When you opt for a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, you might think you’re doing yourself a favor because oatmeal is “healthy.” That’s true, for the most part. A bowl of steel-cut or rolled oats with some fruit and a bit of sweetener is among the healthiest breakfasts you can eat. But, not everyone has the time to boil oats in the morning, and unless you develop a taste for overnight oats, you might have to turn to instant or quick-cooking oatmeal for the sake of convenience.
When it comes to convenience oatmeals, they are not all created equal. With so many brands, it can be hard to figure out which ones you should steer clear of, especially since the packaging is designed to offer flavor and nutrition promises that the food inside can’t quite deliver. We took the most popular oatmeals on the shelves and pitted them against a gold standard bowl of unsweetened oatmeal. A 40-gram bowl of oatmeal has 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, no sodium, 27 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of sugar.
Here are some of the worst oatmeals on the shelves and some tips for recognizing these health imposters. (Plus, if you’re ready to try something new, check out how 16 Celebs Make Their Oatmeal Extra.)
PER 1 cup (65 g): 250 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 230 mg sodium, 47 g carbs (5 g fiber, 1 g soluble fiber, 3 g insoluble fiber, 19 g sugar) ), 7 g protein, 2 mg iron, 160 mg potassium
Watching your sugar? Steer clear of this maple and brown sugar pecan flavor with 19 grams of the stuff—that’s comparable to a serving of most types of chocolate. Why is there so much sugar? Because this little cup contains four different kinds of sugar to sweeten it. Keep this oatmeal on the shelf and check the label for multiple types of sugar. If an oatmeal has more than one, it might be best to toss it aside.
PER (67 g): 270 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (8 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 7 g protein
Just because this is the highest calorie option from the bunch, that doesn’t necessarily make it the worst for you. This blend has good things in it like chia and flax seeds which bump up the fiber admirably. However, the downfall of this oatmeal is that it’s loaded with almost double the amount of carbohydrates and 12 more grams of sugar than a basic bowl of oatmeal.
PER 1 packet (43 g): 180 calories, 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 2.5 g monounsaturated fat), 135 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g) sugar), 10 g protein, 2 mg iron, 78 mg calcium, 138 mg potassium
Don’t let the brand trick you into thinking this is healthier than it is. While it does have a significant amount of protein like the name suggests, it’s got double the fat of a standard oatmeal bowl of oatmeal including 1.5 grams of saturated fat.
PER (60 g): 250 calories, 6 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 200 mg sodium, 35 g carbs (4 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 14 g protein, 1.7 mg iron, 110 mg calcium, 210 mg potassium
While this oatmeal has 14 grams of protein that doesn’t take away from its fat and carbohydrate content. It’s by no means the worst on this list, but it has some factors working against it including 11 grams of added sugar. Plus, keep an eye on the calories because with 250 per serving it’s easy to go overboard.
REALTED: 11 Secrets Oatmeal Companies Don’t Want You to Know
PER (50g): 190 calories, 4.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 210 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (5 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 10 g protein, 2 mg iron, 30 mg calcium , 150 mg potassium
In terms of fat content, this peanut butter oatmeal is high on the list with 4.5 grams. The sodium content is slightly above average. Note that there are nearly 10 grams of sugar in this oatmeal. Keep that in mind when thinking about adding it to your cart on the next trip to the grocery store.
PER (43g): 160 calories, 2.5 g fat, (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g monounsaturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g soluble fiber) , 2 g insoluble fiber, 12 g sugar), 4 g protein, 3.6mg iron, 100 mg calcium, 120 mg potassium
For blueberry muffin lovers, this flavorful oatmeal brings the sweet taste to life with 12 grams of sugar and 4 grams of protein. Now, that’s definitely less sugar than a standard blueberry muffin, but for oatmeal that’s a hefty amount. Plus, those teeny tiny dried blueberries aren’t providing the antioxidants and fiber that you’d get from a handful of fresh blueberries.
PER (54G): 200 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 g polyunsaturated fat, 0 g monounsaturated fat), 360 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (3 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 4 g protein, 5.4 mg iron, 130 mg calcium, 120 mg potassium
There are other ways to sweeten up your morning routine than with this microwaveable oatmeal. Not only is it loaded with 18 grams of sugar but the sodium level is also quite high.
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PER (30 g): 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g polyunsaturated fat) 115 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 3 g protein, 3.6 mg iron, 130 mg calcium
Strawberries & cream flavored anything is delicious and so is this oatmeal, but in terms of nutrition, it’s iffy. The calorie count looks right and the sugar level isn’t high, but this oatmeal hides some secrets in its label. This oatmeal doesn’t contain any strawberries. If you look at the ingredients you’ll see that those bits of fruit are dried apples with natural flavoring and colors added.
PER (28 g): 100 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 g monounsaturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g soluble fiber) , 2 g insoluble fiber, <1g sugar), 4 g protein, 3.6 mg iron, 100 mg calcium, 110 mg potassium
This low-sugar option is the best of the worst on the shelves…or is it? It’s low in calories (100 calories), carbohydrates, and fat, but if you note the serving size the nutrition info isn’t all that stellar. When you double this packet and make it the size of the cups the calorie level isn’t impressive and the sodium skyrockets. Plus, to get flavor without sugar this oatmeal comes with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
READ MORE: Every Instant Oatmeal in America—Ranked!.