Oatmeal is an excellent breakfast when backpacking. It’s loaded with nutrition and is a warm, flavorful meal to get you going on a cool morning. The store-bought instant oatmeal packets are great for a breakfast on the trail; however, your flavors are limited and they contain high sodium, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
If you make your own at home, you can radically improve the nutritional value and the flavor possibilities are only limited by your imagination and your taste buds.
Kick Your Oatmeal Up a Nutritional Notch
Whole grain rolled oats (instant or quick) are well-known for their heart-healthy benefits. They are a good source of carbs and fiber, and are loaded with important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant plant compounds. They are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat, which is exactly what we want on the trail. Oats are also naturally gluten-free, but if you are particularly sensitive, choose oat products that are certified as gluten-free.
Chia seeds are a superfood, delivering a massive amount of nutrients with very few calories. A one-ounce serving contains 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat (5 of which are omega-3s), as well as calcium, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus, and a decent amount of zinc, vitamin B3 (niacin), potassium, vitamin B1 (thiamine), and vitamin B2. Yet, while they deliver a solid punch of nutrients, they bring very little in the way of flavor and virtually disappear into the mix. They are the ninjas of superfoods. You don’t know they are there!
Oat bran boosts the oatmeal mix with more heart-healthy fiber and will add a nutrient-rich creaminess to the oatmeal.
Sweetener can be customized to your personal preference. Use your favorite dry sweetener, including brown sugar, natural cane sugar, coconut sugar, dried honey, etc. Sweeten to your liking.
Non-fat powdered milk adds protein & calcium along with creaminess to the texture and taste of the oatmeal, and dissolves better than whole powdered milk. If you need to be dairy-free, you can omit the powdered milk or use powdered coconut milk or powdered soy milk.
Ingredients for a Single Serving Packet
1/3 cup rolled oats (instant or quick)
1 teaspoon chia seeds or ground flaxseed (optional)
2 teaspoons oat bran (or wheat germ/bran)
2 teaspoons powdered milk
1 to 3 teaspoons of your preferred sweetener
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/16 teaspoon salt (use less or omit all together)
Combine ingredients in individual ziploc freezer bags (not storage).
To Prepare 1 Serving of Hot Oatmeal
Add 1 oatmeal packet to mug or bowl. Pour in 2/3 cups boiling water and stir (amount of water may vary depending on dryness of ingredients). Let instant oats stand for 3-4 minutes to soften and thicken; stir, and they are ready to eat. Quick oats may need to soften an additional minute or two. I like to use an insulated bowl with a cover so my oats stay warm while they sit.
For variety, I also add 2 tablespoons of dried fruit and 1 tablespoon chopped nuts. Average weight, including the bag, and additions of freeze-dried fruit and nuts, is 88 grams. Weight will vary slightly depending on how you customize.
Below are ideas to add variety. Feel free to mix and match and create your own flavors. Add the following recommended amounts to the above basic recipe.
Apple Cinnamon Maple: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped apples, additional 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, use maple sugar for sweetener.
Apricot Ginger: 2 tablespoons chopped dried apricots, 1 teaspoon minced crystallized ginger.
Blueberry: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried blueberries.
Cherry Almond: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 tablespoons freeze-dried cherries, 1 tablespoon sliced or slivered almonds.
Cocoa Banana: 1/4 cup chopped freeze-dried bananas (dried banana chips not recommended), 2 teaspoons cocoa powder.
Cranberry Apple Walnut: 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped apples, 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts.
Cranberry Orange Pecan: 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 1 teaspoon dried orange peel bits, 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.
Mango Macadamia: 2 tablespoons chopped dried mangos, 1 tablespoon chopped macadamia nuts.
Peach Pecan: 2 tablespoons chopped dried peaches, 1 tablespoon chopped pecans.
Peanut Butter Banana: 1/4 cup chopped freeze-dried bananas (dried banana chips not recommended), 1 tablespoon PB2 peanut butter powder.
Pineapple Coconut Macadamia: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried chopped dried pineapple, 1 tablespoon freeze-dried coconut, 1 tablespoon macadamia nuts.
Raspberry Almond Vanilla: 2 tablespoons dried or 1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries, 1 tablespoon almonds1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla powder.
These bags may be made, tightly sealed, and stored for several months, depending on the shelf life of the ingredients used. These may also be stored in the freezer to extend their life further.
These are also great for taking to school or work for a quick, hot breakfast or mid-morning snack. Make your own at home and make it exactly to your liking. Be creative and invent your own favorite flavors.
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