Simplifying a Healthy Breakfast – Slow Food, Fast!

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We often hear “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but there’s always that time crunch in the morning to get ready and get out the door to make it to work on time. Having a healthy breakfast can sometimes be the first thing sacrificed, to the detriment of our energy reserve for the rest of the day. When I think of what makes a healthy breakfast, my first instinct is a nice warm bowl of steel-cut oatmeal. The only problem is that steel-cut oats take forever to cook.

Is the solution to go for the instant oats? NO!

Not all oats are created equal, and when we’re rushing and reaching for that bag of instant brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors. But have no fear busy bees! You can have your cake (or oats?) and eat it too! I’ve found a solution to accommodate any schedule — Slow Girl Foods! Started by Molly Zahner in 2010, Slow Girl Foods was created to make sure even the busiest people can eat a healthy, hearty, and delicious breakfast on-the-go! I had a chance to sit down and talk with Molly and ask her a few questions about her product, so I’m going to share a bit of what we covered after I tell you why oatmeal is so awesome.

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Why (the right kind of) Oatmeal is Awesome

Oats have a myriad of health benefits. They’re rich in vitamins and minerals including thiamin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese and iron. According to the Dairy Council of California, eating just half cup of oatmeal a day is enough to obtain the benefits from the fiber it contains. The fiber in oats not only helps keep you full, but has been shown to decrease the risk of colon cancer, decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, by 10-15%, decrease risk of high blood pressure and reduce the risk of mortality by cardiovascular disease.

Finally, the Whole Grains Council notes that the beta-glucan in oatmeal may help reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, and can help people who are already diabetic control insulin resistance.

A Word With Molly

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While Molly has big plans for her budding venture, she currently has one product: Steel-cut Oatmeal Cups. These single serving cups are packed with satisfying ingredients that will keep you full including organic steel-cut oatmeal, organic quinoa, organic raw agave**, organic cinnamon, salt, dried fruit, and almonds.

Did you always know this is what you wanted to do?

“Not directly, no. My mother was an amazing cook and I have so many memories of great conversation around the dinner table. In high school, I created a Tuesday Supper Club where I’d cook for my friends because the food was so bad at my boarding school in Massachusetts. Then, in college I’d make big meals and people would come over. It was always fun to see how food brought people together.”

How did you decide on oatmeal?

This was a very specific move. I had had a small cookie business and it was growing. But I didn’t want cookies to be my brand. I thought, if I’m really going to do this, I want to make something nutritious. I didn’t believe in giving people more snacks and sugary food. I wanted to do something different and healthy. I had brought my oatmeal into work and was eating it and my co-workers were jealous of my oatmeal compared to other quick breakfast options. I told them how easy it was, but realized not everyone is going to take the time. So then, I came up with Slow Girl Foods — I do the slow cooking so you don’t have to.”

What makes your product different than anything else on the market right now?

“Well, it’s steel-cut oatmeal and already cooked. All you have to do is re-heat it for 1 minute. Or you can eat it cold if you prefer. Nobody else is making ready-to-eat oatmeal, everyone else is making instant. I’ve had to educate people — I want to educate people. My goal is to do the work and the thinking for you. I want people to see my brand as one they can trust to be healthy and delicious.”

Why is steel-cut better than rolled or instant oatmeal?molly2

“Rolled oats have been rolled into flat flakes and steamed and toasted but steel-cut oats still contain the whole oat grain, including the bran. They are less processed and more nutritious, with more fiber than rolled oats or instant varieties.”

Are you working on any other products?

“Yes, I’d like to make something savory. It’s hard to find something that’s comfortable to carry around, that’s affordable, tastes good and is healthy. I’m thinking of soba noodles with butternut squash, kale or spinach. I’m also working on other grains for the morning. Maybe farrow or oatmeal with pumpkin or walnuts. I want to provide meals with protein, so that people are satisfied and don’t need to snack.”

What else do you want us to know about SGF?

“Community and education are at the roots of SGF. I really did want SGF to be part of a community and to inform people (especially women), and remind them that there is a lot of misinformation out there — for example weight loss methods like low fat and extreme dieting. I originally did want my brand to be like a blog and help women form a community. I just want to be a brand that people can see and TRUST. They don’t have to pick it up and read the ingredients. I want them to see my brand and know it’s healthy and delicious.”

How will you use your products in the future to emphasize community?

“I haven’t really gotten there, but a family size breakfast bowl would be great! You could just scoop it out like an ice cream container. Ready to eat but in a convenient large size. You know, so even in a crazy household the family could sit down together just for a few minutes and eat something healthy.”  

**This product contains 16 g of agave/serving. While agave doesn’t contain a lot of glucose, and has a low glycemic index, it has more fructose than any other common sweetener, including high-fructose corn syrup, depending how it’s processed. There are some heavy consequences associated with over consumption of fructose. The Institute of Responsible Nutrition considers fructose to be so unhealthy that they advocate that it be removed from the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) list. Dr. Robert Lustig, one of the founders of the IRN, completed a study that showed that by restricting fructose from children’s diets (with no caloric reduction) liver fat was reduced almost 30% in just 10 days.

Final Thoughts

It was great sitting down with Molly and learning about Slow Girl Foods and where she sees her oatmeal empire taking her. I loved hearing her story and understanding how this product came to be and what was inspiring about the modest oat. Molly’s passion for health, cooking and community were palpable and contagious, which was what inspired me to write this post in the first place.

The Competition

Curious to see how other products measured up against Slow Girl Foods, I did a quick comparison at Whole Foods and online. Here’s a chart of what I found: 

Brand Type of Oat Organic Ingredients Grams / Serving Sugar Protein Carbs Fiber Net Carbs *Price
Slow Girl Foods steel-cut, slow cooked some 220g 14g 7g 41g 5g 36g $3.49
Quaker, SuperGrain rolled none 70g 19g 7g 49g 5g 44g $1.99
Dr. McDougall’s rolled some 79g 21g 7g 59g 8g 51g  $2.69
GlutenFreeda gluten free instant none 75g 17g 9g 50g 6g 44g  $2.69
Vigilant Eats gluten free oats all 77g 17g 7g 51g 6g 45g  $4.99

*prices slightly vary based on store. All products above found at WholeFoods, except Quaker Real Medley Supergrain found online and sold at Walmart and Target.

There are definitely some good oatmeal cup options out there! While some are clearly healthier than others, realistically, factors like price, dietary limitations, and personal preference come into play. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re concerned about sugar and net carbs, Slow Girl is where you want to start, but if 100% organic is what you’re looking for, you might consider Vigilant Eats. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t vouch for flavor.

Slow Girl Foods’ serving size seems larger because the water is already included, so I wasn’t able to do a real comparison of how much food each one really was, but the “slow” aspect is unique to the product. Steel-cut oats can’t be made instant, and as Molly explained, they’re superior because they are less processed and more nutritious than instant or rolled oats. Moreover, the slow-cooked aspect makes for an easier-to-digest finished product.

If you don’t have time to make old fashioned oatmeal at home, but you’re looking for a healthy choice you can grab on the go, you might look for Slow Girl Foods. If you try it, come back and let us know what you think!


RESOURCES

Self, Nutrition Data. Know What You Eat: Oats. 2014. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/cereal-grains-and-pasta/5708/2

Dairy Council of California. Health Benefits of Oatmeal. 2015. http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/All-Star-Foods/Grains/Article-Viewer/Article/208/health-benefits-of-oatmeal.aspx

Whole Grains Council. Health Benefits of Oats. 2013. http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/health-benefits-of-oats

Institute for Responsible Nutrition. Facts and FAQs – What is the IRN’s Daily Sugar Recommendation? 2015.  http://www.responsiblefoods.org/facts_and_faqs

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