Lately, I've been on an oatmeal kick. My kids and I can't get enough, especially after I started investigating the health benefits of whole grains and learned the easiest, most delicious way to get those grainy nutrients: soak thick-cut oatmeal overnight with a bit of whey, buttermilk or raw milk and cook it in the morning. It takes less than a minute the night before, and only a few minutes of active work in the morning, and I serve my oatmeal with fresh fruit in season, chopped-up nuts from local farmers, organic maple syrup, organic raw milk. Even though I'm using the luxi-est ingredients available and paying retail prices (often from the farmer's market, which is a pricey-but-sustainable choice), each serving costs me less than $1.50.

Enter Starbucks and their "perfect oatmeal." For $2.45, I can pick two of three mix-ins -- dried fruit (sweetened with sugar), nuts or brown sugar. At $2.45 for what is essentially just a cardboard cup with some chopped-up grains, and with that smug name, I expected something great. After all, this whole line of foods is part of CEO Howard Schultz' mission to eat more healthy himself; his cholesterol and weight were deemed too high by his physician. Oatmeal does, after all, seem a sensible and quick alternative to other fast breakfasts, like doughnuts, Egg McMuffins, and the like.

But Howie! What's with all that sugar? And what's with the instant oatmeal? I tried a bowl and was flummoxed. First: it wasn't that good, what with the instant oats and the skim milk. Not only would you eat a lot of processed sugar were you to choose either brown sugar or dried fruit on your perfect oatmeal, using instant oats removes a lot of the good nutrients. So you'll be messing with your body's metabolism (processed sugars and highly-processed grains trick your body into thinking it wants more, causing overeating and directly contributing to weight gain), in addition to paying more than you could if you made it at home.

Making your own oatmeal is cheaper, better for you, and it will prevent you from thinking you need a pastry too... and a grande mocha... paying off huge in lower health costs down the road.

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