Pros: fast, tasty, mostly healthy
Cons: less nutritious than old-fashioned oatmeal
I am not a particularly picky eater, but often it is hard to find something that is appealing, quick to make, and even marginally nutritious. The one product I've really been enjoying this past fall is Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal with Cranberries. It is fast, hot, tasty, and if not a perfectly nutritious food, it is much healthier than the candy bars I'm tempted to eat instead sometimes!
To find Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal with Cranberries in your grocery store, look for a light blue box with red accents and the blue Ocean Spray logo. There's a nice-looking bowl of the oatmeal pictured on the front (and it really does look like that when it's made, although to create the amount in the bowl in the picture I think you'd have to make three or four servings). Inside the box are eight individual brown packets, each with one serving of oatmeal in it. Directions on the packets are printed in easy to read orange print.
The substance inside the packets is what I expect instant oatmeal to look like, only it has small dried cranberries in it as well. The cranberries are not as large as real whole cranberries, but rather they are smaller pieces.
Each serving size contains 160 calories, only 20 of which are from fat. The fat calories are made up of 1 gram of polyunsaturated fat and 1 gram of monounsaturated fat; there are zero grams of saturated or trans fats. A serving will also give you 170 mg of sodium, (7%) of the Recommended Daily Value for adults), 0% cholesterol, and 20% of your Recommended Daily Value of Vitamin A, Thiamin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Iron, Riboflavin, and Vitamin B6. It also offers 10% of the Recommended Daily Values for Calcium, Magnesium, and Phosphorus per serving. Three (3) grams of dietary fiber are included in each serving, as well as 4 grams of protein, and 13 grams of sugars.
Ocean Spray offers flavors besides plain "Oatmeal with Cranberries." I have also tried "Cranberry Pomegranate" and "Cranberry Orange Muffin," both of which are very enjoyable. The final flavor offered is "Cranberry Honey Multigrain," which also sounds great.
Use and Experience
There are two sets of directions on the back of each individual packet. One is for making the oatmeal with hot water and the other addresses using a microwave to make the cereal. These read as follows. With Hot Water: 1. Empty packet into a bowl. 2. Add up to 1/2 cup boiling water and stir. For best results, let stand 1 to 2 minutes before serving. Microwave: 1. Empty packet into a microwaveable bowl. 2. Add up to 2/3 cup water (or milk) and stir. 3. Microwave the uncovered bowl on HIGH 1 to 2 minutes, or until oatmeal begins to thicken. 4. Carefully remove hot bowl from oven. Stir and serve. Suggestions: The thickness of the oatmeal can be varied by adding slightly more or less hot water.
I always make this oatmeal up by using the hot water method. I empty the packet into a bowl and then boil water in my teapot. I do measure out the half cup of water, but once you know the correct amount to make this to your taste, you can probably eyeball it. I then stir it up and let it sit for two minutes (yes, I even set a timer, because otherwise I'd probably either way underestimate or overestimate the amount of time I was letting it sit there).
The end result is a very good tasting oatmeal with a somewhat thin texture. I love the little bits of cranberry in it; the bright cranberry taste is a great contrast with the oatmeal. This is even more true with the Cranberry Pomegranate flavor, which may be my favorite of the ones I've tried.
I don't find this to be a completely filling breakfast - and for a mere 160 calories, I don't think most people would. However, it is a nice addition as part of breakfast, and these packets were my go-to snack after evening hospital clinical shifts during nursing school, when I'd get home at midnight and want something small and healthy.
Nutrition-wise, I think this is pretty good. Making old-fashioned oatmeal would probably be healthier, assuming you don't add cream and brown sugar (which I do), but about the worst thing you can say about the Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal is that the sodium content is not tiny. That's true of almost any pre-packaged food, though. To be honest, I actually prefer the Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal with Cranberries and the related flavors to making real oatmeal these days; they are faster and it would be a lot of work to add a cranberry touch to my regular oatmeal.
Cost and Where to Buy
A box of Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal costs between $2.99 and $3.99 at my local grocery store. I have run across $1.00 off coupons twice in recent newspaper supplements, so be on the lookout for that as well.
Ingredients: Whole Grain Rolled Oats (With Oat Bran), Sugar, Dried Cranberries, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavor, Guar Gum, Citric Acid, Ferric Orthophosphate (a source of Iron), Niacinamide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Folic Acid.
Ocean Spray Instant Oatmeal with Cranberries makes a great quick snack or light, hot breakfast. It's not quite as nutritious as making real oatmeal, but it's not a bad choice, either. 4 stars.