Power Up Your Morning Oatmeal with These Nutritious Mix-Ins

When the mornings are brisk and the skies are dreary, there’s nothing like a hot cereal to warm you up from the inside out. An old standby for hot cereal is oatmeal, and it’s my personal favorite. Oatmeal for breakfast is healthy and versatile. People visit my house and frown at their idea of oatmeal, a sludgy, tasteless porridge, but ooh and ahh at the sight and taste of my morning creations. Read on for some of my secrets.

a warm cereal covered with berries, chopped pecans, and coconut flakes
Photo by K8 on Unsplash

First some fun facts:

  • Oatmeal is gluten-free. While there are some increasing concerns about the content of grains and how much we eat them, oatmeal will keep most tummies happy and healthy.
  • Speaking of healthy digestion, oatmeal is high in fiber. Fiber is essential to human diets; it can clear the digestive tract, and when eaten regularly, it contributes to a healthy diet. High-fiber diets make for good poops, lowered cholesterol levels, and reduced blood sugar over time.
  • A bowl of oatmeal is not only a breakfast hero but also a beauty secret. It’s soothing effects on the skin are so renowned that it’s a main ingredient in Aveeno’s line of products. Oatmeal in a bath is a home remedy for itchy, dry skin conditions such as poison oak, chicken pox, and eczema. At-home spa experts ground it up with banana and honey to make a soothing, moisturizing facial.

In my house, oatmeal’s best quality is its versatility. There are so many mix-ins that you can add to make it more tasty and to boost the health impact of your breakfast meals.

The Classic

Simple oatmeal is simply the best. I stir in butter, milk, cinnamon, and a teaspoon of sugar at the end of cooking to boost the creaminess and coziness factors.

The Brain Booster

Classically cooked oatmeal can turn into brain fueling magic with a last minute stir in of ground flaxseed, chia seeds, or hemp seeds. All three boast an amazing amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which are proven to promote brain health, prevent metal decline, and help alleviate common mental disorders in adults and children. My favorite way to eat these seeds is in a bowl of oatmeal; they have minimal flavor impact and can make oatmeal thicker, which is good for when your water or milk ratio is off, or for picky eaters for like oatmeal with more texture.

Word to the wise: chia seeds can get a little slimy. To prevent this, I add them at the very end of cooking, so they don’t have much moisture to absorb and become gel like. Whole flaxseeds have the same effect, which is why I recommend milled, also added at the end of cooking.

The Harvest Festival

Classic oatmeal becomes a festival of flavor and health when you add fruits, nuts, and seeds. If you’re in a hurry, dried fruits are good add-ins. You can cook the oatmeal classically and forgo the sugar—dried fruit is usually coated in a little sugar and will serve as a natural sweetener for your oatmeal. My go-tos are cranberries and raisins. Dried blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries will give you an antioxidant boost, too. Antioxidants fight cancer-causing free radicals in the body.

For a fresher boost and even sweeter flavor, try frozen berries instead of dried. Frozen fruits are good for on-the-go cooking because you don’t have to cut them, wash them, or even thaw them! Just stir them in after the oatmeal has done a little cooking. As the oatmeal continues to cook, the fruits thaw, adding flavor and color to your heart-healthy meal. Dried fruits can go in at the end, since all they’ll need to do is absorb some heat.

When your oatmeal is ready to serve, stir in your favorite nuts and seeds to complete the harvest! Try the brain boosters listed above, or more classic choices like walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or almonds. Like the seeds listed above, many of these have a great deal of health benefit—adding fiber, protein, and omega fatty acids with each handful.

The harvest festival is one of my favorite ways to make a decadent bowl of oatmeal. With so many textures and flavors combined in one bowl of creamy hot cereal, you have no choice but to feel loved from the inside out. And with all of the added health benefits, your body will surely love you back!

You can shop our online store for power boosting flax, chia, and hemp seeds, or check out this blog post for my pro-tips for making perfect oatmeal in a rice cooker.

Until next time,

Happy Eating!


We are not doctors, and nothing here should be read as medical advice. Consult your doctor before committing to major dietary changes.


All health claims are sourced from Healthline, which aggregates public health research and provides information about what’s true, what may be true, and what’s still under investigation all in one place. Specific pages referenced for this post include:

multi-colored post-its on a wall

Everyday Advocacy: Data and Action Research

May 2016

Gear up for next year’s action research projects by digging into your data now!

Action research is a powerful way to link your work in the school library to the goals, passions, and projects that your stakeholders hold dear. It’s as simple as identifying a problem or a need in your school community and using the library’s resources to address it.

Start by playing with the reports in your library management system and cross-reference them with student performance data. Are there any grade levels with low circulation? Any particular students who don’t check out books as often? Compare that data to those students’ test scores. Consider supporting those students in the upcoming school year. Get to know them and consider purchasing items for your collection or tweaking your lesson plans to address some of their needs directly.

Is your school reviewing data to set academic goals and focus points for next year? Pay attention to those data points now, and begin to plan ways to address them with library instruction, resources, programs, and edTech professional development for teachers.

Pro-Tip: These projects work best when you focus on a small group of students. Consider selecting a particular department or grade-level team to collaborate with on lessons and coordinate strategy.

Track your methods, the process, and data points for the duration of the project. Once the research and the project are complete, show your work!

  • Go to a grade-level or departmental meeting and let teachers know what work you’ve done to improve the selected students’ performance measures. Focus on how much student measures improved in comparison to the previous year’s growth—when they weren’t on your radar.
  • Take your data to the principal during your performance review or include it in your monthly, quarterly, or yearly report!
  • Use Piktochart to create reader-friendly infographics for sharing the good news with the appropriate stakeholders.
  • Send those infographics home in your target students’ report cards.

Using data to guide library instruction and programming is best practice. Additionally, action research helps to center the librarian as an integral part of the school instructional team and enhances the transformational power of libraries. There are so many opportunities to advocate for ourselves just waiting for us in the data.

Happy hunting!

Everyday Advocacy” is a column I wrote in 2016 for DC Public Schools. The column was a part of the district librarians’ monthly newsletter update.

Reviewing this article as a part of my portfolio update reminded me that I’ve written case studies before: primarily for school library services and library collections. If you want me to dig into the data to tell your company’s success stories, let’s talk about how we can sell to your big customers with hard evidence!

Ten picture books piled on a grey table with a cild's tea cup on top/

Everyday Advocacy: Participate in Read Across America Week

March 2016

Read Across America is a week-long celebration of reading and the birthday of Theodore Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss.) Below are some tips for promoting the joy of reading and library services all in one.

  • Displays:
    • Seuss books—If you have any left! Expect them to go quickly. Consider using replicas of the books by inserting printed book covers into empty DVD or VHS cases.
    • Seuss inspired books—find titles that are whimsical and inspiring.
    • Put up a quote wall. Invite teachers and students to share their favorite Seuss quotes.
    • Make a photo booth. Teachers and students can pose for a photo and write about their favorite Dr. Seuss books on an index card or sticky note. This creates a display that can last the entire month. Take it up a notch and set up a computer station where they can self-record a video that you later put on your school or library website. Make sure your school or district has a photo/media release policy and the media that you share is in compliance.
  • Activities
    • Challenge your classroom teachers to a Dr. Seuss or other book-themed door decorating contest. Let the school community vote on the winners. See if your school budget or PTA has funds for a small prize for the teacher and class who wins.
    • Have a reading spirit week, where students and teachers dress up in the spirit of a different popular book-related theme each day.
    • Host a choral reading flash mob in the school cafeteria during lunch. Consider organizing multiple groups: one group reads a Seuss piece, and another reads a poem linked to the curriculum like a Shakespearean sonnet, a Lewis Carroll limerick, etc.

Programs like this galvanize the school community and place the school library at the center of activity because the librarian and a team of happy patrons (students and teachers) serve as catalysts for the effort.

More ideas can be found here.

Everyday Advocacy” is a column I wrote in 2016 for DC Public Schools. The column was a part of the district librarians’ monthly newsletter update.

Everyday Advocacy—Introduction

Patron satisfaction is my secret to top-notch library advocacy. If we librarians do our jobs well, our value speaks for itself, through the mouths of our users. When parents, teachers, and students are vocal about their excitement for the library, its resources, the lessons, and the programs, then our work is done. It’s all about strategic planning.

For instance, when I make video tutorials for teachers that show them how to access our library catalog from home, I get questions like, “How did you make those videos? Can I have students make videos like that?”

Two things happen in that professional development moment.

First, teachers learn two skills that will improve student learning: (1) how to access the catalog and (2) screen recording has limitless teaching and learning applications.

Second, I get an opportunity to build a stronger coaching relationship with teachers because I get invited to show them how to make and use screen recordings for flipped classroom structures, demonstrations, and assessments.

Patron satisfaction is my secret to top-notch library advocacy.

Running engaging programs seems like a no-brainer, but don’t take for granted how impactful an exciting, instructive program can be. Library programs are an opportunity to show the school community what resources the library and librarian have to offer. Student enthusiasm for these activities is contagious. While students are raving about the exciting thing they did or learned at the library today, stakeholders will mainly see that that the librarian generates enthusiasm for learning daily. If it’s done correctly, they’ll also see that the library has a secret sauce, i.e. resources, that enrich the school curriculum, and a librarian who pays attention to learning needs school-wide.

These monthly advocacy tips include suggestions for activities, programs, and lessons that will generate enthusiasm for school libraries and demonstrate how essential they are to multiple stakeholders at a time. All of the suggestions are best practices and easy-to-execute activities that won’t require much more than thinking strategically about how to market what we do each day.

Here’s to garnering more library cheerleaders!

Everyday Advocacy” is a column I wrote in 2016 for DC Public Schools. The column was a part of the district librarians’ monthly newsletter update.

Sweet Juicy Pomegranates

Pomegranates are my favorite winter fruit. They symbolize fertility and wealth in many ancient cultures and boast a powerful health profile. Most importantly, they are a joy to eat! From the satisfying sound and feel of opening one to the fun crunch of popping each aril like juicy candy, to the tarty sweet taste, I absolutely cannot get enough of pomegranates! The experience of eating a one is even more special because the fruits are only in season from October to January in North America.

You’ll have notice the rich garnet color of the juice seeping across your cutting board right away.

At first, this heavy, rounded fruit can seem intimidating, and cutting into it like an apple will give you some resistance, but mastering the technique for cutting one is easy. Simply slice off the stem-end of the fruit, making the cut as shallow as possible. You’ll have notice the rich garnet color of the juice seeping across your cutting board right away. Then, cut a plus sign into the top of the fruit, deep enough for you to get a grip with your thumbs at the center. More juice here too! Place your fingers around the outside; then, pull it apart. Be careful, pomegranates don’t shy away from spattering your work area or your clothes. Some people open them in water to minimize splatter, but I like to see the juice stain my cutting board. Once you pop it open, the pomegranate will reward you with hundreds of little jeweled seeds called arils.

If I can’t be bothered with arranging them nicely, I eat the arils right out of the pith. If I want to be more civil, I’ll submerge the broken pieces in a bowl of cold water, which helps get the arils out. Many of them will sink, and the pith will float, making it easier to separate the edible seeds from the non-edible creamy white pith. Finally, I’ll pile my seeds into a bowl with some rich dark chocolate, pop on a movie, and eat them like popcorn. Each pomegranate is packed with vitamin C, fiber, and tons of antioxidants that fight cancer-causing free-radicals.

You can eat them plain or there are dozens of ways these sweet little surprises can take winter dishes to the next level, adding nutrition and a pop of beauty to every meal.