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Granola Bar: Healthy Treat or Sugary Sweet?

Child Eating a Granola Bar
Photo by smoorenburg via flickr

You just finished your workout and you are starving!  You check your watch.  Three hours left until dinner?  No way will you be able to make it that long without food.  A post workout snack to tide you over until dinner sounds like just the thing.  So, you reach into your bag and grab a granola bar.  But is that the right choice?

Are granola bars healthy?
Granola bars have become a popular snack or breakfast choice among athletes, outdoor enthusiasts and busy people who want a healthy option that is quick, convenient and filling.  However, they might not be as healthy or nutritious as many think.

Most granola bars commonly contain candy like ingredients, such as caramel, chocolate and marshmallows. And they are usually dipped in a sugary syrup, which makes them little better than high calorie candy bars. Plus, most are highly processed, contain artificial ingredients and have little fiber in them.  So, what you end up with is a snack that is full of fat and sugar with little nutritional value.

Can I still eat granola bars?
That does not mean you have to stop eating granola bars.  You just can’t be lulled into a false sense of security because granola is in the name.  You have to read the nutrition labels when you choose granola bars.  Some granola bars are healthy and some are not.  Here are a few things to look for on the nutrition label.

  1. Dietary Fiber: Make sure the dietary fiber is more than 2g per bar.  Higher fiber foods give you more sustained energy and make you feel full faster.
  2. Watch the fats and sugars: Stay away from bars that are made with high amounts of saturated oils, trans fats and sweeteners.  Partially hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar and candy like products should be avoided entirely.  Granola bars with those ingredients will be high in fat and sugar and contain little nutritional value.
  3. Skip the artificial flavors and colorings: Artificial flavors, colors and preservatives add no nutritional value to your snack and some have been shown to be detrimental to your health.  They are used to enhance the presentation of foods and to extend their shelf life, not to enhance your health and extend your life.  So, avoid them.

I Can’t Find A Healthy Granola Bar!
If you can’t find a granola bar that is healthy, you can make your own granola or granola bars, like I do. Making homemade granola is easy, doesn’t require much time and gives you complete control over the ingredients.  That allows you to make something exactly to your taste that is more nutritious and quite often cheaper than commercial granola bars.

The bottom line:
Even though granola bars are appealing because they are convenient and practical, you need to look deeper when considering them as a snack choice.  Many of them contain so much sugar and fat that they are not much healthier than candy bars.  So, read the labels and don’t be fooled by the healthy image that the term “granola bar” implies.  The food companies are more interested in selling products, than they are in making you healthy.  It is up to you to make sure that you get the healthy food you need.  It is out there. You just have to make the right choices!

Comments (6)

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  1. Maria Isabel says:

    You are right. I don’t eat any of the granola bars because I am allergic to nuts and other ingredients. Thanks

  2. Emily says:

    I liked the slant this article had about food manufacturers trying to make money off of us without providing us any benefits, such as good nutrition. I read a lot about Big Food and food politics and think that this would be a great angle to cover on a more frequent basis.

  3. Dolce says:

    Best bars are power bar harvest, kashi go lean crunch, most luna bars, and the cool mint chocolate clif bar

  4. PJack says:

    I was so looking for the recipe for granola bars. Will you be posting it or did I miss it?

  5. […] start with granola bars. You’re in a rush, so you grab a granola bar on the go, thinking you’ve made a quick and […]

  6. ME says:

    Best Bar for you – lowest cals – Quest Bars. Oh and they taste delicious.

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