Cereal and Why Hot Is Better Than Cold

With the weather cooling down again and fall approaching, it’s time to talk about HOT CEREAL! I should start by saying, I love hot cereal (I ate it almost every weekday for nine years). Furthermore, even as a kid, I hated cold cereal. Well, hated is a strong word—I’ve seen photos of me eating Cheerios—but I never understood the excitement of cold cereal. Eat it for dinner? I don’t even want it for breakfast! Given the option, I would always choose something else.

As an adult, I continued to buy cold cereal thinking there must be something to all this convenience. Plus my experience with hot cereal was limited to oatmeal. What we call oatmeal does a disservice to “real” oatmeal (aka the Scottish kind, otherwise known as, porridge). The oatmeal I’m talking about is cooked (often poorly) rolled oats. Then there’s the truly awful: instant oats.

The Problem with Cold Cereal

My unwillingness to stomach cold cereal on a daily basis was only the start. Other problems made this ultimate convenience food, well, not so convenient:

  1. The “big” box of cereal only lasts a few meals, especially for more than one person.

  2. Buying multiple boxes of cereal every week is expensive. Why waste money on a food you’re not even excited about eating?

  3. Cold cereal is only palatable with milk. I drink milk, but it’s not something I always keep on hand. When I do buy it, I have to make a concerted effort to use it up. Why be forced to keep it around to eat—yes, I’ll say it once again—something I’m not even excited about eating? (Now coffee! That’s something I get excited about. I learned to like coffee without milk just so my coffee habit wasn’t dependent on it. Yes, I have my priorities, people. I’ll admit it. They often involve coffee and alcohol. Oh, and cheese. I also stopped adding sugar to my coffee, but for different reasons. Anyway, that’s for another post…)

Why Hot Cereal is Better

At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Hot cereal? What the hell is she even talking about?” Yes, Scottish oatmeal, as well as rolled oats, and also steel-cut oats. Also, any other mixture of whole grains that go by the names of 5-grain, 7-grain, or 10-grain cereal. Essentially, this stuff. (I rely on Bob’s Red Mill products for many grains and flours. Still, I recommend Bluebird Grain Farms if you can find it. Unfortunately, I don’t find their products as much as I’d like. I did just discover they offer CSA shares though, so stay tuned…)

Now let’s look at the benefits of hot cereal:

  1. Take Cheerios again. An “inexpensive” cereal that was “healthy” even back in the day. Remember when cereals contained half the sugar you should consume in a day? (Oh, wait. Lucky us, that crap’s still available.) The cost is similar: about $4 for a box of Cheerios and $3 for a bag of Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain cereal. The number of servings are also similar; that is, if you believe most people only eat a cup of cold cereal. So for roughly the same cost, you get almost twice the fiber and protein, half the fat and no sodium or added sugars with hot cereal*. It should be obvious that if your cold cereal isn’t as healthy as Cheerios, there’s no contest here.

  2. Hot cereal mixes store well in the fridge or freezer. This means I can eat it once or twice a week without wasting the rest of the package. This also means I can keep more varieties around than would be practical with boxed cereal.

  3. No milk required! Only water is essential. A pinch of salt is recommended. With some frozen or home-canned fruit, this meal only requires pantry staples. Of course, hot cereal is good with milk—or nut milk, or soy milk, or cream—if you want to use it.

Examples of Delicious Hot Cereal

Perhaps what you need is some inspiration?

For summer only:

Scottish Oatmeal Topped With Nectarines and Fresh Mint

Scottish oatmeal topped with nectarines and fresh mint. This meal was one of my Week in Review breakfasts for August 29–September 2, 2016.

Scottish Oatmeal Topped With Nectarines, Plums, Yogurt and Cinnamon

Scottish oatmeal topped with nectarines, plums, yogurt and cinnamon. This meal was one of my Week in Review breakfasts for August 29–September 2, 2016.

These are just two examples. Any summer fruit will work: stone fruits, berries, pears, apples and melons. Toss in whatever fresh fruit is ripe. Another benefit of topping with fruit—you don’t need to add any sweetener.

Moving into fall and winter:

Oatmeal Made From Extra-Thick Rolled Oats and Topped With Fresh Concorde Pears and Cardamom

Oatmeal made from extra-thick rolled oats and topped with fresh Concorde pears and ground cardamom. This meal was one of my Week in Review breakfasts for September 12–16, 2016.

The key to good rolled oats is don’t overstir them because gummy oatmeal is the worst. Since trying out “The Very Best Oatmeal” recipe from Whole-Grain Mornings, I don’t make rolled oats any other way. (I should also mention that I have never bought Marge granola. But I have made granola many times using the method and recipes outlined in this book.) Since I buy non-homogenized whole milk in glass bottles, there’s always milky residue and cream clinging to the sides. I typically make this oatmeal using the milky water from “rinsing” out the bottle. It adds just enough creaminess.

And for any time of year:

Scottish Oatmeal With Sour Cherries, Yogurt, Nuts and Honey

Scottish oatmeal cooked with frozen sour cherries and topped with yogurt, pecans, sliced almonds and honey.

Get endless inspiration from the seasons.

Composite of Hot Cereals Throughout the Year

The variety of hot cereals you can make for breakfast are never-ending. Fresh fruit toppings from summer (top left) to autumn (top right) change to winter staples through spring (center rows) until summer returns (bottom row).

Needless to say, these ideas will also work on plain yogurt, overnight oats, chia pudding… and even cold cereal.

Ready to Give Hot Cereal a Try?

So maybe I haven’t convinced you to give up your cold cereal habit. I hope I at least piqued your curiosity enough to give hot cereal a try. Afterward, if you still have a need for “cold cereal”, well, that’s what granola and muesli are for.

*Here I omitted the fact that cold cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals. In contrast, Bob’s Red Mill products are not. While there may be health benefits of fortified foods, many are highly processed. I prefer to eat a wide variety of whole and minimally–processed foods instead. If still worried about deficiencies, there’s always multivitamins. Also, if you’d like to do your own nutritional figuring, I recommend the SuperTracker. To compare specific products, however, use the nutrition labels on the packages.


Some of the hot cereal examples included in this post were part of my Week in Review meals for August 29–September 2 and September 12–16, 2016. Other examples were from breakfasts I made throughout the year prior to starting this blog.

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