How Healthy is that Granola Bar?

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You know your child will be hungry after school, so you throw a package of granola bars into your shopping cart for a healthy snack. But is it?  Most health experts would agree that many granola bars, once an icon for the health food industry, more often resemble candy bars these days. Of course, there are many healthy, low-sugar versions on the market, but if you stroll the aisles at most grocery stores, it seems many of the top-selling brands are all coated in chocolate or sweet yogurt toppings.

First Granola Bars Weren’t Candy

It wasn’t always this way. In 1975 General Mills became the first major food company to sell granola bars when it introduced the Nature Valley brand, a crunchy granola bar made from rolled oats and honey. Varieties such as its Oats ‘N Honey Crunchy bar, which contain 11 grams of sugar, remain somewhat on the healthier side of these bars.

Added Sugar is the Culprit

Since then, all kinds of innovations have “enhanced” granola bars, including claims of having whole grains and being packed with nuts for protein and dried fruits for extra fiber. Yet some of the brands have as much as 25 grams of added sugar (or 6 teaspoons), which according to the American Heart Association, is the recommended limit for women to consume in one day. (Men are advised to have no more than 36 grams of added sugar.)

Whatever you’re eating—be it a candy bar or a granola bar–Get Healthy U Founder Chris Freytag advises people to read labels to try to cut as many grams of added sugar out of your diet as possible. “Unlike natural sugar, added sugar—such as high fructose corn syrup or white granulated sugar—spikes your blood sugar, making your body work harder and throws your insulin production into overdrive. When your body can’t use up all that insulin, the residual is stored as fat. Added sugar also causes also inflammation in your body, especially in adults,” she says.

What to Look for on the Labels

When you examine the labels, dietitians recommend people look for granola bars that contain about 5 grams each of fiber, protein and unsaturated fat. And be aware that regulations requiring manufacturers to break out added sugars hasn’t taken full effect yet. So, if a brand doesn’t break it out for you, assume that a bar containing a high percentage of prunes, for instance, will likely drive up the total sugar count. Also, look for ones that contain the least amount of saturated fat. An evaluation of 230  granola bars from The Insider Blog found that the RXBRAND to be the healthiest overall, with two KIND Bar Flavors coming in second. Even brands considered to be healthy such as LÄRABARs, Nature Valley and KIND, make some of the granola bars that scored worst on the blog’s healthy scale.

Or you can make your own granola bars to control exactly how much protein, fiber and unsaturated fat goes into each bar. The Whole Grains Council breaks down the granola bar recipe to a simple formula:

  •      Oats
  •      Other grains (flakes, wheat germ, etc.)
  •      Chunky things (dried fruits, nuts, seeds, coconut, etc.)
  •      Sweetener (honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.)
  •      Fat or oil (nut butter, butter, oil, coconut oil)
  •      Flavorings (vanilla, cinnamon

The basic instructions are:

  1.    mix everything together
  2.    press into a pan
  3.    cook for a little while and cool
  4.    cut into bars

If you’re making an unbaked version with nut butter, be prepared to store it in the freezer or refrigerator.

We created a recipe for you below to enjoy.

Coconut Mango Granola Bars

(adapted from Ina Garten’s Homemade Granola Bars Recipe)

Yields12 Servings
Ingredients
 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
 1 cup sliced almonds
 1 cup shredded coconut or slices, loosely packed (unsweetened)
 ½ cup toasted wheat germ
  cup honey
  cup maple syrup
 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
 ¼ tsp kosher salt
 1 All Mango Crispy Fruit, freeze dried fruit from Crispy Green
 ½ cup dried cherries
 ½ cup dried peaches, apricots or other variety of Crispy Fruit
Directions
1

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a baking dish parchment paper or grease it.

2

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to make sure it doesn’t burn.

3

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

4

Melt coconut oil in the microwave on low and then once cooled slightly add to the honey, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a small bowl.

5

Add this mixture to the oats mixture with a rubber spatula, and then mix in the dried fruit.

6

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and press firmly with the back of a spatula.

7

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool completely and carefully cut into individual bars. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Ingredients
 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
 1 cup sliced almonds
 1 cup shredded coconut or slices, loosely packed (unsweetened)
 ½ cup toasted wheat germ
  cup honey
  cup maple syrup
 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
 ¼ tsp kosher salt
 1 All Mango Crispy Fruit, freeze dried fruit from Crispy Green
 ½ cup dried cherries
 ½ cup dried peaches, apricots or other variety of Crispy Fruit

Directions

Directions
1

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a baking dish parchment paper or grease it.

2

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check to make sure it doesn’t burn.

3

Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ. Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

4

Melt coconut oil in the microwave on low and then once cooled slightly add to the honey, maple syrup, vanilla and salt in a small bowl.

5

Add this mixture to the oats mixture with a rubber spatula, and then mix in the dried fruit.

6

Pour the mixture into your prepared baking dish and press firmly with the back of a spatula.

7

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool completely and carefully cut into individual bars. Enjoy!

Coconut Mango Granola Bars

 

Whatever you do, read up on what’s in your food. You’ll be glad you did.  

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