Steel cut oats teach us the basics

Steel Cut Oats - the10principles

Steel cut oats capture why factories shouldn’t be part of the digestion process

  • What are steel cut oats?

  • Why steel cut oats are better than rolled oats

  • Do you always have to choose steel cut oats?

Find out why small changes, like choosing steel cut oats, make a big difference.

Now I understand why it’s important for my body to process my food.

Steel Cut Oats: My Story

Steel cut oats? I just heard about them recently.

Until a few weeks ago I ate rolled oats (aka porridge) a few times a week for breakfast. I stirred in some cinnamon and dried cranberries before microwaving them for one minute.

Meanwhile I’d cut up an apple to throw on top. Add a latte (made of 2% milk) and I thought it was a pretty good, roughly-balanced breakfast made mostly of whole foods, as recommended by the Eatwell Plate.

Kelly Clark

I wanted to write this post because the difference between succeeding and failing is often down to choices we make early. Decisions can trigger a series of events. Understanding why one option is superior to another makes it easier to put your energy behind choices that set you up for success.

the10principleseasy_balanced_meal_eatwell_plate_the10principlesBread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods (rolled oats)

the10principlesMilk and dairy foods (2% milk)

the10principlesFood or drinks high in fat and or sugar (2% milk & cranberries)

the10principlesMeat, fish, eggs, beans & other non-dairy sources of protein

the10principlesFruit and vegetables (apple & cranberries)

…though I was always surprised how quickly I felt hungry after eating this meal.

Steel Cut Oats at Shoppers

This is a reenactment.

Last month I went to Shoppers. I was making sure I spent enough to get the points offer; I take the Optimum Program seriously 🙂 Steel cut oats were on sale, so I threw two containers into my cart and headed home.

A couple days later I went into the kitchen, ready to make a quick breakfast. But when I read the instructions I was surprised to see that steel cut oats need twenty minutes to cook! That was the start of me understanding how rolled oats compare to steel cut oats.

Steel Cut Oats vs. Rolled Oats

The main difference is that rolled oats are more processed than steel cut oats. Rolled oats (similar to quick oats or instant oats) are precooked, dried and then rolled. This process removes the roughage.

What is roughage?
Roughage is a fibrous material found in food that’s indigestible. Fiber aids the passage of food and waste products through your body.

Steel Cut Oats vs Rolled Oat

After extensive auditions for this photo shoot, we chose this rolled oat (left) and this steel cut oat (right).

Processed foods cook faster, you digest them faster and you feel hungrier faster. Then you can either eat more food or be preoccupied by hunger pains. Each decision we make triggers a positive or negative series of events.

Another option is to choose steel cut oats. Set off a healthy domino effect!  Steel cut oats are considered whole foods because they’re in their most natural state.


Steel cut oats aren’t processed in a factory so:

  • they still contain roughage
  • your body needs to do all the work (whole foods take longer to digest)
  • energy and nutrients are released slowly

When energy and nutrients are released slowly, you stay full longer.

Steel Cut Oats vs Rolled Oats

Rolled oats (left) and steel cut oats (right).

I don’t believe in counting calories now (but for the 10 years I tried to lose weight and couldn’t, I obsessed over them.) Talking about calories here, however, demonstrates an important point. 200 calories of quick oats and 200 calories of steel cut oats have a different effect on your body. After eating quick oats you’ll feel hungry faster.

Whole foods, like steel cut oats, simply go further. They help you stay full longer. And I prefer their taste and texture to rolled oats.

If you change your eating habits to include more whole food (beans, rice, vegetables and fruit), then you’ll eat less.
– Roy Walford, doctor

Whenever possible, I choose an orange over orange juice, brown rice over white rice and steel cut oats over rolled oats. Choose natural foods over factory foods. Go back to the basics. Using this approach makes decisions easy.

Trouble shooting:
Steel Cut Oats -20 minutesIf twenty minutes is too long for your morning routine, cook your steel cut oats the night before, while you’re cleaning up after dinner. Then add a bit of water the next morning, give them a stir on the stove and breakfast will be ready in less time than quick oats! You’ve likely heard this idea before:

Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old…

Steel Cut Oats for Breakfast

Steel cut oats with cinnamon, dried cranberries and apple slices.

Don’t get lost in the details

I didn’t understand there was a difference between rolled oats and breakfast grains like steel cut oats or Red River Cereal until recently. Yet I’ve been a healthy weight for sixteen years.

The goal of this post is not to say never eat rolled oats! Or to suggest you’ve ruined your day if you eat rolled oats. As I write this post I’m actually eating a rolled-oat-raison-coconut cookie I bought yesterday when visiting a loved one in the hospital. N.B. I’m also eating an orange and drinking a milky coffee to make it a more balanced snack that includes some whole foods.

Steel Cut Oats Ingredients

Whole foods help you eat less and stay full longer, naturally—which helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. And get on with your life.

My objective is to explain how our bodies work. Then it will make sense to introduce more whole foods while you start eating more balanced meals and snacks. Choices get easier when you recognize why they’re a good idea.

When I was trying to lose weight I had no idea how our bodies work. I got so lost in the details. Every choice was a struggle. Now that I simply focus on eating balanced meals and snacks made mostly of whole foods, every choice is simplified.

Focus on healthy eating and exercise goals. A healthy weight will follow.

Next Steps:
Cut down on processed foods! Make your healthy goal to eat balanced meals made mostly of whole foods. If you want this change to be lasting, it’s important to have a strategy to help you get to your goal from where you are now, whether you:

  • are eating tons of processed foods
  • have never cooked for yourself
  • been trying to exist on diet pop and rice cakes (a very processed food!)

Sign up for my weekly blog post (below) and you’ll receive one of the best strategies I learned. It will help you build healthy eating and exercise habits—or reach any goal.

Sedona by Houdmouth

Have you “flipped the script and shot the plot?” Are you ready to change your story? Take control of your health. Start including some whole foods in your meals and snacks instead of processed foods.

Sign up for my FREE weekly blog post and receive one of the best weight-loss strategies I learned.

There's also a worksheet so you can apply this method to your goals.


Sharing what I learned makes those 10 years worth it

What whole food have you been eating in place of a processed food?



About Kelly Clark

Hi! My name is Kelly. I lost weight when I stopped dieting. And I got my life back. Here's my weight-loss story.

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4 Responses to Steel cut oats teach us the basics

  1. doug m April 19, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

    Nice work Kelly. I thought I was an expert on oats in the morning, but I didn’t understand the important difference between steel cut oats and my usual – large flake. The precooking of the latter means it’s calories are more rapidly available once it’s in your digestive tract, while the hard shell (roughage) of the former gives it a slow release quality.

    The way nutrition science quantifies it is by assigning a “glycemic index” value. Lower is better, reflecting slower absorption of usable calories from the gut to the bloodstream. The glycemic index would be high for white bread, medium for large flake oatmeal, but lowest (and best) for the steel cut version. I’m switching! Thank you!

  2. Kelly Clark April 20, 2016 at 11:54 pm #

    Thanks for reading this post Doug and taking time to leave a comment! The glycemic index would be a great idea for a blog post—though you’ve explained it nice and clearly already 🙂

  3. Rindy December 28, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    I started my steel cut oats today. I got quick cooking (takes 8-10 minutes). Are they not as good as the ones that take 20-40 minutes? They look the same.

    • Kelly Clark December 30, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      My understanding is that the quicker the boil time the more processed the food. Parboiled rice, for example, takes less than 15 minutes, whereas a more nutritious choice, like brown rice, requires around 35 minutes. So whether your oats are rolled or steel cut if the cooking time is short I’m guessing they’re more processed than regular steel cut oats.

      That said, oats that don’t come with the salt and sugar included (i.e. peaches and cream flavoured quick oats) are generally a good breakfast choice. Aim for balanced meals made of foods in their most natural state whenever you can, but eating white bread or quick oats here and there is no big deal! Being flexible is a huge part of reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Don’t get lost in the details like I did 🙂 Thanks for your question Rindy, I hope that helps.

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