Improve your breakfast with these easy tips.

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Oatmeal is a great breakfast for busy weekdays. Simply make a big batch on the weekend, and you'll have several serving on hand for reheating throughout the week. Mix and match your toppings to your mood that day — maybe with fresh fruit and maple syrup or chocolate chips and peanut butter — to keep things from getting boring. But you may be making mistakes when preparing this basic staple. Here are some common mishaps to avoid when cooking oatmeal:

Not Cooking It Properly

Whether you're making them in the microwave or stove top, oats need a little time to soak up the liquid and bulk up. "Not cooking them long enough might get you dry unchewy oats that are not as palatable to enjoy," says Maggie Michalczyk, Chicago-based RDN and author of The Great Big Pumpkin Cookbook.

Plus, you want to sit down and enjoy your bowl of oats, not deal with messy clean up. "If cooking oatmeal in the microwave, it's easy to make a mess without the right prep. It can overflow the bowl if it's too small or you don't break up the cook time," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring YOU and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Make sure to use a larger bowl than you think is necessary and stop the cooking half-way through to stir, she says.

Doing the Wrong Ratio of Liquid to Oats

If making overnight oats, you can come out with a product that's too dry or too soupy if your liquid-to-oats ratio is off.

"If it's thick oatmeal you are after make sure you don't go overboard on the liquid you add to your oats because the end result could be very watery," explains Michalcyzk. "This all depends on how you like your oatmeal but to get it that right amount of thickness, don't over do it with the liquid," she says.

Harris-Pincus has a magic oat formula to share. "I recommend a 2:1 ratio of liquid to oats. My favorite combo is 1/3 cup oats, 1/3 cup milk of choice (dairy or non-dairy) and 1/3 cup yogurt to create a creamier texture."

Cooking in Water and Not Milk

Cooking oatmeal in water is fine in a pinch, but you won't get that creamy, rich texture you might get with milk. "Many people say they don't like oatmeal but it's because they don't add anything to make it interesting. So, if you think your oatmeal is bland, cook it in milk or non-dairy milk [instead of] water with some cinnamon and vanilla extract," says Harris-Pincus. "Once cooked, stir in some mashed banana and top with a drizzle of peanut or almond butter for a flavorful bowl with no added sugar," she says. This will take the recipe up a notch and add more taste and sustenance.

Not Adding Salt

Adding salt to your sweet oatmeal may sound like an oxymoron, but it does help the finished dish. "Salt really brings the flavor of oats to life so don't skip this step when cooking and don't wait [until] the oatmeal is done to just sprinkle it on top," says Michalcyzk. Instead, stir in a pinch while you cook the oats, this way you can monitor as you go and get the right amount of salt.

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