Oatmeal is a classic breakfast staple, packing healthy carbs and fiber into a cozy morning meal. But your breakfast should also include adequate protein, which helps with satiety and muscle repair and recovery. While adding protein powder to your oatmeal in an easy way to boost that nutrient, not everyone is a fan of the taste and texture.
Not to worry – as a dietitian, I’m sharing exactly how to add protein to oatmeal without protein powder with 5 delicious ideas.
1. Cook it with Milk
Protein Boost: + 8 grams
This is one of the easiest ways to boost the protein content of your oatmeal. Typically, if you’re cooking rolled oats or instant oats, you’re combining a ½ cup of oats with 1 cup of water. Swap out that water for dairy milk, and you’ve added 8 grams of protein to your bowl already – along with some calcium and Vitamin D.
If you’re not a fan of dairy milk, look for a higher-protein milk alternative. Your best options are soy milk or pea protein milk (like Ripple), both of which typically pack in the same protein content as dairy milk of 8 grams per cup.
As a bonus, using any type of milk to cook your oatmeal adds a creaminess and elevates the overall taste.
2. Add Nuts, Seeds, or Nut Butters
Protein Boost: + 4 to 8 grams, depending on the nut or seed
You can add nut butters for a rich, creamy texture, or you can add chopped nuts or seeds for a bit of crunch. I mean really – is there anything better than a big swirl of peanut butter in your morning oatmeal?! This is personally one of my favorite ways to increase the protein content (and healthy fats), making for a satisfying meal. (You can see this in action in my PB&J oatmeal recipe, pictured above).
Whether you go with nut butter or nuts, you’ll be able to increase your oatmeal’s protein content by 4 to 8 grams, depending on your choice.
Here is the protein content per 1 ounce serving of nuts (the cup portion varies; it is generally between 2 tablespoons and ¼ cup depending on the nut/seed):
- Roasted pumpkin seeds: 8 grams
- Peanuts: 7 grams
- Almonds: 6 grams
- Pistachios: 6 grams
- Cashews: 5 grams
- Chia seeds: 4.5 grams
- Walnuts: 4 grams
- Hazelnuts: 4 grams
Here is the protein content per 2 tablespoons of nut butter:
- Peanut Butter: 8 grams
- Almond Butter: 7 grams
- Sunflower Seed Butter: 7 grams
- Cashew Butter: 4 grams
3. Swirl in Greek Yogurt
Protein Boost: 4 to 5 grams of protein per ¼ cup, depending on the brand and flavor
Greek yogurt and Skyr are strained differently than regular yogurt, which results in thicker texture and a higher protein content. It’s a great option for swirling into oatmeal right at the end of cooking, adding creaminess and extra nutrition.
You can use plain Greek yogurt if you plan to add other ingredients to your oatmeal, or you can use a flavored Greek yogurt if you are using the yogurt itself to sweeten and flavor your oatmeal. I’m a fan of using Two Good’s vanilla yogurt (or the ALDI equivalent) in my oatmeal. It’s sweetened with Stevia, so there’s only 2 grams of sugar per serving).
If you’ve never mixed Greek yogurt into your oatmeal before, start with using ¼ cup and see if you like it. Greek yogurt does have a bit of a tanginess, so test out a little first. If you like it, you can add a bit more.
You can also use Greek yogurt in overnight oats to boost the protein content. My foolproof base recipe for overnight oats is:
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ cup 1% milk
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
Mix those together. Add anything else you’d like for add-ins, like maple syrup, chopped fruit, shredded zucchini or carrots, nut butters, etc. (Experiment with different flavors!). Then refrigerate overnight and enjoy cold the next morning.
Here are some more overnight oats recipes that incorporate Greek yogurt:
4. Add Egg Whites While Cooking
Protein Boost: + 4 grams per egg white
When you’ve cooked your oats on the stovetop and they’ve absorbed almost all the liquid in the pot, whisk in one or two egg whites. Stir continuously while cooking for about 2 minutes, while the egg whites cook through.
Stirring throughout will ensure they don’t clump together like scrambled eggs, but rather make the oatmeal thick and fluffy.
After you make this base, you can add any of your other favorite oatmeal toppings.
If you prefer, you could also make a savory oatmeal instead, where you add fried or poached eggs to top the oats, along with other oatmeal add-ins like spinach, avocado, and sriracha. I’m personally not a huge fan of savory oatmeal, but I know other folks that love it. Here’s a great savory oatmeal recipe to try if you want to go that route.
5. Mix in Cottage Cheese
Protein Boost: + 6 grams per ¼ cup
If there’s one food that seemed to take the spotlight the last year, it’s cottage cheese! And this is for good reason – this dairy product can be used in a number of ways, from cottage cheese cookie dough to cottage cheese bagels to simply adding cottage cheese to your oats.
Try mixing in ¼ cup of cottage cheese right after you’ve cooked your oats, and mix in any other flavorings and add-ins that you prefer too. If you like it, feel free to add a little more.
If you’re not a fan of the texture of cottage cheese, you can blend it in a blender cup until smooth before mixing it into your oats.
The Bottom Line
If you’re not a fan of protein powders, there are still lots of ways to enhance the protein content of your oatmeal. Experiment with different cooking methods and see what you enjoy most!
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