Are overnight oats healthy? A dietitian explains the truth and shares a basic protein overnight oats recipe with 10+ flavour options!
Overnight oats are the classic "healthy breakfast", however lately social media seems to disagree. As a dietitian, I've been getting asked if overnight oats spike your blood sugar, if they're inflammatory, you name it. Anyone who's been following my recipes knows my love for overnight oats, so all this oat misinformation is really frustrating.
Today I'll be debunking some myths about oats, answering common questions, and sharing my basic high protein overnight oat recipe that can be customized to any flavour you like.
Benefits of Overnight Oats
- Minimal prep time. It typically only takes 5 minutes to make them.
- Batch prep breakfast. Overnight oats are meal prep friendly, so you can make several servings and have breakfast ready for the whole week.
- High in fibre. Oats contain a type of soluble fibre called beta glucan, which is super beneficial for heart health. In general, fibre is so important for gut health, satiety and providing lasting energy for our day.
- Customizable. Whether you're gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free or have allergies, there's a substitution that you can make without sacrificing quality. Overnight oats are a recipe that can be tailored to any dietary restriction.
- Lots of flavour options! There's a flavour combo out there for anyone, whether you love classic oats with fruit or more decadent cookie dough overnight oats.
As a dietitian, I just love overnight oats as a quick breakfast option because they only take 5 minutes to prep and provide me with lasting energy that fuels my morning. Adding a source of protein helps create the perfect balanced breakfast.
Oats. Quick, minute or rolled oats will all work. I find quick or minute oats will result in a smoother texture, while rolled oats will be chunkier. Steel cut oats will not work as they need to be cooked.
Chia seeds. These absorb liquid and help thicken the overnight oats. Chia seeds are also a source of healthy fats and high in fibre, with 5g of fibre per tablespoon. Nutritionally, both black and white chia seeds are the same, so either option works.
Protein powder. I love adding protein powder in overnight oats for a balanced breakfast that keeps me fuller for longer. Feel free to use any flavour of protein powder you typically enjoy best. I always recommend looking for a protein free of artificial sweeteners or added sugar- my go-to is Nuzest! If you want to try it, I have a discount code to save you some money.
Cinnamon. For a little flavour! Use your favourite spices, whether that be cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice or nutmeg.
Greek yogurt. This creates the perfect creamy texture. I typically opt for unsweetened 0 or 2% Greek yogurt so I can customize the sweetness myself. If you choose a sweetened or flavoured yogurt, you may not need maple syrup or honey.
Milk. For the most protein, I recommend dairy milk or soy milk for a dairy-free option.
Honey or maple syrup. This is optional, but a great way to add natural sweetness.
Vanilla extract. For a little added flavour. I typically recommend pure vanilla extract in recipes we are not baking, for the most authentic flavor.
The complete ingredient list with measurements can be found in the recipe card below.
In a mason jar or small bowl with a lid, add dry ingredients (oats, chia seeds, protein powder, cinnamon), mix well. Add wet ingredients (Greek yogurt, milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract) mix well.
Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours (ideally overnight). Add any toppings of choice and enjoy!
Substitutions and Variations
To make gluten-free: Use certified gluten-free oats and ensure all other ingredients are certified gluten-free.
To make dairy-free: Use a non-dairy yogurt and milk such as soy milk, almond milk or oat milk. I recommend soy milk for the highest protein choice.
To make vegan: Follow dairy-free swaps and use maple syrup instead of honey. Ensure you choose a plant-based protein powder.
To make nut-free: This recipe is naturally nut-free, however I recommend checking that all your ingredients and toppings are nut-free.
There are endless flavour combinations to try. I've listed some basic additions and toppings to get started with, but don't forget to check out my round-up below!
- Fruit. Add ¼ cup of your favourite fruit either the night before or when you are ready to eat in the morning. Both fresh or frozen fruit work.
- Nut butter. Add 1 tablespoon of nut butter (try to find a runnier peanut butter) with the rest of your ingredients. Think peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc. For nut-free options, I love sunflower seed butter, Granola Butter, tahini and coconut butter.
- Cocoa powder. For the chocolate lovers! Replace the vanilla protein powder with chocolate protein powder and add ½ tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Nuts and seeds. Any slivered or lightly chopped nuts and seeds are great for healthy fats and crunch. Hemp seeds are an excellent seed to add for protein!
- Smooth cottage cheese. This may seem like an oddball ingredient, but my honey sweetened blended cottage cheese is a delicious high protein topping that makes your oats taste like cheesecake.
Any storage container or mason jars will work fine to store the protein overnight oats, but I love using the 10-oz Weck jars. They're the perfect size for one serving and have a seal to prevent leakage.
Overnight oats can stay in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They will continue to thicken and slightly soften the longer they sit, so you can always add a splash of milk when serving until it reaches your desired consistency.
Everyone has different preferences for their overnight oats, so use my recipe as a base to customize.
For thicker oats, reduce the milk by 1 tablespoon and add an additional 1 tablespoon of yogurt. For thinner oats, increase the milk to ¾ cup.
For sweeter oats, use 1 tablespoon of liquid sweetener (ie. honey or maple syrup) or use a flavored Greek yogurt. For lower sugar oats, skip the sweetener and try using a mashed banana instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let me start by explaining that all carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar- this is a normal physiological response and not something to be worried about! So yes, oats will raise your blood sugar. But oats (specifically rolled or steel cut) are actually lower on the glycemic index, meaning they have a smaller effect on blood sugar due to their fibre content. If we want to our stabilize our blood sugar even more, I always recommend adding a source of protein and some healthy fats.
I'm not a weight loss dietitian, but it's important to know that no single food or meal can make or break weight loss. With that being said, high protein and high fibre meals are crucial for sustainable and healthy weight loss. These protein overnight oats definitely check those boxes!
Oats are a great source of fiber-filled carbohydrates, but they still are lower in protein (even with milk and yogurt). Personally, I like to try to front-load my protein so I’m not stuck relying on only lunch and dinner to ensure I am getting enough protein. By adding an extra source of protein, it helps significantly increase the protein so my breakfast will leave me feeling satisfied for a prolonged period of time.
Overnight oats made with high protein milk (soy or cow's milk) and Greek yogurt will have around 9g of protein, which is a great start. Other protein additions include smooth cottage cheese, hemp hearts and peanut butter.
Generally, yes! I would microwave for 30 second increments until warm, adding liquid until needed. Make sure you don't add any toppings, unless you want them warm too.
My Favourite Overnight Oat Recipes
I've rounded up some of my protein overnight oats recipes so you never get bored! There's a flavour combination in here for everyone.
Who doesn't love eating dessert for breakfast? These overnight oat recipes are decadent and dessert-like, but still healthy and not overly sweet for breakfast.
Start your day with fruit for a fresh, light breakfast.
Not a fan of the overnight oat texture? Try blended overnight oats for a smooth, pudding-like texture.
PS. I love seeing my recipes in action! If you decide to make these high protein overnight oats, don't forget to tag me on Instagram- @nourishedbynic or leave a comment below!
High Protein Overnight Oats
- ½ cup oats quick, minute or rolled
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon vanilla protein powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 tablespoon plain 2% Greek yogurt
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a mason jar or small bowl with a lid, add dry ingredients (oats, chia seeds, protein powder, cinnamon), mix well. Add wet ingredients (Greek yogurt, milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract) mix well.
- Cover and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours, ideally overnight. When serving, add your favourite toppings and enjoy!