Let's talk nutrition, veganism, and oatmeal!
I've always loved oatmeal. Surely I'm not alone?
After switching to a vegan, mostly whole-foods, plant-based diet two years ago, oatmeal turned into my staple breakfast food. Most granola on the market here in Korea isn't vegan and simple oats are the easiest solution. Also, it's delicious, nutritious, and endlessly flexible!
For this illustrated nutrition guide I wanted to compare the nutritional value of different oatmeal toppings and flavorings while at the same time listing the cost.
It's hard to find a cost comparison for grams of protein you can get and since protein is the one macronutrient you always get asked about if you adopt a vegan lifestyle, I thought this would be a helpful resource for new vegans, or for anyone looking to set up a food budget.
I've broken the nutritional values for my staple oatmeal recipes down into 10-gram portion sizes (roughly a tablespoon of most ingredients here) to make comparisons easier.
This post contains affiliate links which means that if you shop through one of the product links, I may receive a small commission. None of the products are sponsored. You can check out my full disclaimer here.
Recommended Daily Values:
Your TDEE of calories - don't undereat or overeat by accident!
Protein Needs per Day: 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (though these needs depend - different studies gave slightly different numbers, and if you're building muscle, you might need even more! I've listed the amount of protein per 10 gram of product.
Value for your money: Price per 10 gram. Because food budgets are a thing.
While I've listed the prices in Korean Won, they're easy to adapt to USD as 1000 KRW are about 1 USD. Prices change, local stores have different brands on offer, maybe you find something on sale... the list is just a general guideline based on my iHerb shopping. iHerb ships worldwide and I use them to get most of my "western" food as well as vegan supplements.
You might very well be able to find the same food items for much cheaper if you live in a country where vegan food options are popular (aka exist beyond happy accidents) or where people eat more oatmeal in general.
Here in Korea, oatmeal comes either in small daily portions as a "diet food" or in - also small packages - 'organic health food' form. Or is imported. So all in all, my prices are probably higher than yours...
I order my oats online at iHerb since it's cheaper than local brands and there are multiple options like whole grain, rolled oatmeal, large oatmeal flakes, Scottish oatmeal...
If you order with my referral code ZCC500 you can get 5% off.
How to use the infographic above:
Take your base:
A portion of oatmeal. Let's be real, I often use more than 40g, but it is the generally listed portion size, so let's go with that!
That sets you up for: 300 Won (or around 0.27 USD), has 150 calories, and 5.3 grams of protein.
Then, add toppings!
I love the combination of cacao nibs and coconut flakes, so that would bring me to:
795 Won / 0.71 USD
6 grams of protein
When I try to max out my protein for the day, I usually go with this combination:
- Oatmeal (as above)
- Hemp Protein Powder
...and I'd use soy milk or almond milk instead of water to get some additional protein and calcium.
Play around with different combinations, flavors, and nutritional benefits to suit your daily needs and food budget.
Trace Amounts of Minerals & Vitamins in Spices
Of course, spices won't be your ultimate source for vital nutrients - it's not like cinnamon gets eaten by the tablespoon. (I tried.)
But spices and herbs contain a surprisingly large variety of minerals and vitamins! I've found that on days when I mix cinnamon into my smoothies, add pumpkin spice to oatmeal (love this particular blend by Simply Organic!), dried herbs to my pasta sauce, and then top it all off with a spice-laden curry stew, the combined micronutrients do add up!
And of course, they're delicious.
While my husband likes to eat peanut butter (he wants to gain weight) I like to be a bit more careful. I can demolish WAY TOO MUCH homemade nut butter in a week and this PB2 powder is perfect for when I crave the taste but don't want to add spoonfuls of butter to my oatmeal (though there are definitely days for that...).
With only a tiny amount of fat but lots of peanut flavor, the PB2 powder is a great addition to oatmeal, smoothies, protein shakes, or my beloved Korean Misutgaru lattes. I've also started to add it to banana nicecream.
Hemp Seeds & Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids and protein,
as well as vitamin E, iron, and magnesium.
They're also very versatile, with a neutral slightly nutty flavor that goes well with both sweet and savory dishes. I even sprinkle them on Korean style Muchim dishes as if they were sesame seeds!
Since I'm a fan of powders (I just like the density they give when mixed with soymilk, or how they turn my oatmeal into a more mushy affair...) I recently got a hemp seed-based protein powder for that extra nutrition oomph. Especially since I'm lifting weights several times a week, I'm happy to add a sprinkle of protein on top of my normal intake.
Confession time: I don't drink green juices.
Barely drink juices at all, actually. I mostly blend my fruit/veg into smoothies and don't own a juicer since they feel so wasteful to me...
But I stumbled over this chocolate flavored green powder while shopping on iHerb and couldn't resist because, well, chocolate.
l was pleasantly surprised! The taste reminds me of the slightly artificial taste of Korean choco milk that I loved so much before I went Vegan.
Korea has lots of super sweet milk products in all kinds of flavors and this powder turns my soymilk into something very similar! I also like to mix it 50/50 with cacao powder into my oatmeal for a deeper chocolate flavor while still getting some micronutrients in.
I rarely use a full scoop of this powder since the flavor is strong enough even when I add just a tiny amount, so that jar has lasted me well over a year by now.
Supplementation on a Vegan Diet
Like with spices I would never rely on products like this to get me all the vitamins and minerals I need, but take the approach of "every little thing counts" to my nutrition. A sprinkle here and there adds up and can give me an easy solution for days when I've run out of fresh greens.
The two supplements you definitely shouldn't just play around with as a vegan are:
Vitamin B12 - I use a spray daily (it tastes deliciously like berries!) and use capsules for when I travel or need a larger dosage in one go. Luckily, B12 is super cheap and a 5$ investment lasts me for a year.
Vitamin D - If you're not outdoors in the sun a lot - and if you wear sunscreen, as a matter of fact - you can't go wrong with considering Vitamin D supplementation. Even if you aren't vegan! A large percentage of people are deficient, no matter if vegan, vegetarian, or meat eater.
Flaxseed meal should be a staple in every vegan's kitchen!
Part of the "Daily Dozen", ground flaxseed are a great source for omega-3 fatty acids. I eat about two tablespoons per day, either with oatmeal, as part of a smoothie, in the form of homemade bread, or mixed into my bean/lentil burger concoctions.
Flaxseed meal combined with water works as an egg replacement when baking, too.
I always use ground flaxseeds by Bob's Red Mill. They changed their packaging recently and have several variations of flaxseed meal available.
Anything coconut flavored is great in my book.
Ever since I traveled to Thailand and tasted all their delicious coconut based desserts (find my vegan travel tips for Bangkok and my illustrated food diary here!) I'm more than eager to add coconut to my own baked goods, smoothies, and of course oatmeal.
Coconut flakes not only add that delicious coconut flavor but also crunch! If you like your oatmeal not TOO mushy, these are a great addition!
(Also another favorite of my husband on his quest to gain weight. Very calorie dense for days when you just don't have time to eat...)
Chia seeds have been making their round as a "superfood" during recent years. Their nutritional value is certainly unique, with a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and protein in just a single tablespoon. I'm not a huge proponent of all these so-called superfoods but chia seeds have such a fun texture when you let them soak in liquid for a while!
I usually prepare a larger batch (several tablespoons) with soy milk and cinnamon or cacao powder ahead of time, and then add them like jelly whenever I want something extra on my oatmeal.
I've been trying different brands for chia seeds over the last two years and it comes down to price and packaging for me... Here is the one by Navitas that I prefer!
Cacao Nibs & Cacao Beans
My love for chocolate doesn't stop at cacao and flavored green powder. Cacao nibs and entire roasted cacao beans are my favorite form of chocolate!
There's a tiny local store in my village here on Jeju Island that sells freshly roasted cacao beans. I'm addicted to those - once you've tasted freshly roasted ones, it's hard to go back to 'normal' ones.
But I still use regular cacao nibs for all my baking and desserts, and they're a staple topping for oatmeal. Not only do they add chocolate flavor and antioxidants, they also give a nice crunch~
Tip: Cacao Nibs Tea
If you have entire cacao beans, keep the shells as you eat the beans, then pour hot water over the shells for a "cacao tea" - chocolate scented, comforting, delicious!
Other topping ideas:
I also like to add a variety of nuts and seeds to my oatmeal.
- Almond Slices
- Sunflower Seeds
Then, of course, there's fruit! Some of my favorite oatmeal additions:
- Blueberries (frozen, just sprinkle them into the hot oatmeal)
- Strawberries (a rare treat...)
- Dried Cranberries
- Dried Mango (an even rarer treat...)
That's it for my usual oatmeal toppings.
I also use them on smoothie bowls, sprinkle seeds on salads and Korean side-dishes, add ground flaxseeds and spices to my home-baked bread and cakes...
So many possibilities, so much food!
I hope this guide on Vegan nutrition (with its special focus on seeds & "superfoods") and the breakdown by price and protein per serving helps you when navigating your own food intake.
More Vegan & Korea themed reading:
- An Illustrated Guide to Korean Holiday Meals as a Vegan: Chuseok Food Diary
- Jayeoneuro - homemade, traditional, vegan food in Jeju's nature
- The Bread Blue - vegan bakery & cafe in Seoul, Hongdae
- Seoul Itaewon Travel Guide: Vegan-friendly restaurant "Root"
- Salad & Juice Bar & Smoothie Bowls on Jeju Island: Bottle & Bowl
- What I Eat in a Day: Tips for Vegan Meals in Korea