If you follow any food blogs or channels on social media, you may have noticed the breakfast trend sweeping Instagram and Tiktok: overnight oats. But what is it that’s driving this craze, and how is it supplanting traditional breakfasts and holding its own against fitness food brands such as Huel?
Quite simply, in my opinion, because it tastes good. Unlike breakfast cereals, which can often feel repetitive and boring – especially if you’re facing down a bowl of Corn Flakes in a rush – there’s something distinctively attractive about overnight oats. Perhaps this is due to the process behind it: preparation the night before, measuring out your oats and dousing them with milk and flavourings – whether this be cinnamon and mixed spice (my current favourite), cocoa powder, peanut butter. The possibilities are endless, and range across a spectrum of nutrition levels!
You can also add in a wide variety of fruit and veg – with my favoured “carrot cake” style oats including some grated carrot and a handful of sultanas, though I have seen friends swear by grated courgette (I have not dared to try this yet!). Such are the possibilities for experimentation, and the endless ensuing variation, all stemming from a simple combination of oats, milk or water and a pinch of salt, that it can sometimes leave me gazing at the aisles in Tesco wondering what could spice up my oats even further. This prevents the old shtick of ‘boredom with breakfast’ that one may get if having porridge, for example, for countless days on end – if you’re tired of your current flavour, it only takes a little change to switch things up.
Moreover, unlike Huel and even some breakfast cereals, it’s something that seems definitively appetising and affordable. A 1kg bag of oats costs between 75p-£1, and that’ll last you two to three weeks; compare that to the £1.10 per meal cost of Huel, or the average price of £3 for a decent size box of cereal (which will inevitably go way faster than the suggested serving time), then you’re saving a lot of cash. Sure, it may seem like it’s a new fad born from the Waitrose-shopping elite, but it’s surprisingly affordable. This is enhanced by the fact that I’m using scales to measure out my oats – something that I’ve never considered when throwing cereal into a bowl.
Overnight oats also improve the start of your day. There’s no better feeling than waking up, dragging yourself out of bed, and treating yourself to a damn good breakfast which you prepared the night before. Unlike with other great breakfasts like scrambled eggs or pancakes, there’s little to no extra preparation involved (only adding in extra toppings) as the fridge has done all the work for you, and the only cleaning up that’s needed is just soaking your bowl after eating, prepping it for the next day.
There is, however, a danger. Just as it is possible to add too much milk to your Weetabix, leaving it to become a sludgy, unappetising mess, one can add too little or too much to your oats. Waking up to a failed jar is not the one, an anti-climax after opening the fridge door with so much expectation. But, though this may occur once or twice as you get started with making overnight oats, the more experience you get, the less often that disaster occurs. Of course, you can always put some more oats or more milk in, go back to sleep for an hour or so, and the problem may have resolved itself.
Whatever your diet (gluten-free, vegan, non-dairy), overnight oats are available for you. Just get your oats, your soaking liquid of choice (any milk or water will do), and a pinch of salt, and have a browse of the thousands of recipes, blogs, vlogs and TikToks about it. I do provide a word of warning – your friends may get tired of you mentioning it. But for the best start to the day? I think a few broken friendships are worth it.