This meal is a personal creation of mine and it is has everything needed for a comprehensive meal. It contains complete protein, healthy Omega-3 fat, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. It only has 4 ingredients, requires almost no preparation or cooking, and is very healthy. It is also inexpensive and is great for anyone trying to eat healthy on a budget. It would typically be considered a breakfast meal, but I eat it any time of the day.
The 4 ingredients that make up this meal are oats, flax seeds, protein powder, and water, but you can add extra ingredients to suit your own taste and needs. The specific ingredients I use are plain oats (purchased in bulk – usually organic), brown flax seeds (purchased in bulk – organic), Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein (usually vanilla or chocolate, but there are many other flavors and brands available), and plain filtered water.
This may not sound very good and it likely does not taste as good as sugary cereal, but most people tell me it tastes better than expected. The interesting thing is the ingredients mixed together taste better than they do separately, at least in my opinion. The oats by themselves do not have much flavor and some people do not like the texture of flax seeds, but these problems are solved when everything is mixed together. Extra taste is added from the protein powder, and the oats cover up the texture of the flax.
Personally I think it tastes pretty good as is, although it seemed to get better the more I ate it. If you do not like the taste, there are some things you can do to improve it, such as adding cinnamon, stevia, or other healthy flavorings. However, the real value of this meal is not how well it tastes, but rather the incredible combination of nutrition, convenience, customization, and cost. To give you a better idea of why I like this meal so much, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients.
The primary ingredient in terms of volume is oats. Oats are one of the healthiest high-carbohydrate foods around, because the carbs are complex and slowly absorbed by your body. This means they provide sustained energy and do not create a large increase in insulin, so the calories will be less likely to be stored as fat.
In addition, oats have a significant amount of fiber and they contain both the soluble and insoluble types of fiber. Most foods only contain insoluble fiber and while both types are healthy, soluble fiber is the one that is associated with lowering cholesterol levels.
The next ingredient, flax seeds, is a great food because it combines two things people usually don’t get enough of: healthy fat and fiber. Flax seeds have high levels of Omega-3 oils, which are good for your heart, skin, and practically every other part if your body. For people who don’t eat fish, flax is the next best source of these hard to get healthy fats.
The one negative thing about flax seeds is they require a little preparation to get the maximal benefit. If you swallow flax seeds whole, your body does not get the nutrients, so the shell needs to be cracked before you swallow them. Some people do this by chewing them, which is fine, but they tend to get stuck in your teeth and it is hard to break every little seed.
A better solution is to pick up a small inexpensive coffee grinder and turn them into more of a powder. I usually grind about a weeks worth at a time and keep it in the refrigerator. Breaking the shell causes them to degrade faster, but keeping them cold minimizes the degradation. They should no go bad too quickly, but if they start smelling bad, it means the fat is spoiling, just like when fish gets a fishy smell.
The next ingredient is protein powder and this is a little more complicated. There are so many protein powders available and everyone seems to have a different favorite brand or flavor. I do not recommend having protein powder for every meal, but using it once or twice a day with meals that do not otherwise have a significant amount of protein can be helpful.
As far as this meal is concerned, protein powder works great because it adds flavor and most powders mix easily with the other ingredients. The important thing is to use a protein powder and not a meal replacement powder (MRP). MRPs have more carbs and usually need a shaker or blender to mix properly. The other great thing about protein powders is when you compare them gram for gram to other high protein foods, they are much less expensive.
The final ingredient is water and this is somewhat of a personal choice. I use water over milk for a few reasons, but mainly because milk wreaks havoc on my intestinal system and it doesn’t add much additional health benefit to the meal. For me the taste of water with protein powder is good enough, but some people say milk makes it taste better. You can certainly substitute milk for water, but it will alter the nutritional content of the meal.
Speaking of nutritional content, here is a nutritional breakdown of what one serving of this meal looks like:
Oats (organic): ½ cup dry uncooked = 150 calories – 27g carbohydrate (4g fiber), 3g fat, and 5g protein
Macronutrient percentage breakdown: 72% carbohydrate, 16% fat, 12% protein
Cost for this serving of organic oats purchased in bulk: about 15 cents
Flax (organic): 1 tablespoon (ground) = 37 calories – 2 g carbohydrate (mostly fiber), 3g fat (mostly Omega-3), 1g protein
Macronutrient percentage breakdown: 22% carbohydrate, 66% fat, 12% protein
Cost for this serving of organic brown flax seeds purchased in bulk: about 5 cents
Protein Powder: 1 scoop (Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein) = 120 calories – 3g carbohydrate, 1g fat, and 24g protein
Macronutrient percentage breakdown: 10% carbohydrate, 9% fat, 81% protein
Cost for this serving of protein (on sale): about 50 cents
Meal Total: 307 calories, 32g carbohydrate (6g fiber), 7g fat, 30g protein
Macronutrient percentage breakdown (approximate): 40% carbohydrate, 20% fat (mostly healthy fats), 40% protein
Total cost for this serving: about 70 cents
Looking at these numbers, it is clear that this is a very well-balanced and nutritious meal that provides many things missing from the average American diet (fiber, healthy fats, etc.). The other thing that really stands out is the total cost of this meal. At around 70 cents, it would be difficult to find a healthier meal for the price, especially considering both the oats and flax seeds are organic.
The other great thing about this meal is that it is completely customizable and can easily be modified to meet your specific calorie or macronutrient (carbohydrate, fat, protein) requirements. Since each ingredient is primarily made up of a single macronutrient, if you want more or less of something, just increase or decrease the amount of the corresponding item.
For example, if you want fewer carbohydrates you can decrease the amount of oats and if you want more protein or healthy fat, you can increase the amount of protein powder and flax respectively. This way you can easily change the meal to work with your specific nutritional program or diet.
It is also simple to change the overall size of the meal, since each ingredient is easily measured. Oats can be measured with a measuring cup, flax seeds with a tablespoon, and protein powder usually comes with a scoop showing a mark for a half serving and the whole scoop is a full serving. Therefore, regardless of how many calories you want in a particular meal, you can easily scale this recipe to increase or decrease the overall calories.
Finally, I keep this meal very simple by just mixing everything together and eating it cold, but you can cook the oats if you prefer. However, you should not cook the protein or flax, because heat degrades them and they will lose a significant amount of their nutritional value. If you heat up the oats, the best thing to do is let them cool down a little before mixing in the other ingredients. This minimizes the negative effects to the flax and protein.
1. Nutritional data provided by http://nutritiondata.self.com/
14 years of experience and education in health and fitness