barack Obama, he’s wearing the same blue or grey suit. Reducing the number of decisions can help simplify your life and prevent decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is when the quality of your decisions deteriorates later in the day because your brain gets tired of making too many decisions.
Healthy Oatmeal Toppings
So if you’re looking for inspiration for your own simple and easy mix, check out my list of 3 oatmeal topping categories for ideas. Over the past year, I’ve stuck to a pretty standard combination of “super” seeds, dried cranberries, sliced almonds and peanut butter. I’ve chosen these ingredients because they are easy to store in a dry environment, have a high nutritional value and taste great together.
1. “Super” Seeds
Chia seeds. Hemp seed. Ground flax seeds.
These seeds are all plant-based, fiber-dense, protein powerhouses. They contain all your essential amino acids, minerals such calcium, zinc, copper, magnesium and store healthy polyunsaturated fats (omega 3 & 6). This means that these seeds can help control blood sugars, improve your heart, immune system, and brain function.
Historically, Aztec warriors were known to consume just one spoonful of chia in order to increase their energy and endurance for a battle. The seeds were also so highly regarded that they were often used as currency.
So choose which of these seeds you would like to include in your diet. Chia has the highest fiber content of the three (4.1 g), which will keep you full longer, and will add a beautiful bulk to your stool. Hemp seeds contain the most protein per serving (3.2 g per tbsp) and ground flax seeds, the least expensive, store the highest levels of Omega-3 fatty acid.
Personally, I buy all three in bulk and throw them all in my mason jar in equal amounts. In the morning, I end up eating approximately ½ tsp of each kind of seed, with hemp seeds containing 55 cal, ground flax seeds containing 13 cal and chia seeds containing 19 cal.
2. Dried Fruit
Dried fruit is a great way to add sweetness and flavour to your oats. Easy to store in a dry environment, it is a great alternative when you don’t have fresh fruit lying around in the office or at home.
Containing high nutrition levels, dried fruits are loaded with fiber. By weight, the dried version can actually carry 3.5 times the level of fiber, vitamins, and minerals as their fresh counterparts. As you probably know, fiber is important to incorporate into your daily diet since it keeps things in your digestive system “moving along”.
Dried fruits also contain a high amount of nutrients. For example, apricots, raisins, figs and prunes were reported by the European Food Information Council to contain beta-carotene, vitamin E, niacin, iron, potassium and calcium.
However, one thing to note about dried fruits is that they can have a high sugar content. So be careful not to add too many dried cranberries into your bowl, since the dried versions are sometimes sweetened with added sugar.
Personally, I add 1 tsp of dried cranberries to my oats, which comes in at about 8 cal and 2 g of sugar.
3. Nuts and Nut Butters
If you’re looking to add a bit of crunch to your bite, nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, and cashews are a fantastic option. Known for containing loads of the good unsaturated fat your body needs, nuts are linked to the reduction of risk factors for several chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
A favourite of mine is natural raw sliced almonds. I add ½ tbsp, which contains about 20 cal and 1 g of protein.
If you’re looking thicken up your oatmeal and hype up the flavour even more, pure nut butters (with no added sugar) such as peanut, almond and cashew will do the trick. High in protein, I have found that adding just one spoonful of peanut butter to my oatmeal (90 cal and 4 g of protein), will keep me full for at least a half hour more than without it.
Combining nuts and nut butters into your oatmeal can really end up being quite filling. Just don’t go overboard if you’re tracking your calories to reduce your intake.
Putting it All Together
Selecting a few healthy oatmeal toppings that are either in the “super” seeds, dried fruit or nut and nut butters category creates a breakfast that is both healthy and delicious. Adding up all the calories, my toppings provide me with another 200 cal to help fuel me until starvation hits at noon.
As mentioned, I go for this standard mix of oatmeal toppings because it is something that I can depend on to energize me on a daily basis without having to think too much. However, if I happen to have fresh berries, yogurt or a granola bar within reach (especially on weekends), I will happily add these to my breakfast to change things up.
In this case, the oatmeal “creation” ends up being truly “Instagram worthy”!
In the comments: What are some of your favourite healthy oatmeal toppings?