A bowl of oatmeal has been a classic breakfast staple for many years – and for good reason. It’s healthy, inexpensive, and can be made with any flavors you desire. But with so many brands and types of oatmeal on the market, it can be tough to know which one is the best for you.
When shopping for the healthiest oatmeal, you’ll want to look for pure, untreated organic oats that have been minimally processed.
You should also generally avoid oatmeal that comes in flavored packets, as these often contain artificial ingredients and added sugars.
That being said, we know flavored oatmeal can be an easy and yummy breakfast with good fiber content, so we’ve also highlighted a few healthy instant oatmeal brands that have prepackaged their products with healthier flavoring options such as apples and cinnamon – perfect when you’re on the go.
To help you make the healthiest choice for your morning bowl of oatmeal, I’ve compiled a list of the healthiest oatmeal brands to help make your mornings a little easier – and a lot healthier.
Please note that I am not a licensed nutritionist, dietician, or other medical professional, and you should always seek the guidance of your physician when it comes to dietary needs. The information below is based on my own research on the ingredients present in each brand of oatmeal and should not be taken as medical advice.
This post may contain affiliate links, which means I could be compensated if you decide to make a purchase. You can read my full disclosure here.
What’s the Healthiest Oatmeal?
When it comes to oatmeal, the healthiest option is plain, unenriched, and made from whole oats. Specifically, whole oat groats are the healthiest type of oatmeal because they’re minimally processed. And you’ll generally want to find product labels stating that your oatmeal is organic and non-GMO.
In addition, it’s best to avoid oatmeal products that have a large number of unhealthy ingredients such as added sugar, salt, artificial flavors, food dyes, soybean oil, or synthetic vitamins. In general, the fewer ingredients the better – and all of the ingredients should be whole food items you can identify and pronounce such as dried fruit, cinnamon, nuts, seeds, sea salt, or cane sugar.
Brands that offer flavored oatmeal packets often use unhealthy ingredients to achieve the desired flavor. For example, many contain large amounts of added sugar or artificial sweeteners, salt, food dyes, etc.
So, if you’re looking for the healthiest oatmeal possible, your best bet is to choose unflavored oats and add your own healthy toppings like fresh fruit or pure maple syrup at home.
That being said, even the healthiest oatmeal brands may have some added sugar – so be sure to check the ingredient list and nutrition label to see how much.
The Healthiest Oatmeal Brands
I love having oatmeal for breakfast (and so do my two oldest kiddos), so I did a deep dive into the most popular oatmeal brands on the market and included my top picks below.
Nature’s Path is a family-owned Canadian company that offers a wide range of organic breakfast foods, including some of my favorite healthy oatmeal.
I love that Nature’s Path is committed to sustainability and giving back to the planet, and they set the path as the first USDA-certified organic cereal.
Nature’s Path makes a variety of healthy oatmeal including a selection of steel-cut oats, old-fashioned rolled oats, and instant oatmeal. And if you prefer flavored oatmeal, they have a variety of oatmeal products in many different flavors including maple pecan, chocolate cinnamon, pumpkin spice, apple cinnamon, and blueberry cinnamon.
A fairly recent addition to the health food scene, Thrive Market is an online discount health food marketplace that also has its own product lines of many popular health food products. Thrive Market ethically sources their organic oats from the U.S. and Canada, and they have a few different varieties to choose from.
You can choose between organic steel-cut oats, organic gluten-free rolled oats, and their organic quick oats come in two varieties – original and three seed. The three seed includes flax seeds, hemp seeds, and chia seeds, which add an additional gram of fiber to your bowl of oatmeal.
All of Thrive Market’s oatmeals are non-GMO, USDA-certified organic, and certified gluten-free.
Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal is pretty easy to find at a variety of stores, including Amazon and Target, which is why I included them on my list.
They offer several different varieties of whole oat groats, old-fashioned rolled oats, steel-cut oats, and even instant oats. Most of their products are certified gluten-free, and they have a variety of organic oatmeal products as well.
Bob’s Red Mill also has a few flavored oatmeal options, but they use all-natural ingredients to flavor their products. For example, their organic fruit & seed oatmeal cups are flavored with organic dates, raisins, and cane sugar.
Many of their oat products are gluten-free and the majority are organic as well. And they give you a whopping 7 to 9 grams of protein to start your day off right.
Purely Elizabeth is a relatively recent newcomer to the health food scene but has quickly exploded in popularity. Their products can now be found in many stores, including Whole Foods, Target, and even some grocery stores.
They offer several varieties of bagged and single-serving instant oatmeal in a variety of flavors. All of their products are certified gluten-free and non-GMO, and many are also vegan.
I love that Purely Elizabeth oatmeal is made with a blend of ancient grains, including quinoa, amaranth, and flax. This not only adds flavor and texture to their oatmeal but also ups the nutrient game. You get 7 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein with each serving which means this oatmeal will definitely keep you full until lunchtime.
Whole Foods’ signature product line, 365 Organic, produces several oatmeal products including old-fashioned rolled oats, instant oatmeal, and steel-cut oats. All of their products are certified USDA-organic, and many are also gluten-free.
If you’re looking for a flavored oatmeal, 365 Organic has you covered there too. Their instant oatmeal flavors are both unique and healthy and include triple berry, apple cinnamon chia, strawberries, and cream, or cinnamon spice.
And it’s easy to grab them when you’re in a pinch. Just head to your local Whole Foods store or order them on Amazon.
The popular health food store, Trader Joe’s, has their own oatmeal product line too. Their products are a bit more budget-friendly than some of the other brands on this list, but they’re still high quality.
Trader Joe’s oats are mostly gluten-free and non-GMO, and they offer several varieties including quick oats, steel-cut oats, and old-fashioned rolled oats. They also offer organic instant oatmeal cups in both original and maple brown sugar flavors.
Now Real Food is another health food brand that has some of the healthiest oatmeal products. Their oats are certified organic, 100% whole grain, and non-GMO.
You can find their steel-cut oats or old-fashioned rolled oats on Amazon.
And I love that they’re made in the USA and certified organic. Plus, all of their oatmeal is unflavored and unprocessed, so you can add your favorite toppings to make a bowl of oatmeal that you’ll enjoy to its fullest.
Try adding some fresh fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey for a delicious and nutritious breakfast.
One Degree’s oat products are sprouted and sourced from a family farm in addition to being organic. Their products are also gluten-free and non-GMO.
One Degree offers several varieties of oats including quick oats, rolled oats, steel-cut oats, and some delicious flavored oats as well. You can find their products in stores like Whole Foods or order them on Amazon.
I love that One Degree’s oats are sprouted because it makes them easier to digest and also ups the nutrient game.
And One Degree goes an extra step in listing their ingredients by actually telling you exactly where they source the ingredients from.
Still unsure which product to buy? Keep reading below for our top picks per oatmeal type:
Best Instant Oatmeal
We’ve selected the Purely Elizabeth instant oatmeal product line as our top pick for instant oatmeal due to their convenience, product availability, ingredient purity and variety of flavors. This brand is easy to find at local retailers such as Kroger, Vons, Ralphs, Jewel, Albertsons, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Target. In addition, the company has a commitment to providing gluten-free products, and their oatmeal cups are certified gluten-free.
Best Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
With a low price and nearly 200 5-star reviews, it would be hard to find a better pick for rolled oats than One Degree Organics. They are certified gluten-free and organic while being amazingly affordable. Reviewers love the taste and the purity of these rolled oats, and they can be ordered online through Amazon, or you can add them to your auto-shipment from Thrive Market to get them at a deeper discount.
Best Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Bob’s Red Mill steel-cut oats are also incredibly popular, certified gluten-free and organic. With a cook time of just 2-10 minutes, it comes in several different sizes and is also very affordable. Reviewers love the quality, flavor and texture. Bob’s Red Mill is a very trustworthy brand and easy to find at many stores including Randalls, Smart & Final, H-E-B, Sprouts, Vons, Trader Joe’s, Ralphs, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart and Kroger.
Best Flavored Oatmeal
For those who just can’t stomach plain oatmeal, Nature’s Path instant flavored oatmeal products are a clear winner. With more than 2 dozen flavored oatmeal products to choose from, you’re sure to find a flavor that works for you. From cacao to turmeric, all of their flavored oatmeal products are organic, and a majority of them are packed with superfoods.
Why Should You Eat Oatmeal for Breakfast?
Oatmeal is a great healthy way to start the day because it’s high in fiber and protein and is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin E, and iron. As a filling breakfast option, oatmeal can help control blood sugar levels. In addition, researchers believe that whole-grain oatmeal is good for heart health and may even help lower cholesterol.
A bowl of oats is relatively cheap, easy to make, and can be quickly spruced up with all sorts of extra ingredients such as honey, cinnamon, fresh fruit, or nuts. Oatmeal is great for use with all types of diets too — vegan, vegetarian, and even gluten-free. Many people enjoy making overnight oats for an even quicker morning meal.
Types of Oatmeal
There are several different types of oat products you can buy to make your delicious bowl of morning oatmeal. In the end, the type of oatmeal that works best for you is largely a matter of personal preference. Whole oat groats and steel cut oats are the healthiest but will take much longer to cook. Rolled oats and instant oats are quicker and easier to work with, but the texture and flavor will change as well. Instant oats can be minimally or heavily processed depending on the brand, and you will want to keep an eye out for added ingredients and flavorings.
Whole Oat Groats
Whole oat groats are minimally processed and have only had the hull removed. These are the purest form of oats straight from the harvest. Oat groats take longer to cook than steel-cut or rolled oats, but many people swear by their superior flavor and purity.
Steel Cut Oats
Steel-cut oats are oat groats that have been cut into smaller pieces for easier consumption. They are healthier than rolled oats because the endosperm is left intact. They are still minimally processed as the whole oats are only filtered, cleaned, and cut. Steel-cut oats have a great texture and flavor but still take a while to cook.
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Rolled oats are used primarily for instant oatmeal due to their convenience. Rolled oats are simply oat groats with the bran removed that have been processed into flat flakes by a roller. They are still very healthy and pure with no additives. Rolled oats can be prepared in a fraction of the time as oat groats and steel-cut oats.
Instant oats are simply rolled oats that have been processed to make cooking easier. They are typically flattened and then steamed or precooked. Most brands sell their instant oatmeal products prepackaged with different flavor options. Many conventional instant oatmeal packages have unhealthy ingredients like a lot of added sugar, so keep a close eye on your food labels when selecting an instant oatmeal product.
Is Organic Oatmeal Healthier and Worth the Extra Cost?
Organic oatmeal is healthier than conventionally produced oatmeal because it contains less pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other toxic chemicals. In particular, most conventional oats contain glyphosate, an especially harmful herbicide that research has linked to cancer, kidney and liver damage, and even reproductive issues.
Selecting a product made with organic oats should drastically reduce or even eliminate the amount of toxic products you consume with your oatmeal. (100% elimination is difficult because of cross-contamination and the fact that many organic farms still use pesticides)
Considering that organic food options are becoming more popular and more cost-effective, any price difference you may encounter when purchasing organic oatmeal is well worth the extra cost. Think of it as a small investment in your family’s health!
Making healthy breakfast choices such as organic oatmeal will get your day off to a good start, help protect you and your family against toxic food additives, and nourish your bodies with a delicious and energy-boosting meal.
Shoppers should look for oatmeal products that are organic, non-GMO and free from unhealthy added ingredients. When in doubt, you can also look up the product in question in the EWG Food Scores database. With so many delicious healthy oatmeal brands to choose from and endless flavor combinations, you can’t go wrong with oatmeal for breakfast!