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Spice up your oats: Ideas for sweet and savory oatmeal

Posted on Jan. 6, 2017 ( comments)
Types of oats

Three different types of oats: steel-cut, rolled and quick-cooking oats.

Oatmeal is a timeless, hearty and healthy breakfast that continues to defy nutrition trends. But it doesn’t have to be boring.

With endless topping options that offer a range of nutritional benefits, oatmeal can be simple and satisfying — or a show-stopping dish for a weekend brunch.

Try some of the toppings ideas below, or use your creativity to put your own spin on this ancient grain.

Tips: For the most nutrients, choose old-fashioned rolled oats or steel-cut oats. Oatmeal can be made ahead in batches and kept in the fridge for weekday use for a quick and simple breakfast.

Oatmeal toppings

Adding toppings to your oatmeal creates variety, interest and texture — and adds new flavors to enjoy! Below is a list of some toppings we love.


  • Chia seeds: Rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus, chia seeds are nutrition powerhouses that are an excellent addition to granola, yogurt, oatmeal and more.
  • Hemp hearts: Hemp hearts are growing quickly in popularity for their nutritional benefits. They are high in protein (one serving contains 10 grams), high in fiber and their nutty flavor tastes excellent in oatmeal.
  • Ground flaxseed: Flaxseeds are a well-known source of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. They taste great on top of oatmeal and yogurt. Just be sure to grind them up before consuming so your body can access the nutrients. (A coffee grinder works great!)
  • Pumpkin seeds: Delicious and a great source of magnesium, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.


Nuts are nutritional powerhouses full of protein, fiber, minerals and healthy fats. Since each nut variety contains a different set of minerals and nutrients, vary your nut sources as much as you’re able.

  • Walnuts
  • Macadamias
  • Hazelnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Nut butters (peanut, cashew, almond)


Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. Adding fruit to oatmeal is a great way to naturally sweeten oatmeal without the addition of sugar. It’s also a great way to work toward your recommended two servings of fruit daily.

  • Dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, dates, cherries, apricots)
  • Fresh berries
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • Mandarin oranges
  • Chopped apple
  • Figs
  • Coconut
  • Banana
  • Avocado


Vegetables? In oatmeal? It may sound strange, but when you think about it, we typically use grains in savory dishes, not sweet ones. Why not oatmeal, too?

Don’t be afraid to try something new and work vegetables into your breakfast. They are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. You’ll give yourself more opportunity to sneak in the recommended three servings per day. Try:

  • Pumpkin
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet potato
  • Squash
  • Spinach
  • Carrot
  • Scallions


Dairy is a quick and easy way to add protein and nutrients to your oats.

  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese (try grated cheddar or parmesan)

Other toppings to try

  • Cinnamon
  • Smoked salmon
  • Poached egg
  • Chives
  • Cacao nibs
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Honey

Mixing and matching toppings

Get creative and try different topping combinations. Start with flavors you know you like, then branch out. Try some of our suggested combinations below to get started.

Sweet oats

  • Carrot cake
    • Shredded carrots, walnuts, raisins, cinnamon, pure maple syrup
  • Bliss
    • Dried cranberries, crème fraiche, balsamic reduction
  • Chocolate-covered strawberry
    • Nutella, fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt
  • West Coast
    • Blueberries, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, honey
  • Apple cobbler
    • Cinnamon, pat of grass-fed butter, chopped apple
  • Pumpkin pie
    • Pumpkin puree, maple syrup, cinnamon, pecans
  • Summer oats
    • Greek yogurt, fresh berries, chia seeds, slivered almonds
  • PB&J
    • Peanut butter, fresh berries or jam, chia seeds
  • Banana bread
    • Sliced banana, honey, walnuts, cinnamon
  • French macaron
    • Toasted coconut, honey, pistachios
  • Monkey bread
    • Walnuts, honey, cinnamon
  • Chocolate zucchini bread
    • Unsweetened cocoa powder, shredded zucchini, honey
  • Chocolate orange
    • Mandarin orange, cacao nibs, honey

Savory oats

  • Winter oats
    • Sliced prosciutto, fig, honey
  • Log cabin
    • Cubed sweet potato, avocado, fried egg, chives
  • The Northwest
    • Smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers
  • Protein power
    • Hemp hearts, poached egg, cheddar cheese, chives
  • Fall harvest
    • Cooked cubed squash or sweet potato, fresh goat cheese, pumpkin seeds, pomegranate seeds
  • Italian oats
    • Fresh grated parmesan cheese, poached egg, drizzle of olive oil, sun-dried tomato
  • Thai oats
    • Dried chilies, coconut milk, dried unsweetened coconut, toasted cashews, scallions, liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
Posted in: Healthy Living | Recipes

About The Author

Chelsey LIndahl Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CSSD, CD

Chelsey Lindahl, RD, CSSD, CD, is a wellness dietitian program manager at the MultiCare Center for Healthy Living, which helps educate children and families in Pierce County about healthy lifestyle choices through programs such as “Ready, Set, Go! 5210.” If you have questions, call Chelsey at 253-301-5095 or email [email protected].

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