Oatmeal is a quick, healthy breakfast staple with ample room for experimentation and creativity. Overnight oats are a protein-filled breakfast you can grab as you run out the door, healthy oat cookies mean you can have dessert for breakfast, and there are endless ways to spice up ordinary oatmeal. Instant oats and quick oats make enjoying a healthy breakfast an easy, three-minute process, but how are they different? And more importantly, which is healthier? Let's break the differences between instant vs quick oats so you know which to buy.

The Differences

cereal, wheat, sweet, bread, flour
Celeste Robertson

Quick oats are typically sold in a container, while instant oats are usually purchased in a box of individual packets. Because quick oats are sold in a bulkier fashion, they're often cheaper. Instant oats often have preservatives and additives and can come in a variety of flavors, from Maple Brown Sugar to seasonal Pumpkin Spice.

Quick oats have only one ingredient– oats– and don't usually come in flavored options. The major difference, however, is in the steaming and rolling process of the oats. In essence, instant oats are already cooked, dehydrated oats. Instant oats are steamed for longer and rolled thinner than quick oats, which is why they take less time to cook compared to quick oats. 

What About Health? 

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Kelly Redfield

Flavored instant oatmeals contain lots of added sugar, making them a less healthy option compared to quick oats flavored with spices and fruits at home. If you're deciding between plain, unflavored instant oatmeal and quick oats, however, the differences are more convoluted. Calorie and fat-wise, there's almost no difference between the two, though there's a meager difference in protein.

The major differences between quick oats and instant oats are found in the sodium and vitamin contents. One serving of Quaker's quick oats has 0mg of sodium, but a similarly sized portion of Quaker's instant oatmeal has 75mg. Instant oatmeal can also be fortified with  additional vitamin A, calcium, and iron (the exact amounts vary from flavor to flavor). Quick oats have negligible amounts of Vitamin A and calcium and only 8% of your daily recommended iron. 

rice, muesli, oatmeal, milk, porridge, cereal
Naib Mian

The verdict? Both instant oats and quick oats are healthy breakfast options. While instant oats may be higher in sodium, they still contain less than 5% of the daily recommended value. Alternatively, quick oats can be made more nutritious by adding fruit or peanut butter. So cheers to whichever speedy oatmeal you prefer–you really can't go wrong with either.