Savory Oatmeal


In my dietetics practice, I frequently see patients looking to lower their cholesterol without taking medication. There are a number of foods that can help, including oatmeal, which contains soluble fiber that can reduce the absorption of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your bloodstream. Apparently, many people put butter in their oatmeal, which seems a bit counterproductive to me since butter is loaded with saturated fat that can raise your bad cholesterol. Many of my patients are surprised to learn that savory oatmeal is a thing, so I guess it needs more publicity.

This version of savory oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfasts lately and I currently eat it at least several times of week. It does have some saturated fat in the form of cheese, but it also contains one of my favorite superfoods (spinach) and one of my favorite condiments (hot sauce). It also follows one of my nutrition rules of thumb, that most meals you eat should have more fiber than saturated fat.

I can’t guarantee that eating this several times a week will personally lower your cholesterol, but I encourage you to give this recipe a try because it makes for a relatively quick, easy and satisfying breakfast that’s loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals.

Savory Oatmeal

Serves 1 


½ cup dried oats

1 cup + 2 Tbsp. water, divided

2 generous handfuls of fresh baby spinach (about 2 cups)

Non-stick cooking spray

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese

Hot sauce (optional), to taste


  1. Prepare oatmeal according to package directions.
  2. While oatmeal is cooking, place 2 Tbsp. water in a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add spinach and cover. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and drain off any excess water.
  3. While spinach and oatmeal are cooking, spray a small frying pan or skillet with non-stick cooking spray and warm over medium heat. Add an egg, reduce heat to medium-low, and cover. Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip egg, and cook until yolk is firm, about 5 minutes total.
  4. Place oatmeal in a cereal bowl. Top with spinach, egg, cheese and hot sauce (if using). Enjoy!


Serving Size: Entire recipe. 310 calories. 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat). 200 mg cholesterol. 370 mg sodium. 32 g carbohydrate. 7 g fiber. 1 g sugar. 17 g protein. 160% DV vitamin A. 60% DV vitamin C. 25% DV calcium. 35% DV iron.

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Snapshots from Lao PDR



Villa Manoly, where we stayed in Vientiane


Kung’s Cafe, my favorite breakfast spot in Vientiane


Fruit vendor at the market in Vientiane



Not so healthy options at the Vientiane market


Snakehead soup with ant egg garnish (it tastes much better than it sounds)


Recovered & deactivated unexploded ordnance from the “Secret War”, at the COPE Visitor Centre in Vientiane



“City Pillar” Buddhist Shrine, near Villa Manoly, Vientiane


Trickster at Buddha Park, near Vientiane


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Woman preparing a patient meal at Lao Friends Hospital for Children, Luang Prabang


Luang Prabang Night Market


Luang Prabang boat racing festival


Wish I could have been on this party boat


Mekong River, Luang Prabang


Luang Prabang boat racing festival


Heading out for a trekking adventure


Visiting a Khmu village in Luang Prabang province


It’s ok for Khmu girls to play with knives


Khmu village, Luang Prabang province


Khmu villagers preparing green onions for market


Hmong village, Luang Prabang province


Hmong farmer with her harvest


Traditional lunch of bamboo with eggs, mushrooms, fruit salad, and dried beef served on a banana leaf


Kuang Si Waterfall



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Bratislava & Vienna

If I had to pick just one city we visited during our 2 weeks in Eastern and Central Europe that I would want to live in it would probably be Bratislava – a quaint old town with sidewalk cafés and art shops, a booming economy, a cool vibe.

The city of Bratislava has been an important center for a number of different nation-states throughout history – during the medieval Great Moravia, a former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, a major city in Czechoslovakia, and now the capital of Slovakia.

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While in Bratislava, we sampled the local café specialty – hot chocolate. If you’ve never had European hot chocolate before, you’re missing out. There’s no powdered formula to speak of, just melted chocolate mixed with milk and heavy cream.

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It was delicious paired with this freshly-baked apple strudel.

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Just 35 miles upriver from Bratislava is Vienna, Austria.

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The final evening of our trip we attended a classical music concert at Palais Auersperg in Vienna. The concert, given by the Vienna Residence Orchestra, featured the works of Mozart and Strauss. While the music was exceptional, it was extra special because Mozart had actual performed original works in the palace in the late 18th century for Queen Maria Theresia.

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Our first stop in Hungary was the city of Pécs, a former European Capital of Culture and one of the most diverse cities in Hungary.

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In addition to brilliant architecture, one of the most interesting aspects of the city was thousands of locks that had been publicly placed on designated areas. According to tradition, couples who place a lock together will have their love sealed as long as the lock remains closed.

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We then spent several days in Budapest, the largest city on the Danube. (Side note: The hilltop statue in the backdrop of some of these pictures is Budapest’s Liberty Statue. It was erected in 1945 to honor the Soviets for liberating Hungary from Nazi occupation and its inscription originally read, “To the memory of the liberating Soviet heroes [erected by] the grateful Hungarian people [in] 1945.” However, as the Soviets overstayed their welcome until 1989, and as resentment over Communist rule grew, the inscription was changed to now read, “To the memory of those all who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary.”

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One of the highlights of our time in Budapest was a visit to the House of Terror. The building was the former headquarters of the German-led Nazis and later the Soviet-led Communists during their respective occupations of Hungary. Many view Hungary as the most liberal and resistant of the former Communist countries, and in 1956 Hungarians tried unsuccessfully to overview the Communist regime. The museum also serves as a memorial to the victims who were detained, interrogated, tortured or killed within the building. Although much of the exhibits are in Hungarian only, sometimes images speak louder than words. (Side note: Photography was not allowed inside the museum, so pictures are only of the exterior).

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As beautiful as Budapest is during the day, it is even more stunning at night.

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Serbia & Croatia

A portion of the border between Serbia and Romania is a narrow gorge on the Danube River aptly named the Iron Gates. When travelling upstream, boats must pass through a series of locks associated with Djerdap Dam, which were only built in the 1970s and 1980s. A thick layer of fog when we passed through the first lock at 2 AM added to the eeriness. As we were stuck in the second lock for several hours, we were especially fortunate that an earthquake didn’t hit, as we’d have no place to go.

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Danube Discovery Cruise 153The gorge itself has a number of interesting sites, both natural and man-made. Here’s a Roman plaque that was inscribed in 105 AD.

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This rock sculpture was etched between 1994 and 2004. Not an easy feat!

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The Mraconia Monastery had to be rebuilt when the dam was constructed because the original 15th century building was now underwater.

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In one of the narrowest passages in the gorge, the Carpathian Mountains in Romania are on the left and the Balkan Mountains in Serbia are on the right.

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After a day on the river, we docked in Belgrade, Serbia.

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We paid a visit to Kalemegdan Fortress, which was built in the 6th century.

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The top of the fortress offered some of the best views of the city, at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.

Danube Discovery Cruise 198Here are some more photos of Belgrade.

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We only saw a handful of Syrian refugees the entire time we were in Eastern Europe. At a park adjacent to the central bus station in Belgrade, a few trailers had been set-up to welcome refugees on their first stopover from the Middle East.

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From Belgrade we drove north to the village of Jarak for a Serbian-style feast. Four generations of the same family live on this farm, and they welcomed us the traditional way, with fresh baked bread dipped in salt…

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…and shots of homemade slivovitz (plum brandy), which is over 100 proof. This “rocket fuel” is supposed to stimulate your appetite.

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The family had converted part of their home into a restaurant for tourists. Lunch featured tons of fresh veggies grown on the farm, cheese-filled pastries, cassoulet, and goulash. It was delicious!

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The family patriarch, who is well into his 80s, made sure everyone had plenty of slivovitz to drink. You could tell that he loved entertaining guests.

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After filling our bellies, we wandered around the farm.

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Danube Discovery Cruise 233The family also made sure we were well entertained throughout our stay.

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The next morning we travelled further north to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city and a major university and cultural center.

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Heading west into Croatia was a rather sobering experience. Here we visited the small city of Vukovar, the site of Europe’s worst siege since World War II. 90% of the city was damaged by the Yugoslav military in the early 1990s during the Croatian War for Independence. While some of the city has been rebuilt, a number of buildings, including this watchtower, have been left bullet-ridden, bombed out, and/or in ruins as a memorial to the past.

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According to our guide, the town has over 30% unemployment and many young people have migrated to Ireland for better prospects. Yet she seemed optimistic about the future, and spoke with great pride in her city and country.

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