Sunday, May 19, 2013

Creamy, High-Protein Oatmeal

It turns out I'm genetically screwed. Just my luck.

I went in to my doctor for a general check-up in March and had a cholesterol test done (first one since I've lost all my weight). I was actually excited to see the results, as my cholesterol had been high the last time I had it checked (10 years ago, when I was pretty heavy). When the nurse called with the results, I was shocked: 240. She did say that my triglycerides were pretty low, and my HDL was really good (probably a result of my low-carb/high exercise diet). But my LDL was a bit high, so my overall number was too high.  She said we would re-check in 6 months, after I modified my diet and tried to exercise regularly. I laughed (assuming she hadn't read my chart), and told her I run 3x a week and do yoga 2-5x a week; I eat chicken, fish, and veggies all the time. What more can I do?

I realize that this is likely due to my genetics. My dad has battled his cholesterol through most of his adulthood, and has had some heart issues in the last 10 years. My grandfather (dad's dad) died of a heart attack at 36 years old.

So, remember when I posted a while back about the quick Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwich I usually make for my breakfasts? Well, after examining what I've been eating, that's the only meal I figured I could really make changes to. I mean, research has shown that eggs aren't as bad for you as people used to say, and the cholesterol in them is not unhealthy. However, given my cholesterol level and my inability to find anywhere else in my diet to cut fat and replace it with more cholesterol-reducing fiber (without greatly increasing my carb intake), I decided to avoid the egg sandwiches for a while.

Enter oatmeal. I like oatmeal (though I've mostly eaten the instant packets with lots of added sugar...), and it's really not very high on the glycemic index so it's a pretty "safe" food for me to eat. But I also knew I needed protein in the mornings, and I needed to figure out a way to combine oatmeal with protein without making it gross. I also didn't want to depend upon protein powders, as I truly try to eat as much "real" food as possible, and avoid supplements/replacements unless absolutely necessary.

I was still terrified about gaining weight from adding that much carbohydrate to my diet.

So I experimented over spring break with a few oatmeal and egg-white recipes I found. And I found them to be delicious. I got the original idea/recipe from Can You Stay For Dinner? and I tried a few modifications to reduce the total calories, create the perfect serving size for me, get the right protein/carb ratio, add fiber (blackberries and raspberries have some of the highest fiber of most fruit), and have it be the right texture and flavor.

I got it figured out-- a large portion of creamy, porridge-like oatmeal with a slightly sweet flavor and the tartness of a few berries--with no eggy taste. :)  And I have been eating it every morning, ever since. Yum. I've also found that it helps keep me feeling full longer, so I'm not a starving grump by the time my lunch duty (before I eat) rolls around at school. The best part? No weight gain. By balancing the carb/protein/fiber ratio and keeping the total number of calories down, I've managed to add this to my diet without affecting my weight maintenance.

Try it!

Creamy, High-Protein Oatmeal (modified from The Best 300-Calorie Oatmeal You'll Ever Have)

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup water
10 tbsp liquid egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 packets Stevia in the Raw (or other stevia product)
4-5 blackberries
4-5 raspberries 
*Can substitute any other fruit, really, but these berries have some of the highest fiber amounts, so that's what I went with.

1) Place water and oatmeal in a pot on medium heat for approximately 4 minutes.
2) Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy (approx 15-45 seconds).
3) Add vanilla, stevia, and egg white to oatmeal, stirring to mix well. Reduce heat to med-low. Continue to cook approx 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until oatmeal is fluffy and creamy.
4) Remove from heat. Add berries and stir one more time. Allow to sit 2-4 minutes
5) Serve and enjoy!

I think I figured that this oatmeal recipe has about 256 calories, including 7g of fiber and 17g of protein.  If you prefer steel-cut oats (which are delicious and nutty with a crunchier texture) be aware that they do have more calories per serving.

I eat my oatmeal with a Dannon Light & Fit Greek yogurt (80 calories) with about 1 tablespoon of milled chia seeds mixed in (great for Omega 3s and extra fiber!).

Hopefully, adding cholesterol-reducing, high-fiber foods and additional heart-healthy fats (Omega 3s via chia seeds and almonds) will help reduce my cholesterol naturally.