Makeover: “Camping” Oatmeal

My husband grew up calling oatmeal that was pre-flavored in little packets “camping oatmeal.”  I’m not sure if it was a special treat that they only got to eat when camping, or if it was just convenience for camping.

My kids love camping oatmeal.  They especially love the little packets that have dinosaur eggs in them.   Have you tried this flavor?  On the Quaker website, it notes “Dinosaurs may be extinct, but warm up Quaker® Dinosaur Eggs® and fun dinosaur shaped pieces appear right before your eyes! It’s a morning adventure filled with the sweet flavor of brown sugar and 100% whole grain Quaker® oats.”  In the oatmeal are little white “eggs” that dissolve and have small crunchy-sugary-brightly colored dinosaurs within.  Spoiler alert:  dissolving sugar eggs with colorful crunchy dinosaurs do not occur in nature. However, for this “makeover” I wanted to compare apples to apples.  Literally.  Quaker Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal to my homemade versions.

The idea of pre-flavored oatmeal at home isn’t a new one.  Searching for the phrase “make oatmeal packets at home” turns up a variety of  ideas and recipes to try.  The goal of my makeover was to see if I could meet these standards:

  1. move the kids towards whole foods and away from processed foods
  2. lower cost than commercial options
  3. convenient and easy

So let’s see how I did.

Camping Oatmeal: Store vs. Home

 Quaker Instant Oatmeal: Apples and CinnamonDocsKitchen Version: Apples and CinnamonDocsKitchen Version: PB2 and Chocolate ChipDocsKitchen Version: "Mom's Oatmeal"
1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp (~6 gm) freeze dried apples
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
2 tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter
2 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips*
1 cup Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp (~6 gm) freeze dried apples
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp whole chia seeds
1 tbsp flax meal
2 tbsp raisins
Sugars 36g (3 packets)32g
(2g oats)
(5g apples)
(25g brown sugar)
(2g oats)
(1g PB2)
(16g chocolate chips)
(2g oats)
(5g apples)
(12.5g brown sugar)
(14g raisins)
Fiber12g (3 packets)9.25g
(8g oats)
(1.25g apples)
(4g oats)
(2g PB2)
(8g oats)
(1.25g apples)
(10g chia)
(2g flax)
(2g raisins)
Protein12g (3 packets)10g15g
(10g oats)
(5g PB2)
10g (oats)
2g (chia)
1.5g (flax)
(box of 10=$2.50)
($0.18 oats)
($0.12 cinnamon)
($1.06 apples)
($0.04 brown sugar)
($0.18 oats)
($0.41 PB2)
($0.15 choc chips)
($0.18 oats)
($0.12 cinnamon)
($1.06 apples)
($0.02 brown sugar)
($0.25 chia seeds)
($0.04 flax meal)
($0.11 raisins)

All of this comparison was REALLY time consuming, but also very informative.  Here’s my takeaway points:

  • I compared 3 packets of instant oatmeal to the large-portioned mixes I made, because this reflects what my kiddos (esp. the oldest) actually eat.  I’d always thought that I must be spending a ton of $$ since they went through it so quickly, but it turns out that freeze dried apples are really expensive.  If this was a staple in your home, it would make sense to look for deals on this ingredient.  Or alternatively, do what I usually do … cut up about 1/2 of an actual apple and toss it on top to cook along with your oatmeal.  I usually slice up the rest of the apple and put it out on the table for kiddos to much some whole fruit along with whatever else they are having.
  • Oats have a fair amount of protein.  I created the PB2 and chocolate chip flavor in part to make it fun for the kids (what kid is going to turn down chocolate chips for breakfast?) and in part to add some protein.  Turns out the oats are a pretty good protein source all on their own.  They absolutely love this flavor, though, so I’m looking forward to experimenting with cacao nibs instead of chocolate chips.
  • Chia seeds and Flax meal really are good additional whole food ingredients to add.  And guess what?  All of the oatmeal packs I made have been eaten up by kiddos, and they ate up the “mom’s” packets too, with no complaints about flax and chia or funny textures.
  • When we talk about the evils of “added sugars” in our foods, it applies to how we cook at home, too.  I thought I was being only moderately generous with the amount of brown sugar (for kid appeal), but it really was a lot of added sugar.  I’ll be ratcheting that down with the next batch (but slowly, since I’m sneaky and I don’t want them to notice).
  • Having pre-made oatmeal packets was super convenient.  The kids gobbled them down in a few days, and it was lovely to just toss the ingredients in a bowl, add water and microwave them.  Sure, it’s not hard to pull out brown sugar and raisins and cinnamon and slice an apple each morning … but it was definitely easier to have all of those steps done ahead of time. 
  • The Quaker instant oatmeal packets had a variety of funny sounding ingredients, but many of these were added vitamins.  The benefit of supplemental vitamins in our foods may be questionable.  I would vastly prefer my family obtain their vitamins through eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes rather than supplements.  I have no axe to grind with that friendly looking Quaker oatmeal guy, though.  The oats I used for my packets were the Quaker 100% whole grain old fashioned variety, and I love the ingredient list for these:  Whole Grain Rolled Oats.  That’s it.

With all of this in mind, here’s what I’d recommend as my “ideal” oatmeal:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp flax meal
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2-4 tbsp raisins or other dried fruit (without added sugars)
  • limit any additional brown sugar or other sweeteners to 1-2 tsp

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One thought on “Makeover: “Camping” Oatmeal

  1. Seeing your flax/chia ingredients, Barlean’s makes a digestive blend that I think would be a great addition all in one bag. (Flax chia coconut pumpkin quinoa). I was using it in smoothies. It also has cinnamon nutmeg ginger allspice and clove. Could be a fall version? All organic a d 0 sugars.

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