Tag: quaker

Granola Bars – Friend or Foe?

Granola Bars – Friend or Foe?

Ingredients like caramel, chocolate, and marshmallows may be must haves in candy, but these sugary, high fat ingredients have found a new place to hang out— It’s time to take a closer look at that granola bar wrapper.

Granola bars are a great on-the-go snack option for busy people, athletes, and lovers of the outdoors. The word granola may conjure up thoughts of healthy oats, grains, and nuts all nicely molded into an easy to eat bar. But snackers beware— the seemingly innocent bars may have a shiny wrapper bragging about being an excellent source of this or that, but what lies beneath may be an over-processed nutritional mess.

While brands like Quaker Oats and Nature Valley may be the kings of the granola bar supermarket isle, they typically rank low in the hierarchy of good nutrition. Containing as many as 25 ingredients, 12 grams of sugar, and sugar-filled ingredients— like a chocolate sheath— these babies can be almost as bad as eating a real candy bar (a Twix Bar has the same amount of calories and sugar).

Similar to candy or cookies, many of the bars have high fructose corn syrup, which has been linked to weight gain, and insulin resistance, hydrogenated oils, which can raise bad cholesterol,  and monosodium glutamate (MSG), which may increase feelings of hunger and is linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Grains and Nuts and Fruits, Oh My!

The number of granola bars on the market has exploded over the past few years, and with the focus shifting to healthier ingredients it’s easier than ever to choose a healthy— or at least healthier— option.

But reading the nutritional information is key to making the best choices, and the more recognizable the ingredients, the better. Many granola bars are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and while fortification is not a replacement for eating a well-balanced diet, it can help to make up for lacking  nutrients. Look for bars that are high in fiber (containing at least 5 of the 14 recommended grams per day), which will help keep that full feeling for longer, and may even help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol.

When looking for a healthy option, double check labels. Try to find bars that have less than 25% of the calories from sugar and 3 grams of fat or less.

While many pre-packaged granola bars can be nutritional land mines, choosing a simple granola bar packed with nutrients and fiber will be more satisfying than a bar loaded with fat and sugar. Ingredient lists full of easily identifiable choices—like oats, grains, fruits, and nut— is a good sign. And make sure that whole grain—not sugar—is the first ingredient listed.  Calories should come in at 100-175 for a single serving (which for many bars is around 30-40 grams—visualize two 9-volt batteries). When a bar has quality ingredients, it should easily pass the label test. And for the best hand-picked ingredients, homemade granola bars are an easy, cost effective way to go.

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