The Best Instant Oatmeal At The Grocery Store, According To Nutritionists

This "healthy" breakfast staple can be loaded with sugar. Here are the brands experts trust.
OatmealStories via Getty Images

Hearty, cozy and endlessly customizable, oatmeal is a rightfully popular breakfast option for chilly winter mornings. Oatmeal’s high levels of fiber aid digestion and can help reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, making this dish a popular pick for health-conscious eaters.

But making oatmeal from scratch can prove time-consuming, which is challenging when you need to hurry to the office or quickly get the kids to school. Instant oatmeal, which comes together with only a bit of hot water or milk and a quick stir (and usually a microwave), saves a great deal of time. Also, because it’s usually packaged in cups or packets, instant oatmeal can travel with you to work and live in your desk drawer until you need it.

But does instant oatmeal’s convenience translate to a nutritious and satisfying meal? Some brands use high quantities of sugar to make their instant oatmeal more “appealing,” which in turn compromises its nutrition. Luckily, we’ve collected recommendations from nutritionists and dietitians for these six low-sugar and high-flavor instant oatmeals currently available at grocery stores.

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Bob’s Red Mill Instant Oatmeal
A popular recommendation among our surveyed dietitians and nutritionists is Bob’s Red Mill Instant Oatmeal. “I love to choose Bob’s Red Mill Instant Oatmeal Packets. With a blend of gluten-free rolled oats and heart-healthy flaxseed, these packets contain real ingredients that you can feel good about eating. They take only a minute to make and contain little to no added sugars, making them a healthy breakfast choice for a busy schedule,” said Mackenzie Burgess, a registered dietitian nutritionist and recipe developer of Cheerful Choices.

While all oats are gluten-free by nature, Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal undergoes rigorous annual reviews from the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, which involves inspections of the processing plant and testing of the raw oats and of each packaged product (like the instant oatmeal packets) to ensure that no gluten finds its way into the oatmeal on grocery store shelves.

Bob’s Red Mill Instant Oatmeal comes in both packets and cups, making it highly portable and easy to prepare. It’s available in a variety of flavors, but Rachel Fine, a registered dietitian and the owner of To the Pointe Nutrition counseling services in New York City, especially likes the plain version, telling us, “The standard flavor is a great source of soluble fiber, mainly coming from whole-grain rolled oats and flaxseed. Flax is also a rich source of lignans, a powerful phytochemical with anti-oxidative characteristics. Flax also contains the highest percentage of omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) per serving.” The omega-3s promote heart health and brain health, and if you’d like to amp up this instant oatmeal’s flavor and texture, Fine suggests pairing it with your favorite milk and a spoonful of nut butter.
Kodiak Cakes Carb-Conscious Instant Oatmeal
This is a low-sugar and high-fiber product that earned accolades from several of our experts, with special attention going to the Maple Almond packets.

“I recommend Kodiak’s Carb-Conscious Maple Almond Oatmeal because it has added protein and is high in fiber,” explained Katie Hlucny, a clinical registered dietitian at Sanford Health Clinic in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “Protein and fiber help avoid blood sugar spikes and help you feel full. This instant oatmeal is low in added sugars but still has a good flavor. Additionally, it has flaxseeds, which provide heart healthy fats and add fiber.”

Justine Chan, a registered dietitian and the founder of Your Diabetes Dietitian, also chose Kodiak Cakes Carb-Conscious Oatmeal as her top instant oatmeal, and she offered additional details on this oatmeal’s sugar and protein content: “Flavored instant oatmeal varieties typically contain 10 to 15 grams of added sugar. This particular brand and flavor has only 2 grams of added sugars.” She also noted that it contains three times the protein as similar products, which can be more satisfying in the long run, and contains more than double the fiber compared to your standard instant oatmeal.”
Purely Elizabeth Superfood Oatmeal Cups
“Purely Elizabeth makes some of my favorite granola, and their oats are also a staple in my kitchen,” said Maddie Pasquariello, a Brooklyn-based registered dietitian and the founder of Nutrition With Maddie. She especially likes the Superfood Oatmeal Cups from Purely Elizabeth because they’re “ideal for grab and go or travel [and they’re] quick-cooking. The oatmeal cups are made with organic oats, are all gluten-free, and some of the options are also USDA-certified organic. My favorite here is their Vanilla Pecan flavor, which contains zero refined sugars. Their quick-cooking oats can be easily whipped up overnight if you prefer to eat them chilled, or in the microwave (cooking up in just 60-90 seconds).”
Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal
For a 100% organic instant oatmeal with absolutely no added sugars, seek out Simple Truth Organic Instant Oatmeal in the Original (“plain”) flavor. “These oats contain one ingredient: organic oats,” said Amanda Wahlstedt, a New York City-based registered dietitian and the founder of Roots to Leaves, a women's dietetic practice. She added that it’s free of any added sugars and sweeteners, it’s organic, and has been verified by the Environmental Working Group to be free of glyphosate residue, a common pesticide used on oats and found in oat products. Wahlstedt adds texture and flavor to these oats by adding chopped nuts or seeds, like hemp or pumpkin, for a boost of protein and fat, and some raspberries or medjool dates for natural sweetness.
Quaker Protein Instant Oatmeal
Quaker is a long-trusted brand for rolled oats and steel-cut oats, so it makes sense that the company would also produce an excellent instant oatmeal. Brenda Peralta, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for, told us that “this instant oat product from Quaker is formulated to be higher in protein, with 10 grams of protein per serving. The protein content of this oatmeal is higher due to the addition of milk protein concentrate (MPC) and soy protein isolate.” She explained that MPC and soy protein isolate both have good amino acid profiles, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids that the body needs. This is important because the body cannot produce essential amino acids on its own, so they must be obtained from the diet. “Both MPC and soy protein isolate are highly digestible, meaning they are easily absorbed and utilized by the body,” she said. “This can make them a good option for people who have difficulty digesting other protein sources.”
Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal
Trader Joe’s can always be counted on for healthy, tasty and affordable eats, and the company's Unsweetened Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal more than keeps up with that tradition. “It is a blend of oats, quinoa, amaranth, flax and chia seeds, making it more nutritious than traditional instant oatmeal,” said Suzanne Fisher, a registered dietitian and the founder of Women’s Cycling Nutrition. “This instant oatmeal is a good source of protein (5 grams) and fiber (4 grams) without added sugars. Because it is unsweetened, it is a blank slate; create your flavor by adding your favorite fresh or frozen fruit,” she added. The oatmeal can be cooked and ready for your toppings of choice in just 90 seconds.

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