Overnight No-Cook Refrigerator Oatmeal

Oatmeal is one of the heart-healthiest ways to start your day, but I’ve failed for years to make it my go-to breakfast because even when it’s hot, oatmeal just leaves me cold.

Until now.

Anna Stockwell’s excellent post on epicurious.com’s, How To Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe (aka in a jar) inspired me to try oatmeal again. Her recipe involved NO cooking, no cleaning, cute mason jars, and she said the healthy chia seeds lend it a tapioca-like texture.

Intriguing.

Especially the chia seeds. First of all, I found it fascinating that they change texture; this I had to see. More importantly, chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. For years I’ve justified (not accurately, I’m sure) my bagel with lox habit with the fact that high-sodium lox delivers heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Interestingly, chia seeds deliver omega-3s too, albeit a different kind which are not as effective as fish. But still—I eat a lot of fish so the fact that this wonder oatmeal is made with rolled oats, chia seeds AND is easy to make was enough for me to give it a try.

So out I went to purchase mason jars (I had no idea easy-to-use, adorable ‘wide mouth’ mason jars with measuring lines existed! Note: picture links to Amazon; I bought mine at Walmart.) I followed Ms. Stockwell’s ‘no-recipe’ exactly the first time, then ditched measuring (and the unnecessary salt and sugar) and have now had oatmeal for breakfast 15 days in a row—and I even took one on the train to have for breakfast on the go.

Nutritionally, the oatmeal is FAR healthier than the whole wheat bagel with a smidge of whipped cream cheese and 1/2 ounce of lox. It beats my old standby bagel and lox in every category but two: the oatmeal is a smidge higher in calories and the omega 3s from the chia seeds are not the cholesterol-lowering DHA sort. But it’s healthier in every other (read important) way.

This easy, delicious no-cook oatmeal, made with skim milk, chia seeds and rolled oats delivers 8 fewer grams of fat, 75% less salt (!), nearly 3x the cholesterol-lowering fiber(!) and more vitamins, calcium and potassium than my whole wheat half-bagel with lox:

In fact, it’s SO much healthier that even I just can’t justify going back to my bagel and lox. Plus I actually like this oatmeal.

Of course, there are lots of other ways to eat heart-healthy oatmeal. My post, The Triple Threat Oatmeal Breakfast, even features a crock pot recipe—which is good, but proved too much planning and cleaning for me. Plus, IMHO this refrigerated version is both tastier and easier.

I hope you give this ‘recipe’ a try. As I happen to love cinnamon that’s my flavoring of choice, but feel free to follow your heart (bad pun intended) or Ms. Stockwell’s suggestions for changing up the flavor profiles.

No Cook Single-Serve Refrigerator Oatmeal
Prep Time
1 min
Total Time
1 min
 

Take 1 minute to mix ingredients in a 'jar' and refrigerate overnight for a delicious high-fiber start to the day. Chia seeds add both texture and protein.

Servings: 1 person
Calories: 204 kcal
Author: Anna Stockwell recipe, adapted by Karen Swanson
Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup Skim Milk or Almond Milk
  • 1 tbsp Chia Seeds
  • 1 pinch Cinnamon (optional, but I use a lot)
  • 1 pinch Salt (optional, I do NOT use)
  • 1 pinch Sugar (optional, I do NOT use)
  • 1 bunch apples and/or almonds, chopped (optional, I'm too lazy to add)
Instructions
  1. In an 8-ounce mason jar (or anything with a lid), add oats, milk and chia seeds and stir.

  2. Add cinnamon and (optional salt and sugar.)  Stir and cap with lid. In fact, stirring isn't even really necessary.

  3. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

  4. To serve, either stir and eat cold out of the jar (like muesli) or pour into bowl, stir well, and microwave 1-2 minutes until hot. Optionally top with fruit and/or almonds for extra crunch and cholesterol-lowering punch.

Recipe Notes
  • Read Anna Stockwell's excellent How to Make Overnight Oats Without a Recipe post for alternate ingredient ideas and important adjustments to make if you don't use Chia Seeds.
  • Nutritional Value calculated using MyFitnessPal, using skim milk and no salt or sugar.
Nutrition Facts
No Cook Single-Serve Refrigerator Oatmeal
Amount Per Serving (1 bowl)
Calories 204 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Polyunsaturated Fat 3g
Cholesterol 3mg 1%
Sodium 56mg 2%
Potassium 404mg 12%
Total Carbohydrates 31g 10%
Dietary Fiber 11g 44%
Sugars 6g
Protein 10g 20%
Vitamin A 5%
Vitamin C 2%
Calcium 28%
Iron 13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

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Book Available Today!

Today is publication day!

My new book, The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health, is now available in bookstores!

Callisto Media hired me to write about cholesterol based on this blog: I wrote all the cholesterol content (including what cholesterol is, why it’s a problem, and how to lower it with diet and exercise) and the recipes were written by a cardiac dietician. What’s it about, exactly? Well, here’s the description included on the Barnes & Noble and Amazon sites:

“With an easy-to-follow 4-week program, this low cholesterol cookbook will help you lower cholesterol naturally, with food and exercise. This low cholesterol cookbook delivers comprehensive recipes and a proactive meal plan to help you eliminate bad fats without losing the flavors your heart loves.

Go beyond your basic low cholesterol cookbook with The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan. Accessible and up-to-date, this low cholesterol cookbook offers:

  • A 4-Week Meal Plan getting you started on the right path to lower cholesterol
  • 120 Recipes featuring heart-healthy versions of your favorite meals, from Banana-Oat Pancakes to Honey Mustard Chicken and Flourless Chocolate Cookies
  • 30 minutes or less of preparation per recipe

This low cholesterol cookbook includes tips for shopping and creating food lists, plus suggestions for exercise and more. Start your heart-healthy lifestyle with the proactive diet and meal plan from The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan.”

So if you are interested in easy to understand information about cholesterol along with a plan and recipes to help you lower it naturally — please give my book a whirl!

Many thanks to those who have already purchased.  And if you haven’t yet purchased, it’s now available nationwide.You can find it with cookbooks at Barnes & Noble:

 

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Are You Inadvertently Raising Your Heart Disease Risk?

Many people know that eating a lot/too much salt increases blood pressure and heart disease risk. I never paid much attention to this warning because I don’t over-salt my food and don’t even care for salty snacks.

I thought I was in the clear.

I was wrong.

It was while writing my new book, The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health, that I found I was inadvertently increasing my heart disease risk with salt. Millions of Americans (including me) unintentionally eat far too much salt because of prepared/processed food and restaurants. Here’s what I learned and included in my book:

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that “More than 75 percent of sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods—not the salt shaker.” This is vital, because too much salt leads to high blood pressure, and having both high blood pressure and high cholesterol significantly increases heart disease risk. The AHA recommends the following amounts: No more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day for most adults. Ideally, no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.”

After a lot of research, I found that almost any meal you eat out will nearly guarantee you’ll go over 2,300 mg of salt in a day.

Sheesh.

The CDC posted this infographic highlighting the highest-salt foods in restaurants (in my book I include a list of what to order/not order at popular chain restaurants). The CDC advises both cooking at home more often and asking about sodium when eating out. While the ranges on the “Top 6” of this chart vary widely, it’s a safe bet to assume salt levels for most restaurant food you’ll encounter will be at the middle or high end, so it’s important to ask about salt in the preparation.
Reducing Sodium: From Menu to Mouth. Excess sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a major contributor to heart disease and stroke. Home prepared meals have less sodium than meals prepared in fast food or sit down restaurants. What Can You Do? Ask for sodium content before ordering, or check online before eating out. Home prepared meals have less sodium per calorie than meals prepared in fast food or sit down restaurants, on average.Food from fast food restaurants contains 1,848 mg sodium per 1,000 calories, on average. Food from sit-down restaurants contains 2,090 mg sodium per 1,000 calories, on average. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg/day, and about 6 in 10 adults should further limit sodium to 1,500 mg/day*. Choose wisely to stay under 2,300 mg**. Top 6 Sources of Sodium from Restaurant Foods1,2: 1. 170 to 7,260mg sodium per sandwich. 2. 393 to 4,163mg sodium per slice of pizza containing meat. 3. 200 to 2,940 mg per burger. 4. 62 to 7,358 mg sodium per chicken entrée). 5. 250 to 4,870 mg per Mexican entrée. 6. 4 to 4,530 mg sodium per salad)* *Refers to those age 51 and older, and those of any age with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. ** Averages are for 2012–2013. 1 IOM Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States. 2 Sodium content was determined using MenuStat.org. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While I like to cook, sometimes (often) I don’t have the time or energy, so for me seeing pizza on this list was distressing. For years, I’ve thought my non-meat pizza, “light on the cheese” was a relatively heart-healthy choice, but both pizza dough and jarred sauces are/can be quite high in sodium.

When you are craving pizza and have the time to make it at home, try a homemade pizza. An easy, quick, delicious whole-wheat pizza is a great lower-salt option, with an extra bonus that it’s higher in cholesterol-lowering fiber than ‘regular’ pizza. Get the easy recipe and read more about how traditional pizza dough has DOUBLE the salt of whole-wheat pizza dough in my post, Whole Wheat Vegetarian Pizza.

And next time you are combing a restaurant menu for a low cholesterol (low in saturated fat) option, also check on salt levels. You may have to ask your server for lower salt options, but that’s a small price to pay for not exceeding the recommended daily salt intake in a single meal!

Rockridge Press has published The Low Cholesterol Cookbook & Action Plan in both traditional book and electronic formats. Click links below to link to the book on Amazon:

Paperback The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health

Kindle:  The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health

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Whole Wheat Vegetarian Pizza

Healthy, easy and delicious, 2 slices of this vegetarian whole wheat pizza delivers 13 grams of cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber, and is loaded with flavor. As long as you remember / have time to bring the pizza dough to room temperature, prep will take no more than 30 minutes. We always make 2 pizzas as it’s great left over.

My personal favorite toppings are broiled eggplant, broccolini sauteed with garlic, and sauteed mushrooms. But feel free to substitute any vegetables you like—as long as you pre-cook them a bit so they’re not raw, they should be delicious.

This recipe is flexible and adaptable: if someone wants meat, just place some sliced pepperoni atop a few of the slices or make one pie with meat and one totally vegetarian.

For those who want to make their own dough, go for it. I hear it’s easy but I’ve never tried it as that bag of Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza is like magic to me (and there’s no food processor to clean!)

Have pizza purists in the house? Do a taste-test of whole wheat pizza dough vs ‘regular’ white pizza dough. But just so you know, the whole wheat pizza is much healthier: first of all, it delivers DOUBLE the cholesterol-lowering dietary fiber. Not only that, the plain dough has almost double the salt and 50% more total fat than the whole wheat dough!

Give this recipe a try for a great “Meatless Monday” or any day vegetarian dinner!  Bonus: it’s great with kids or picky eaters (ahem, like myself). Kids love to roll out the dough…and if you let kids or family/friends customize with their own toppings it makes for a great pizza party. Just don’t break out the wine and beer until all the slicing is complete! (Yes, I sadly speak from experience; I now have a firm rule of no alcohol until all chopping and slicing is complete.)

Going Lo-Co Whole Wheat Vegetarian Pizza
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

Homemade Healthy Whole Wheat Pizza takes a bit of time but is easy and delicious. You can use any vegetables: my favorites are broiled eggplant, sauteed mushrooms and broccolini sauteed with garlic!  One serving = 2 slices (1 pie = 8 slices)

Servings: 4 people
Author: Karen Swanson
Ingredients
  • 1 bag Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (Trader Joe's)
  • 1/4 cup Pizza or Tomato Sauce (like Prego Pizza Sauce)
  • 3 ounces Mozzarella Slices (Trader Joe's whole or part skim)
  • 1 whole Eggplant
  • 6 oz Sliced White Mushrooms (About 1/2 container Trader Joe's)
  • 4 oz Baby Broccoli (broccolini) - heads
  • 4-6 cloves Fresh Garlic
  • 5 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP Flour (To sprinkle under dough)
Instructions
Prepare Pizza Dough:
  1. Take out pizza dough so it comes to room temperature (I leave out for at least 1 hour).

Prepare Vegetables While Dough Comes to Room Temperature:
  1. Broil the Eggplant: Set rack to top and start broiler. Wash and slice eggplant into 1/3 inch thick slices. Set on a baking sheet lined with foil. Lightly spray or brush slices with olive oil then lightly salt. Turn the slices and lightly oil & salt the other side. Broil for 3-8 minutes per side, until golden brown. Turn and broil the other side. Set aside.

  2. Preheat oven. First, carefully move the rack(s) to the middle of the oven. Then preheat to 425 (with pizza stone if you use...I do not.) 

  3. Saute the sliced mushrooms over medium-high heat in a large saute pan in about 2 TB of olive oil until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove to plate.

  4. Prepare the broccolini and garlic. While mushrooms are sauteeing, wash broccolini, discard stems and leaves, and cut heads into bite-size pieces. Slice garlic.

  5. Saute the garlic and broccolini.  In the same pan used for mushrooms, add about 2 TB of olive oil and once warm, add garlic and cook over medium heat for 1-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant but not brown. Add broccolini heads, mix, and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add a bit of water, cover and let steam for 1-2 minutes.

Prepare and Bake Pizza:
  1. Once pizza dough has come to room temperature, roll it on a lightly floured surface to the size of your pizza pan or desired size. (Note: dough should not feel wet - if it does, add more flour to avoid sticking to pan.) If using pizza pan with holes (aka perforated pizza pan) place dough on the pan and stretch to sides.

  2. Spread the pizza sauce on top of the rolled dough. Dot with mozzarella slices. Atop the cheese, add the broiled eggplant, sauteed mushrooms and sauteed broccolini/garlic.

  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Lift bottom of pizza to check it's cooked long enough to reach your desired crispiness. Slice with pizza cutter into eighths.

Recipe Notes
  • One serving = 2 slices (1 pie = 8 slices)
  • Nutrition Facts from My Fitness Pal.
Nutrition Facts
Going Lo-Co Whole Wheat Vegetarian Pizza
Amount Per Serving
Calories 297 Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 38%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 13g
Cholesterol 11mg 4%
Sodium 904mg 38%
Potassium 197mg 6%
Dietary Fiber 13g 52%
Sugars 9g
Protein 18g 36%
Vitamin A 6%
Vitamin C 19%
Calcium 20%
Iron 22%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Coronary Calcium Scan Illuminates Heart Disease Risk

When I told my cardiologist that nearly every adult in my family takes a statin due to a family history of high cholesterol, he asked if anyone had ever undergone a Coronary Calcium Scan.

I’d never heard of that test, and none of my relatives had either.

But I paid out-of-pocket for that test last month.

The reason: my cholesterol results worsened slightly versus a year ago. My latest Cardio IQ blood test* revealed a high number of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles, and that these LDL particles had shifted from the ‘safe,’ fluffy Pattern A type to the more dangerous, small Pattern B type.

Probably this is due to age (women are plagued with worsening cholesterol at/post menopause) and the fact that I’ve not been able to exercise daily due to injury.

I’m relieved to report that my Coronary Calcium Scan score was zero, which is normal. The report I received states, “A low score suggests a low likelihood of coronary artery disease but does not exclude the possibility of significant coronary artery narrowing.”

So good for now (but could get bad…hence the annual Cardio IQ testing.)

That my score was zero was both a relief and confirmed our treatment plan. I’m to continue to manage my cholesterol and heart disease risk with exercise and a heart-healthy diet (read more in my new book, now available for pre-order: The Low Cholesterol Cookbook and Action Plan: 4 Weeks to Cut Cholesterol and Improve Heart Health. More on my book launch in a later post!).

Should you have a Coronary Calcium Scan? The answer is, it depends.

The test is not for everyone. Insurance often doesn’t cover the cost (mine did not; I paid $283.) And it exposes you to radiation—about the same amount you would normally be exposed to in one year.

A terrific explanation of this test was published by Harvard Health’s article, Should you consider a coronary artery calcium scan? Their opening line says it all: “If you’re on the fence about whether to take a statin, this test might make sense.”

So if you and your doctor want more insight into your current risk of heart disease risk and/or you are trying to decide if a statin is needed, consider this test. It reveals if calcium (plaque) has built up in the walls of the heart’s arteries. A score greater than zero indicates calcification is present; as that is an early sign of cardiovascular disease, it should factor into your treatment plan.

A reminder of the Heart Disease Risk Factors: as detailed by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute:

“Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse. Important risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about are:

High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
Diabetes and prediabetes
Smoking
Being overweight or obese
Being physically inactive
Having a family history of early heart disease
Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
Unhealthy diet
Age (55 or older for women)”

Statin medications do lower cholesterol and have been proven effective when other risks of heart disease (see list above) are present. But when high cholesterol is your only risk factor, it just might make sense to discuss a Coronary Calcium Scan with your doctor.

* A Cardio IQ  is a more detailed test than a ‘regular’ cholesterol blood test; in addition to the regular cholesterol figures, it measures LDL Particle number and size, apo-B and Lipoprotein (a). You can read more in my posts, ApoB and Cardiovascular Risk, and Cholesterol Tests Your Doctor Hasn’t Told You About.

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