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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Is there a difference in calories if I cook my oatmeal less?

If I were to cook my oatmeal in the morning (with milk), is there any difference in calories if I prefer it just slightly cooked (so I can chew them).

I know oatmeal expands, so if I just slightly cook them, I was wondering if 1/2 a cup is 150 calories (raw), but cooked, would it be 300 calories? Can I eat twice as much for 150 calories if they are more on the raw side?

A: Dr. Gourmet Says....

I do love oatmeal myself and there is always the discussion amongst cooks as to whether it's better to cook oats in milk or water. Milk will make your oatmeal richer tasting but it will also add calories. Depending on the type of milk that you use (skim or 2%) each cup of milk will add about 100 calories. If you normally have milk on your oatmeal this will add more calories. You could experiment with part milk and part water to see which combination works best for your taste.

I have also found that when it comes to oatmeal most people have many different tastes. Beyond the milk / water question there's whether to eat rolled oats (like the Quaker oats in the round box) or steel cut oats. If you like your oatmeal more on the chewy side you can certainly cook it for a shorter time but you might love steel cut oats. These are my favorite and have a chewy texture and a more nutty flavor than rolled oats.

!/2 cup of oatmeal raw is about 150 calories. Cooking it will expand the volume but only because the oatmeal absorbs the liquid it is cooked in. As a rule of thumb it will about double in volume (1/2 cup raw = 1 cup cooked). There's not any change in the amount of calories (unless you cook your oats in milk as noted above).

It's traditional to add brown sugar and raisins to oatmeal. These too will add calories. The raisins are good for you and 2 tablespoons count as a serving of fruit. The brown sugar is OK but if you are going to use it be sparing. A tablespoon will ad about 50 calories.

Lastly, oatmeal is great for you and the fiber content does help reduce your cholesterol levels. It's a great way to start the day.

Thanks for writing,

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP
Dr. Gourmet