Among the most popular breakfast foods of all time is a warm, comforting bowl of oatmeal. But when you go keto and need to keep your carb count low, you may start wondering if there is such a thing as low-carb oatmeal.
Be it steel-cut, rolled, crushed, or instant, oatmeal is a staple in the American diet. Of course, oats aren’t only used in oatmeal (aka porridge). They’re found in many other dishes including cookies, granola bars, pancakes, and more.
But can oats be part of a healthy keto diet? Read on to learn about the carbs in oatmeal and whether or not this classic is keto-friendly.
What Is Oatmeal and Is It Low-Carb or Keto-Friendly?
Oats are technically a grain grown primarily for their seeds to produce oatmeal, rolled oats, and even feed for livestock.
Compared to other grains, oats have a much higher tolerance for rain and are best grown in temperate regions. They’re considered an annual plant that can be planted in spring or fall.
Although oats are extremely popular in America, it’s surprisingly not the country with the highest production of this grain. Russia is the biggest producer of oats in the world, followed by Canada and Poland, respectively[*].
The first oat bread factory dates back to 1899, where it was established in Britain. Along with Britain, Scotland is a huge consumer of oats, which is a mainstay of the country’s national diet. Clearly, this humble grain is an international favorite.
Can You Eat Oats on the Keto Diet?
While oats are generally considered healthy, the real question is whether or not they’re low-carb or keto-friendly. Here’s a quick rundown detailing why oats are not keto-friendly.
Oats Nutrition Facts
It’s true — oats are loaded with micronutrients that pack serious nutritional punch. Some of the vitamins and minerals found in just 3½ ounces of oats include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc[*].
Its powerful dose of micronutrients is equally matched by its macronutrients. A 3½ ounce serving (around 100 grams) of raw oats is about 389 total calories, including 17 grams of protein, 66 grams of total carbs, 56 grams of net carbs, and 7 grams of fat[*].
To calculate your macros, be sure to use the Perfect Keto calculator.
Oatmeal Doesn’t Fit in a Low-Carb Diet
While oats may come packed with key vitamins and minerals, the carb count is simply too high for those following a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Even if you were to split the serving size in half and only consume 50 grams of oats in a sitting, it would still make up about 28 grams of carbs. For those who are just beginning their keto journey, daily carb intake should be anywhere from 20-50 grams of carbs, depending on the person.
With 50 grams of oats taking up over half your daily carb limit, you have a good chance of kicking yourself out of ketosis and ruining any progress you’ve made in alternating your metabolism.
Remaining below a certain carb intake is key in the ketogenic diet since your body’s natural inclination is to pull energy from your glycogen stores instead of your fat stores. In order to get your body to pull from your fat stores for fuel, you have to first deprive it of enough carbs and glycogen.
This huge change in diet may be a bit overwhelming at first, which is why it’s recommended to find low-carb substitutes for all of your favorite high-carb foods to make the transition easier. Fortunately, there are several low-carb oatmeal alternatives you can enjoy.
4 Low-Carb Oatmeal Substitutes
Just because you’re following a ketogenic diet doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite breakfast dish. You can easily recreate this high-carb classic with one (or all) of the great low-carb oatmeal alternatives below.
Image: 5-Minute Low Carb n’Oats
Chia seeds not only resemble the texture and consistency of oats, but they’re considered a nutritional powerhouse as well. In fact, in Mayan culture, the term chia actually means “strength.” With their ability to be added to almost any recipe, chia seeds are packed with key nutrients that can improve your health and wellness.
Chia seeds are an abundant source of antioxidants, a good source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, high in omega-3 fatty acids, and extremely rich in fiber. These qualities can help improve digestive health, heart health, diabetes, bone health, and metabolic function[*][*].
While it’s no question that chia seeds come with some amazing micronutrients, what about its macronutrient composition? For a one-ounce serving of chia seeds, there are 137 total calories, 2 grams of net carbs, 10 grams of fiber, 8 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein[*].
Yes, you read that right. Only two grams of net carbs per ounce. These macros are perfect for your keto macronutrients and low-carb intake needs.
When it comes to preparation, chia seeds are not very different from oats. They both require water, which they’ll soak up and then expand in size once cooked. Whether you’re eating them alone or adding them to another dish, chia seeds will level up your breakfast in terms of nutrients and sufficiency.
Image: Keto Flaxseed Porridge
Another seed that’s finally getting the credit it deserves is flaxseed. Whether you’re adding some to coconut cream or full-fat coconut milk, flaxseed oatmeal is a phenomenal low-carb substitute for the classic bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.
But what makes flaxseed so great?
Flaxseed has been around since the beginning of civilization, first appearing in the U.S.when brought over by colonists. While it was originally intended to be used for fiber in clothing and other material, people quickly realized the health benefits of this little seed. Similar to quinoa, flaxseed is a great plant-based protein and even more beneficial when consumed as sprouted and ground flaxseed meal.
Like chia seeds, flaxseed provides many different health benefits. Some of these benefits include improving digestion and weight loss, lowering cholesterol, controlling blood sugar levels, and offering an abundance of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids — alpha-linolenic acid, specifically[*].
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an extremely important fatty acid that helps fight off free radical damage. While free radicals are naturally occurring within your body, they tend to cause harm when they create dangerous chemical bonds during oxidation. ALA contributes to overall health in many ways including the preservation of eye health, the improvement of cognitive abilities, and even in glutathione production (one of the top antioxidants)[*].
Two tablespoons of flaxseed come to 110 total calories, including zero grams of net carbs, 6 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fat[*].
In terms of keto macronutrients, flaxseed beats chia seeds for net grams of carbs.
Busy mornings call for quick and easy meals. While classic oats don’t require anything more than adding water and warming it up on the stove or in the microwave, other low-carb oatmeal alternatives may not be as simple.
Thankfully, hemp heart seed oatmeal is a breakfast option that can quickly get you out the door. Simply add the seeds to a cup of full-fat coconut milk, heat it up, and you’re ready to go.
Besides this quick prep, what other benefits do hemp heart seeds provide?
Hemp heart seeds are the seeds of the hemp plant — one of the biggest industrial crops in the world in terms of variety. This seed is as powerful in its nutritional value as it is in diversity. One of the benefits of hemp hearts is its abundance of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). GLA helps with hormones that help with muscle growth and repair as well as inflammation and other vital bodily functions[*].
A one-ounce serving of hemp seeds contains about 161 total calories, one gram of net carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of protein, and 12 grams of fat[*].
These excellent keto macronutrients make it the perfect low-carb oatmeal substitute to enjoy with water or full-fat coconut milk for an extra serving of healthy fats.
Image: Quick Keto Oatmeal
Coconut flakes (or shredded coconut) provide more than just a low-carb oatmeal alternative.
Shredded coconut flakes give you that sweet taste of coconut while giving you a satisfying crunch. If you’re worried about them becoming soggy when combining with milk or water, simply toast the flakes by baking them in the oven for 10-15 minutes before adding them to your low-carb oatmeal alternatives.
You can even save some leftovers to sprinkle on top of your favorite low-carb desserts.
Coconut is jam-packed with all the key nutrients you need to reach optimal health and wellness. The meat of the coconut in particular (where the shredded flakes come from) is where you’ll find all the benefits of this flavorful food.
Consuming more coconut has been shown to improve digestion, the absorption rate of key vitamins and minerals, and blood sugar and insulin levels, which is especially important for those struggling with diabetes. Coconut has also been shown to improve good cholesterol, help protect the body from certain cancers, and fight off free radical damage[*][*][*].
Not only are coconut flakes the perfect low-carb alternative for people following certain keto macronutrients or a low-carb diet, but they make a great snack in general.
Low-Carb Oatmeal Recipe Ideas
Now that you know what to use instead of oatmeal, how do you make it taste as yummy? There are lots of keto noatmeal recipes you can try, or just use the tips below to make up your own.
Keto Oatmeal Sweeteners
The first thing you have to do is figure out how to make it taste sweet. No more brown sugar and maple syrup. Thankfully, there are still some delicious sugar-free sweeteners you can have on the keto diet:
- Monk fruit
After you decide how you are going to sweeten it, try to think of things to mix into your low-carb breakfast oatmeal. Here are some of the most popular breakfast ideas for a keto-friendly, low-carb meal:
- Unsweetened almond milk (a great option if you are dairy-free)
- Cocoa powder
- Sugar-free chocolate chips
- Vanilla extract
Low-Carb Breakfast Ideas
When you need a quick breakfast or brunch, a simple keto oatmeal recipe is just the thing. This can be just one part of a larger low-carb keto breakfast.
Add these breakfast items to make it a filling meal. These will replace your usual breakfast cereal easily:
Enjoy Low-Carb Oatmeal Anytime
Some call it noatmeal, others call it one of the best breakfast recipes ever. No matter how you prepare them, these low-carb alternatives to oatmeal will help you stick to your macro goals without getting kicked out of ketosis.
The next time you’re at the store, pick up some of these substitutes for your favorite breakfast dish and get ready to start seeing — and feeling — the benefits.