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How Many Calories Are in a Cup of Oatmeal? We Have the Answer and More

Avoid overloading your bowl of oats, while still packing flavor and nutrition, with these tips.

calories in a cup of oatmeal, how to make oatmeal healthy
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Oatmeal is a breakfast staple, especially for runners. It’s simple, easy to make, and packs necessary nutrients to keep you clocking miles. You can also ramp up the health benefits by topping it with fresh or canned fruits, nuts and even spices to make it even more flavorful and filled with vitamins and minerals.

“Oatmeal itself is a whole grain, so it’s not processed like the refined type,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., author of The Flexitarian Diet. “The other great thing about it is that it’s a wet grain, meaning it’s cooked with water. A hearty wet grain is going to be more filling than any sort of dry grain like a cold cereal.”

Oatmeal’s other claim to fame is its 4 grams of fiber per half-cup of dry oats. “It’s not a ton of fiber, but it’s actually a powerful type that helps regulate your cholesterol,” says Blatner. As for how many calories are in a cup of oatmeal, one cup of plain oatmeal contains 300 calories. It also includes 56 grams of carbs for fuel and 10 grams of muscle-building protein. And that doesn’t even include the nutrients you can gain from adding toppings.

Now there is one catch to downing a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast: Adding too many toppings can turn your healthy morning meal into a sugary disaster. Here are a few ways you can avoid turning your hearty bowl of oatmeal into a sugar bomb or one packed with empty calories.

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Know the True Serving Size
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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Oatmeal is considered a healthy breakfast food. But if you’re not paying attention, you can easily overdo it by mixing up the serving size. “Instead of having 1 cup cooked, people will double it and start off with one cup dry,” says Blatner. This is a common mistake.

The appropriate serving size will depend on your current run or training volume and your personal needs. But in general, stick to a half-cup of dry rolled oats as one serving size. The number of calories in a cup of oatmeal this size comes out to 150 calories, leaving about another 150 for your toppings for a filling breakfast that doesn’t turn into a calorie bomb. You can also scale it up or down for increased or decreased training.

“The other thing I find is that people don’t have the ratio right,” says Blatner. She suggests one part oats to two parts liquid for the rolled variety, and one part oats to three parts liquid for steel cut.

Factor in Added Sugars
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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There are so many ways to sweeten up a bowl of oatmeal, from maple syrup to brown sugar to chocolate chips. But by upping the sweetness, you may be slashing the health benefits. Yes, honey is technically a “natural” sweetener and brown sugar tastes great, but it’s easy to overdo it.

Instead of relying on straight-up sweeteners, try alternative flavors. Blatner recommends add-ins like cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa powder, or vanilla extract. “They taste sweet without actually being full of sugar,” she says.

Add Dried Fruit But Fresh is Better
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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It’s fruit, so how bad can it really be? Well, the answer comes back to sugar. “Dried fruit can have about eight times more calories than fresh fruit,” says Blatner. This is due to the process of drying which sucks all the moisture out and concentrates the sugars.

Skip the dried goods, and add some fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. You’ll get more satiety and volume for fewer calories. Just make sure if you’re buying the frozen or canned variety that it’s the unsweetened kind.

Top With Nuts or Nut Butter (But Don't Go Nuts)
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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Nuts and nut butter makes a more balanced bowl of oatmeal, says Blatner. “They add that necessary component of protein and healthy fat, but that adds up really fast. Because of their higher fat content, they have more calories per gram—so even if you use a small amount, that’s a lot of calories.”

While it’s true healthy fats are essential for good nutrition and running performance and can even boost weight loss or maintenance, eating too much can sabotage your goals. Instead of tossing on several handfuls, keep it to just one serving of nuts, which equals about an ounce or 1 to 2 tablespoons of nut butter.

Look Into Take Out Orders
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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There’s been an influx of fast-food restaurants and chains adding oatmeal to their menus because it’s easy to make and gives them some healthy cred. That healthy reputation may not be completely deserved, though.

While some health food shops will slip in healthy ingredients like protein powder, other places jack up the calories and sweetness with unnecessary add-ons. “There are companies that put cream in their oatmeal, for example,” says Blatner. Avoid a heaping helping of additives with some simple research. “Check out the ingredients of the oatmeal at a specific place before you decide to get it,” says Blatner.

Read the Labels for Instant Oatmeal
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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The convenience of those little flavor packs comes with a price: Most instant oatmeal is loaded with sugar. If you’re still all about the instant, look for the plain variety or types that have reduced sugar by 50 percent. Even better? Skip the packs and go for rolled or old-fashioned oats.

Oats come out of the ground as oat groats, which is their largest, most natural form. Then they got chopped with steel blades and become steel cut, which is a long-cooking grain because it’s still pretty dense. After that, they’re steamed and rolled, which is what you get when you buy rolled oats. “Instant is great when you’re really in a hurry,” says Blatner. “But if you have just a few extra minutes to spare, you can make rolled oats in the microwave.” Plus, they absorb more water than instant, so your bowl will be even more filling.

You can find rolled oats in the cereal aisle; they’re usually in a cylindrical canister. Prep them just the same as instant, but microwave them for two and a half to five minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

Make Sure You Have Enough
calories in a cup of oatmeal
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On the flip side of too many sugar and calories in cup of oatmeal, sometimes people don’t beef up their oatmeal enough in fear that they’ll make it unhealthy. “Don’t just sit down to a bowl of oatmeal with two raspberries on top,” says Blatner. You won’t feel satisfied and may be more susceptible to overeating later.

Instead, think of that bowl as a chance to get a well-rounded start to your day. Add a cup of fresh fruit for about 100 calories and some healthy fats and protein in the form of nuts or nut butters. You could also add some milk if you’d like. The entire bowl should come out to around 300 to 400 calories, which is enough for a satiating breakfast, to fuel a run later in the day, or to recover postrun.

Or you can try Blatner’s recipe: “In the fall, I love to chop up a green apple with walnuts and pecans over a bowl of oatmeal,” she says. “Then I add some cinnamon. It ends up being a huge, filling breakfast.”

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