McDonald’s Oatmeal Throwdown (& Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe)

Golden Arches

Photo from The Consumerist, Flickr Creative Commons

I tend to be too trusting.  I want people to be good, and I want their intentions to be honorable.  But sometimes, companies have ulterior motives, and their goodness isn’t meant to be.  Take the golden arches, for example.  When I read Mark Bittman’s piece in the NY Times, I was disappointed (but not surprised) to discover that the oatmeal being offered at McDonald’s “contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger”.

Really? I mean – it’s OATMEAL.

Here’s what Bittman has to say…

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In typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Don’t dismay.  You can have your oatmeal, and you can eat it too. I’d challenge McD’s to an Oatmeal Throwdown any day!  Simply make a double batch of this tasty goodness and store it in the refrigerator.  In the morning, scoop some into a mug, heat it up and take it “to go.”  Convenient. Delish. And healthy.  Take that, Ronald.


Steel Cut Oatmeal with Dates
By Michelle Stern, What’s Cooking with Kids & The Whole Family Cookbook

This recipe uses steel cut oats, which many cooks are not very familiar with. When you buy oats there are three main types you can choose from. The most common are rolled oats that have been  rolled flat and steamed. Quick oats are also common, and are essentially rolled oats that have been ground up into smaller pieces so they cook a little bit faster. Then there are steel cut oats. These are formed when the inside of the raw oat is sliced by a blade into several small pieces.  They look like grains of brown rice, taste slightly nutty and have a firmer texture than their rolled cousins, which tend to be mushy when cooked. Steel cut oats take longer to prepare than old fashioned or quick oats, but after tasting this recipe, you’ll find it’s worth the wait!

Steel Cut Oatmeal:
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1 cup lowfat milk (soy milk, rice milk or coconut milk are great alternatives)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Date Topping:
1 cup diced dates (about 8 dates)
3 Tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cook the Oatmeal:

  1. Measure the steel cut oats and pour them into a large sauce pot.
  2. Turn on the heat to medium-high, and heat the oats gently until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Boil 3 cups of water and add them to the oats.
  4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the oats for 20 minutes.
  5. Measure the milk and add it to the cooking oatmeal.  Stir to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Prepare the topping:

  1. While the oatmeal is cooking, cut the dates into small pieces, making sure to remove the pits.
  2. In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
  3. Add the diced dates and stir to combine.
  4. Measure salt, cinnamon, honey and vanilla, and add to the cooking dates. Stir to combine.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and allow the flavors to combine for 3 minutes.

To assemble:

  1. Spoon the oatmeal into 4 individual serving bowls.
  2. Top with the sweet date mixture.
  3. The dates will be very hot, so be sure that your kids allow them to cool down a little before digging in!


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16 Responses to McDonald’s Oatmeal Throwdown (& Steel Cut Oatmeal Recipe)

  1. Amanda says:

    Sounds much better to me!! As an oatmeal lover its such a disappointment to see that people will be fooled into thinking they have made a ‘good’ choice.

  2. One of my very favorite breakfasts! It’s disheartening to see the way advertising can fool people into thinking they are making the right nutritional choices for themselves, people really need to be vigilant and read all the labels and scrutinize all the ingredients. It’s sad that eating well when eating out is such a time consuming effort because of misleading advertisement.

  3. Tracy says:

    So disappointing that many will believe them when they say that their oatmeal is “healthy.” Homemade is always better and your recipe looks delicious…I especially love the dates in there!

  4. I cannot believe that – but I can. I really feel bad for folks that think they are making a healthy choice when they order that c***. The sugar alone in that so-called oatmeal would put me in a tailspin. Shame on them. ;(

  5. Yes! That Bittman article was horrifying, wasn’t it? Your recipe looks amazing. Ours is quite plain, but makes the steel cut oats even more hands off.

    The night before, put 4c water in a pot and bring to a boil. Add 1c steel cut oats, turn off heat. Stir and cover. The next morning, add a splash of water and bring to a simmer. The oats will take almost no time to cook.

    I will have to try your awesome flavors…

  6. I remember sampling this oatmeal at BlogHer and sharing my opinon with McD folks that it was way too sweet with too many ingredients. Shocking that they didn’t listen to me!

  7. Did you know this oatmeal was banned in Vermont because there’s a state law that you can’t call something “Maple” unless it has 100% real maple syrup in it? So McD’s decided they’ll make a special version of the oatmeal JUST for Vermont that has real maple syrup in it. Really?! Oi vey.

  8. new follower here via that kid can cook and I am so glad I found your blog.

    • Michelle Stern says:

      Thanks Lindsey – thrilled to have you as a part of our community! Be sure to chime in with questions or topics you’d like to see here.

  9. George Davis says:

    Our family loves this recipe. Thanks for the enlightenment about McDonald’s Oatmeal.

  10. Cindy Hughes says:

    I tried McD’s oatmeal for the first time yesterday and I have to say it tasted really good. So this morning I decided to try and find their recipe here online and stumbled across this great blog. Sure am glad I did and now I’m excited to try the recipe listed here and not go back to McD’s! Educating the public is soooo important!

  11. John says:

    Oh, how folks love to trash McDonalds, and almost every other successful company! Nobody is better than McD’s at accurately publishing everything that is contained in their products. If you eliminate the brown sugar from your order, you will have a meal that is VERY reasonable nutritionally! As for the cost, McD’s, at 1.99 in my area is far more reasonable than the totally bland oatmeal served in table service restaurants. At some point, people need to realize, understand, and accept that it is up to the individual to decided what it ingest. Anybody want to compare the health of the oatmeal vs an Egg McMuffin or a Big Breakfast?

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