Athletic-Minded Traveler’s Blog delves into all things active and healthy. Here you can find recipes, training advice, “best of” lists, travel tips, yoga insight and more.

You are here

All Oatmeal is NOT created equal. Which is best? And what about Starbucks’, Panera & Jamba’s versions?

Your Oatmeal Questions Answered

Steel Cut, Old Fashioned Flakes, Instant? What is the best oatmeal choice when I am making oatmeal at home? And what about instant flavored "packets" of oatmeal? Are they nutritionally bankrupt? And last, how about the oatmeal offered at fast food joints? Thumbs up or down?

We look at the variety of oatmeal available at stores, share our oatmeal recipe, and delve into what is offered "on the road." 

Oats at the Grocery Store (Home Base)

Take a look at the below chart & realize that “steel cut” & “old fashioned” are no better than "instant" in terms of fiber, protein and calories.  Also keep in mind that the serving sizes in following data are for uncooked oats. 40 grams uncooked translates to about 220 grams cooked -- which you will see is the most common serving size offered at places like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain, and Corner Bakery.

Oatmeal TJs Oven Toasted Oats (Quick Cook) Quaker Old Fashioned Quaker Steel Cut Bob's Red Mill Steel Cut Oats McCann's Irish Oatmeal (steel cut) Umpqua Oats "Not Guilty" Quaker Instant - Regular Nature's Path (Hemp Plus) *packets Quaker Instant (Maple Brown Sugar) Quaker "Weight Control" Instant Maple Brown Sugar
Size (grams) 40 40 40 44 40 54 28 40 43 45
Total Calories 150 150 150 170 150 220 100 160 160 160
Calories/gram 3.750 3.750 3.750 3.864 3.750 4.070 3.571 4.000 3.721 3.556
total fat 3 3 2.5 3 2.5 6 2 2.5 2.5 3
Sodium 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 105 260 290
Total Carbs 27 27 27 29 27 35 19 30 32 29
Sugar + Sugar Alcohols 1 1 1 0 0 4 0 6 9 1
Sugar/gram as % 2.50% 2.50% 2.50% 0.00% 0% 7.41% 0.00% 15.00% 20.93% 2.22%
Fiber 4 4 4 5 3 8 3 4 3 6
Protein 5 5 5 7 4 8 4 5 4 7
Good Rating 5* 7.5 7.5 6.8 na   7.5 7.9 7 7.5

Our Advice: Go with what tastes good, and what works for your lifestyle. You don't have to opt for a slow cooked oat to get the fiber and protein. And read the label if you enjoy "pre-flavored" oats. Quaker's Instant Maple Brown Sugar is a sugar and sodium bomb compared to Nature's Path Hemp+ and the Umpqua Oats "No Guilt". NO sodium! 

Instant Oats SpecificsUmqua

  • Nature's Path Hemp Plus is lower in sugar than the other flavored instant varieties. It has 6g sugar and is lower in sodium than any Quaker option. Other Nature's Path flavors have more sugar. For example the Maple Nut has 11g. But all Nature's Path varieties are fairly low in sodium at around 100mg.  (*Nutrition for Nature's Path Hemp Plus to right.)
  • Indgredients Nature's PathIngredients. Nature's Path contains oats, evaporated cane juice, nuts, seeds fruit, & flavorings. That is it. Quite different is Quaker. The high fiber, low sugar, and weight control varieties all contain sucralose and 200+ mg sodium along with a bevy of other "ingredients". Instant oatmeal flavored packet NO BRAINER:  Pick Nature's Path.
  • Umpqua is certainly a contender in the flavored category. We love that there is an unsweetened option that relies on fruit and nuts for added flavor. It is the one we detail above called "No Guilt". It comes in a "tub" and the serving size is larger than the packets. It also has superior ingredients: Rolled oats, flax seeds, chia sees, blueberries, apples. LOVE it! All the other Umpqua flavors, like the Nature's Path, contain evaporated cane juice to sweeten.

Bottom Line: Nature's Path for instant packets. Umpqua for a "travel bowl".

When you are home and have time to whip up a big batch of oatmeal, we think you may like our recipe for MAXIMIZING flavor and MINIMIZING salt and sugar.

Athletic-Minded Traveler's Acai Oatmeal Recipe

We use a quick-cook, old-fashioned oat (Typically Trader Joe’s) and prepare a big batch for the week. To maximize taste and minimize added sugars, this is what we do:

What you'll need:

  • 1 packet Nature’s Path Hemp Plus
  • 3 Cups Old Fashioned Oats
  • 4 Cups water
  • 1-2 Cups “milk” – We’ll use Organic Fat Free or 365 Brand Original Almond Milk
  • 2T (or more) Cinnamon
  • 1-2T Buckwheat Honey
  • 1 Unsweetened Acai Packet (added at end and stirred in) *Click for our earlier post about Acai.
  • Bananas

Directions: Combine first 4 ingredients and heat to a super low boil and immediately turn down heat. Add more milk if needed. Add cinnamon and honey and stir. Add Acai and stir. Done.  It’s all good stuff! Even our “sweetener” offers nutritional/health benefits. Kids love it. Each morning we heat some up and add chopped bananas. This is our AM staple.  

Oats "On the Road":  I want my oatmeal! Where should I go?

First, can you BYOO? If yes, pack the Nature's Path packets or the Umpqua Oats. If packing the porridge is a no-go, then you'll be happy to learn that quick serve restaurants understand that oatmeal is a morning favorite; and the BIG Boys of fast food have stepped up to the oatmeal bowl.  Thankfully, the options at fast food eateries are sensible, as long as one doesn’t go on a topping free for all. 

Our Advice: Order plain and select 1 or 2 toppings max based on your taste and nutritional goals.

** Read more Food Posts ** Our Everything Food Archives!!

Quick Serve Options Starbucks Panera Bread Jamba Juice Dunkin Donuts McDonald's (Plain) McDonald's (Apple Cinnamon) Au Bon Pain (Plain, Small) Corner Bakery
Size (grams)* 220 255  283 (10 oz)   198 200 227  283 (10 oz)
Total Calories 150 150 180 270 170 200 170 160
total fat 2.5 3.5 3.5 4 2.5 2.5 3 2.5
Sodium 0 160 20 140 100 90 5  
Total Carbs 27 26 44 54 30 41 32 29
Sugar  0 1 5 22 0 16 1 1
Fiber 4 6 5 6 4 4 4 4
Protein 5 4 8 7 4 4 6 5
Iron 10% 15% 15% 80% 8% 8% 10% na
AMT's Take Easy to customize toppings -  "packets" Fresh fruit is a no-brainer Soy Milk used in all varieties It's Quaker Oats w/ dried fruit. Sucralose in the brown sugar option  Can order the "Fruit Maple" option plain Can't order this one plain 3 sizes. Apple Cinnamon adds 20 cal, 9g sugar. SKIP the 150 cal "sweet crisp"
Topping Options Brown sugar; Dried Fruit; Nuts; blueberries; agave; nuts/seeds Cinnamon Sugar; Fresh strawberries; Pecans; Apple Chips, Dried Tart Cherries, Almonds Brown Sugar; Apple Cinn. fruit; Blue & Blackberries; Bananas Can also order "brown sugar" Quaker w/ dried fruit Each can be ordered separately. Light cream adds 20 cal, 2g fat Can also order walnuts & Light Cream too. Dried fruit, nuts, granola Brown Sugar, Dried fruit, Toasted Almonds & Walnuts, 
"Sugar" Brown: +50 cal; agave 40 cal Brown +50 cal Brown +40 cal "Brown Sugar" option = 300. Sugars go up Add 20 cal included in above Apple Cinn flavor has sugar Add 45
"Dried Fruit" 100 cal; 20g sugar; 2g fiber Apple Chips: 35 cal; Dried cherres: 45 cal None Sodium for brown sugar option = 470 mg!! Add 60 cal, 16g sugar na Have it, not sure on nutrition Currants: +35; Cranberries +25
"Nuts" 100 cal; 70 for "Nuts & Seeds" Pecans: 100 cal; Almonds: 40 cal None na None Walnuts add 40 cal Have it, not sure on nutrition Almonds +35; Walnuts +50
"Fresh Fruit" Blueberries if available = 20 cal Strawberries: 10 cal Apple Cinn: +70, Blue & Black +60; Bananas +50 cal na Diced apples add 10 cal Diced apples add 10 cal na 400 cal honey banana option & 520 cal Berry Almond option 
Good Rating (Corp) 6.5 (1.8 for health) na na 5.3 for Smuckers na na na na


  • There are good oatmeal options available at fast food eateries that are under 250 calories.
  • Most quick serve joints offer plain oatmeal as a base and a choice of toppings. Not too surprising, Dunkin Donuts does not. At McDonalds you must specifically request the oatmeal plain and toppings on the side 
  • Nearly every place uses "slow cook/whole grain oats", but as we discovered above, from a nutrition standpoint, it doesn't really matter
  • Corner Bakery's version contains milk and Jamba's has soy milk. Why not almond milk?? It's better.
  • We'd skip the nuts when it comes to the toppings and save them for a stand-alone snack. The calories for nuts add up fast.

Ingredient Specifics

Starbucks: Uses steel cut and whole grain oats. 

Panera Bread: Organic steel cut oats is used as the base. Panera gets an F for website nutrition ease of use. Too much clicking required and the pdf guide doesn't provide information on "plain oatmeal". 

Jamba Juice: Gets the topping award. There are many "versions" available including high quality fresh fruit. All versions contain Soy Milk which makes for a richer porridge. We vote for a switch to almond milk.

Dunkin Donuts: It's our least favorite. It's Quaker Oats in two flavors: original with dried fruit and brown sugar and the later contains sucralose. You can't control the toppings and both are over 250 calories. We don't mind sucralose, but we'd rather add it ourselves to control the amount.

McDonald's: The ingredients past muster. Our concern is that getting just the toppings you want may be a challenge.

Au Bon PainCorner Bakery Both offer a nice oat and choice of toppings. At Au Bon Pain, be careful about sizes. There are 3. Corner Bakery's tasty toppings can quickly add lots of calories.


ENJOY! And please comment about our analysis or share your favorite porridge!

Wordpress category: 



I've carried oatmeal packets

I've carried oatmeal packets on the road for many years. When my metabolism is all confused from travel between continents, I can make a packet of instant oatmeal in my hotel room at 3am and then get back to sleep (yay- comfort food!)

For me packets travel much better than a tub which can get crushed and/or burst open and make a big crazy mess in my bag.

So...thanks for the info, great to know oatmeal is a smart option for so many reasons. I have never tried Natures Path so I am off to the store today to give them a try!

Update: I tried the Natures

Update: I tried the Natures Path Maple Nut flavor and I love it! I always ate the maple and brown sugar from Quaker or generic before since plain was just too plain for me. That product has so much sugar that I could *feel* it in my system - yuck!

The Natures Path is a much better balance of sweetness vs other flavors and feels much better once it's in me too.

Thanks again AMT, you folks rock!

Thanks Kevin for the praise.

Thanks Kevin for the praise. Also, there is another product we've recently discovered from CORE Foods. It's basically oatmeal in solid form. All raw, natural ingredients. Can get a vegan version too. We've sampled all flavors and like all but one.
Whole Foods sells the bars. In the refrigerated section.

The Athletic-Minded Traveler Team

There are some oat product

There are some oat product which seem too much modified and colored. I suggest something that is fresh. Modern-day foods are really a threat to our health

Wagering cannot be superior right here and also the quick setting australian gambling online application may have you mastering texas holdem, twenty-one or the slot machines before you know it.

If you're searching for on the internet playing web site you might want to go and visit many of the available on line betting site ratings and bonus deals available.

Add new comment