Steel Cut vs. Rolled vs. Quick Oats

steel cut vs rolled oats

Ahh, the wonderful world of oats. All things considered, I’m a relative newcomer to this magical land of complex carbohydrates.

While I took part in all things “oat-meal-y” since I was barely out of grammar school, I wasn’t privy to the purity that raw, unadulterated oats offered until the last year or so.

As I noticed the effects oats were having on my body and mind–more energy, lack of lunchtime hunger, better skin (according to my in-laws)–I got more interested in the world of oats and the differences between them.

Consider this post an oats primer. For more detailed information on the history and nutrition of oats, check out this article.

What’s an Oat?

Oats are a cereal grain, and not the cereal most of us have become accustomed to seeing in Aisle 9, but the traditionally-defined cereal grains that include rice, wheat, barley, rye, buckwheat, and the recent health food favorite quinoa.

Most grow as grasses (also not the type of “grass” most of us are accustomed to seeing in our backyard), and are harvested for their respective grains.

Historically, oats were used as animal feed in many parts of the world, but their nutritional and health effect properties have made them the subject of a lot of interest in the health food community.

Oat Types

If you walk into Whole Foods or any other store where you can buy oats in bulk, you’re likely to find three main types for sale:

  1. Steel-cut oats.
  2. Rolled oats.
  3. Quick oats.

While I’ve heard rumors that “steel-cut” is the best oat out there, I had no idea why or why not until I finally looked into how these are made. It’s really rather simple:

After the outer shell of an oat is removed, the resulting grain is known as an oat “groat.” These are chopped using a steel-armed monster into the stuff you buy at the store that’s labeled “steel-cut oat groats.” That’s minimally-processed step one.

In step 2, giant rollers take various sizes of groats (depending on the desired outcome) and roll them into flakes. And with not much fuss, we get “rolled oats,” the flat stuff you see in the bin next to groats.

Step 3 involves some further processing in which the oats are pre-cooked (using steam), which not only makes them faster to cook, but also improves their shelf life.

Further processing can turn oats into oat flour, as well as “oat-meal,” which usually contains some crushed or milled oats and various artificial flavors.

Cooking and Enjoying Oats

It makes sense that the more processed your oats, the faster the cooking time, and the poorer the nutritional value you ought to get out of them. The same thing that gives foods longer shelf lives and makes them less attractive to parasites also destroys some of the valuable, nutrient-dense components of those foods.

Once home, all oats are cooked in essentially the same way–with boiling water. Steel-cut oats take about 30 minutes, rolled oats about 10 minutes, and quick oats a speedy 2-3 minutes.

The taste of oats varies widely based on the type and size of oats you buy and ensuring that the preparation is done correctly. Steel-cut oats tend to be described as grainy, somewhat crunchy, or “lumpy.” Rolled oats have a softer, more creamy texture, though like steel-cut oats, don’t really have any flavor on their own. Oatmeal products and other flavored varieties have the most consumer-accepted flavors and textures.

Since pure oats have little flavor on their own, it’s all about what we add to them that makes them enjoyable. Our personal favorites include fresh fruit, cinnamon, Greek yogurt, brown sugar, Agave nectar, and others.

Oats are best enjoyed fresh, but also re-heat well. A small amount of hot water can be added to the mass of cold oats, and the mixture re-constituted into something that looks edible.

Effects of Oats

Oats have a high fiber and protein content, which in addition to their complex carb goodness, contributes to their effect of producing “fullness” for a long period of time. A cup of cooked steel-cut oats clocks in about 16 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.

Don’t forget that steel-cut oats are about twice as dense as their rolled equivalent, so you only need about half as much to get the same nutritional value in terms of carbs and calories, though steel-cuts oats will be a little lighter on the fat content.

(Photo credit)

Food Rules for Families

baby eating food

As a father of a two-year-old, I get this question a lot:

What do you do when your son doesn’t want to eat something?

The short answer is that it depends.

Helping Your Children to Enjoy Meals

We have a couple of running “rules” in our house that are rarely broken in order to project a consistent message:

baby eating food

  1. Everyone at the table eats the same thing. We don’t make “special meals” or “custom orders,” unless there’s an allergy or special guests need to be considered.
  2. You eat what you’re served. If you don’t particularly like rice and eat all your meat first, you can be sure that you’re not getting up from the table until all the rice is done. Or, if you insist on not finishing the meal, it will get incorporated into the next scheduled meal time.
  3. You eat everything on your plate. Same as above, except if you better serve yourself what you can realistically eat and not a pinch more. There are always seconds if you need them.
  4. TVs, phones, computers, etc. are not acceptable at the table. Inevitably, guests and “newbies” in the family violate this rule and get the stink-eye.
  5. You don’t get up until everyone is done. Unless, of course, you volunteered to do the dishes and are hard at work, or the meals drags on for an unusually long time over dessert, tea and conversation.

If you think a two-year-old can’t understand these rules, I would argue that he absolutely can, and does. Even so, we do make exceptions once in a while when we need to be flexible:

  1. While we constantly encourage our son to taste new things, some things are just too spicy, difficult to chew or swallow, or otherwise unsuitable or unsafe for his palette. While we still often start by offering this new adventure, we fully expect him to rebel. We encourage him to try things, but have a backup ready at the table so it doesn’t look like we’re “giving in.
  2. There are days when unintended snacks between meals will ruin his appetite, even if the snacks were healthy. We take this into account when he’s particularly upset about having to eat something.
  3. While TV isn’t allowed, characters like Lightning McQueen or Thomas the Tank that “watch” him eat are more than helpful since they can “pretend-eat” and “comment” on his good or bad eating habits at will.
  4. The older our son gets, the more we expect from his patience in terms of sitting at the table. During particularly drawn-out meals, we will let him get up to play after a while, but thankfully he’s among the slowest eaters at the table and is usually the last to finish.

Discipline at the table is only a small part of the growth process during this tender age when toddlers test and prod your will and patience, but it’s something that can be practiced every day.

What are some of the table rules you had growing up? If you’re a parent, what rules do you practice today?

Are Sugar and Flour Slowly Killing Me?

That’s the question I asked myself in December, as I realized that every effort I made to lose weight or become fitter failed miserably before it even got off the ground.

I came to the realization that to succeed for the long term, I would need to face my biggest dietary demon–processed sugar.

As if by magic, things began presenting themselves to me to help me on my quest:

  • I found a NY Times article from last April simply titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” It was itself a good read, but also pointed me to the next resource.
  • I watched a lecture by Robert Lustig called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. Though scientific in nature at parts, it opened my eyes to what actually happens to a molecule of sugar in our bodies. Fat does not make fat, sugar does.
  • I watched a live presentation within my local professional education group about the effects of sugar on the body and had my eyes opened to the amount of sugar in foods that are not necessarily sweet, like many cereals.
  • Finally, I stumbled on Mark’s Daily Apple and his book, the Primal Blueprint, in which he advocates living more like our ancestors, who didn’t have access to processed sugar or many of the grains we enjoy today.

Changes to My Eating Habits – Cutting Back on Sugar and White Flour

In an effort to become healthier and stronger, I’m working out on a daily basis since December. More importantly for my weight, however, is what I’ve done on the diet front in the last 3 weeks:

  • I cut out 98% of all processed sugar.
  • I also cut about 85% of all white flour products and many grains.

My eliminated sugars include:

  • White sugar, brown sugar, and anything that contains these sugars. Examples include almost anything liquid but water and tea, all candy, chocolates, cakes, etc. and most processed foods like cereals, breads, anything in a box–you get the idea.
  • High fructose corn syrups and other corn syrups, which are in almost everything that sugar is not.
  • Cane juices, cane sugars, etc.

Basically, the only sugars I get are naturally occurring in fruits, and I eat them in moderation and almost always during the first half of the day.

White flour and grain products I cut include:

  • The majority of bread–I eat the equivalent of maybe 1-2 slices of bread per week now.
  • Pasta, which I will also eat a small serving of once a week at the most.
  • Anything processed that includes wheat, flour, or its variants (which also usually includes sugar–see above), as well as most bakery items.
  • White rice, though I still eat small amounts here and there, and I also like to eat brown rice when possible.

I’m less strict with my restriction on flour-based foods and carbs in general than I am with sugar, but the cuts I’ve made are drastic nevertheless.

My Results

Three weeks have passed since I made these changes to my diet. Surprisingly, I don’t crave sugar or flour, even when it’s in front of my face. Instead, I crave things like chicken and baby greens, and that is a good problem to have.

Mentally, I feel fantastic. The typical “afternoon slump” is a memory I’ve left behind, and I feel sharp and alert. Physically, I’m losing weight and looking better. The foot pain and swelling which I struggled with for a long time is gone.

Perhaps this chart best tells the story–it’s my weight history since December 9th, when I began my fitness journey. For nearly two months, I worked out with ferocious intensity, but didn’t really pay attention to my diet. Three weeks ago, I made a diet change, and my weight has dropped off a cliff.

That is all the proof I need.

Maybe it’s time to ask yourself–is it really how many calories I eat that affects my body, or is what I eat more important?

(Photo credit)

Shopping Around for Baby Food Processor

baby bullet baby food maker

I mentioned earlier this week that our baby girl was starting on solids. Since she started earlier than we expected, we’ve been buying her baby food. However we’d like to make our own baby food for her, not only to save a bit of money, but to also introduce her to more foods than typically offered at the stores.

What that means for us is it’s time to buy a food processor for the job. Our current food processor isn’t up for the challenge. It’s a very small unit that only has one setting and it doesn’t even do that well (we have very chunky salsa).

Our Baby Food Processor List

I started looking around and talking to friends and family to get an idea of what they recommend. After whittling it down here is a list of the contenders that we’re looking at buying.

Baby Bullet

Both my sister and sister in law mentioned this as an option. They figured it could handle pretty much all of our needs and the price seemed reasonable. I checked on Amazon to see what was included:baby bullet baby food maker

  • Power base
  • Batch bowl
  • Baby blend blade and milling blade
  • Easy pop silicone batch tray
  • 6-date dial storage cups
  • Spatula and 1 short cup
  • 1 stay fresh resealable lid and tip proof tray,
  • User manual and recipe book
It’s everything, but the kitchen sink. Based on the reviews, people seem really happy with it. I did, however, notice a review that the Baby Bullet isn’t dish washer safe. Curious to see how hard it would be to clean by hand. I’m looking for something easy to use, clean, and store.

By the way you should really check out their commercial on YouTube, a couple of the lines are hilarious. While I do think it has some handy features for parents, I wouldn’t get as excited as they do about them.

Beaba Babycook Baby Food MakerBeaba Babycook Baby Food Maker

After I had our baby, our moms came to our home to help us out (each had their own time -couldn’t handle both!) as we got adjusted to the new routine. While my mother in law was in for her visit she mentioned this as an option.

The Babycook offers a steamer, blender, warmer and defroster in one compact appliance. I absolutely love how portable it is, but I wonder if it could handle more than just baby food.

The great news about this processor is all the fantastic feedback, customers look to be happy with it.

Baby Brezza One Step Baby Food Makerbaby breeza  baby food

I found this one on Amazon and it seems to be simple and extremely easy to use, which is a big plus for us. Unfortunately reader reviews have it as a big or miss. I’m also wondering if it could help with other food processing work.

Thoughts on Food Processors for Baby Food

What we’re going back and forth on is whether we want the all in one option or if we want a set of stuff. The appeal of Babycook and the Breeza is how little space would be used for them. On the other hand if something breaks, it’s pretty much done and we’d have to replace everything.

We’d like to ask for your advice. Which do you think is the best option? Can any of these do a decent job of pulling double duty and take care of our family’s overall food processing needs?

Introducing Foods to Our Baby Girl

introducing baby food

I made an extra effort while I was pregnant to eat healthier. When we had our baby girl we wanted to make sure that she’d get healthy options for feeding when it came time to try out solid foods with her.

I enjoyed Wojo’s post on making your own baby food. After talking it over with my husband we wanted to go that route with our daughter. The plan was to get a food processor that could handle it and slowly introduce new foods to her. introducing baby food

Signs That Our Little One was Ready to Try Solids

Unexpectedly our baby girl decided that she wanted to try out food sooner rather than later.  There were a couple signs we noticed as she grew:

  • She had good neck support.
  • She outgrew her tongue thrust reflex.
  • She became curious about food. It seemed to happen overnight – she went from no interest in our food to trying to reach for everything on my plate.

Once we noticed that she was consistent with these new developments we started some some easy solids. Of course check with your own pediatrician to see if your baby is ready for solids.

Starting With Rice Cereal

After speaking with her pediatrician, we discussed some options on what her first food should be. Rice cereal is commonly mentioned because babies are less likely to have an allergic reaction with it.

Our baby’s doctor recommended branching out from cereal and move to vegetables and fruits which have more nutritional content. Though she’s getting what she needs with breast feeding, expanding her palette with wholesome foods is preferred.

Showing Her the Veggies

We decided that we’d hold off on fruits for a little bit until we got her comfortable with the tastes of vegetables. I’m happy to say that so far she’s eaten every vegetable we gave to her. Her favorites seem to be carrots and sweet peas. She seems to eat green beans out of obligation, she’s not as happy as when she’s munching on the others. I think that’s funny as I love green beans.

If you have any suggestions on other vegetables to try I’d love to hear about it. The plan is to let her taste what we’re eating, just on her level (puree). Our hope is that she’ll enjoy a variety of foods.

Thoughts on Introducing Baby Foods

One of my goals this month is to get a food processor so we can start making our own baby food. If you have an recommendations, please email me or leave comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. What foods did you introduce to your baby at first? Which ones did they like? Which ones didn’t they enjoy?

Photo Credit:  lovelihood