Porridge Life Lessons: What I Learned In A Year Of Eating Oats

Porridge. In January 2013 I ate porridge every morning for breakfast. It started as a holiday thing. I loved it so much that I decided to eat it for breakfast forever. In 2013 I estimate that, out of 365 days of the year, I didn’t eat porridge roughly 20 days. That’s a fairly good innings.

I learned some things along the way.

Today is World Porridge Day; an international appreciation of porridge that also raises funds for starving children in developing countries via the charity Mary’s Meals. To mark the occasion, we’re revisiting Mark’s impassioned porridge post from 2014. Enjoy.

Lesson 1: Eating A Large Low GI Breakfast Is A Good Thing…

It seems obvious, but so many people seem to ignore this wisdom. They skip breakfast, they snack more. They eat a big massive, carby lunch…

Getting into the habit of eating a big bowl of porridge every morning is a powerful act. It says, ‘hell no I won’t snack on bullshit, I’ll be too full of delicious oats to even think about muffins and banana bread. This porridge is glued to my guts and it shall sustain me until lunchtime and beyond.’

Word for word, that is precisely what you will say. Maybe out loud.

I’m fairly conscious about what I put into my body. I partake in a type of exercise (climbing) where strength/weight ratio is paramount, so I tend to be very aware of portion control. But where breakfast (and porridge) is concerned I throw caution to the wind. Eating more porridge for breakfast has literally changed my entire set of eating habits for the better.

I eat massive amounts of porridge for breakfast, a decent amount of salad/chicken for lunch, and something light for dinner. I can only do this because porridge is so goddamn filling and it allows you to remain full for hours on end. This helps keep me lean. Eating more for breakfast makes it easier to avoid carbs in the evening, and will curtail your need to snack throughout the day.

Lesson 2: Porridge Is What You Make Of It. Literally.

The best thing about porridge is its flexibility. I tend to keep it simple and cook it with water. Typically I add two tablespoons of vanilla protein powder, chia seeds, honey and a splash of milk before serving – but the possibilities are almost endless. My wife puts just about every berry known to man into hers. Along with brown sugar, powdered milk and a metric buttload of walnuts. I have a female friend who stirs in some egg whites to up her protein intake. Seriously.

The point is: porridge can be catered for your own very specific tastes. I have this fruity idea that protein in the morning helps boost my metabolism so I add protein, but that’s just my own personal quirk. I like chia seeds because they’re rich in just about every goddamn thing you should be putting into your body, so I add a healthy dose of that just for kicks.

Your porridge, your rules.

Lesson 3: Porridge Can Be Adapted To Your Lifestyle

Porridge is flexible in terms of what you eat it with and how it tastes, but it’s also a malleable beast when it comes to wrapping its sploogy tendrils around your hectic lifestyle. Oats also allow for something a little more fancy if that suits you.

Quick Oats can be prepared wherever a Microwave exists. Steel Cut oats take roughly an hour to prepare properly, but are worth the wait for connoisseurs. Then there’s everything in between: traditional oats, oats soaked overnight. Do what you will. There are no rules where porridge is concerned. Let your imagination gang free.

But a quick note: never, ever bother with those infernal microwave specific sachets found in supermarkets. Refined to an inch of their nutritional life, they taste bad, they have stupid sugary flavours and they just plain suck. In addition you have absolutely no control of your own portion size. One sachet is too little, two tends to be too much. It’s expensive and completely pointless. Quick Oats can be cooked just as easily in a microwave and they are far, far superior both in terms of taste, cost and nutrition.

In short: you may think you are too busy for porridge. You aren’t.

During the week I tend to feast on Quick Oats early in the morning, but on the weekends I wake up early and make myself a nice, super indulgent pot of steel cut oats fried in butter and cooked slowly over an hour with water and milk.

Speaking of which…

Lesson 4: Everyone Needs Steel Cut Oats In Their Life

If you want to get serious about porridge, you need to start thinking about how you are going to integrate steel cut oats into your life.

Porridge of the steel cut variety: it’s like the Don Bradman of porridge. It’s the Anderson Silva of oats. It’s Messi, Pele, and Maradona all rolled into one, single groat, cut finely into one deliciously impenetrable foodstuff. This, ladies and gentlemen, is porridge at its finest.

It’s porridge with texture. It’s porridge at its most nutritious. It’s porridge for people who don’t like porridge. It’s porridge for people who love porridge.

But there is a catch. Steel cut oats are notoriously difficult to prepare. They take a far longer amount of time than your regular rolled oats. We’re talking at least 45 minutes here — one cup of oats to four cups of water/milk/mixture of water and milk. It’s a helluva simmer but I believe it’s worth the hassle.

And here’s the best part: steel cut oats, unlike any other oat, can be kept in the fridge for up to a week. Steel cut oats have that ‘soup’ thing going: they actually taste better a couple of days after they’ve been cooked. It gets creamier the longer you leave it. Sometimes I’ll cook myself a massive batch and use it for breakfast throughout the week instead of Quick Oats. Yum.

Finding steel cut oats can be difficult. You can order them online, but I’ve also spotted them in the health/import section of some Coles supermarkets. Perhaps your most reliable source of steel is the GNC health stores dotted throughout Australia.

Lesson 5: Porridge Isn’t Just Functional, It’s Delicious

I started eating porridge mainly to curb my snacking. Then I ate it because it was helping me eat the right amount of food at the correct time. Eventually it worked well as a sweet delivery method for my morning protein shot!

But I try never to forget that porridge can be as damn delicious as any breakfast out there. Porridge is personal, you probably couldn’t care less about how I eat it but, since I’ve gone on about it for the better part of a thousand words, I might as well share my favourite recipe.

Get yourself a saucepan. Take one cup of steel cut oats and lightly fry it in some unsalted butter for two or three minutes. Then add three cups of water. Bring to the boil and cover it with a lid. Let it simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes, taking the lid off to lightly stir every 15 minutes or so.

Then add a pinch of salt and stir in a final cup of full fat milk. Stir it all in together and let it simmer on a medium heat — with the lid off this time – for about 15 minutes.

It’s the best porridge you’ll ever eat. Good luck everyone!

Let’s talk breakfast! Any other porridge lovers here? Any (gasp) porridge haters? Let us know in the comments below, and let us know what you do with your oats in the morning!

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