A question has been plaguing me lately. Are granola bars actually healthy? See, I really like snacks, and easy snacks on the go are a must. And I really like the idea of granola bars*, and they sound healthy… but are they?
Then I started going down the rabbit hole. How do you measure the health of a granola bar, or anything else for that matter? There’s calorie count alone, but that seems like a shallow way to measure a complex product. There’s fiber and protein and filling-ness. And fat, especially saturated fat and trans fat. There’s Glycemic Index and complex versus simple carbs. And there’s the amount of additives that we really shouldn’t be putting in our bodies.
Yikes. And all that doesn’t even include another important factor when choosing a granola bar: Taste! Here’s a breakdown of a few different bars:
|Nature Valley Oats and Honey (2 bars)||Lara Bar (Cherry Pie)||Nutri grain Apple Cinnamon Cereal Bar||FiberOne Oats and Chocolate||PowerBar Protein Plus Bar (Chocolate and Peanut Butter)|
|Fat (Total/ Saturated/ Trans)||6g/.5/0||8g/.5g/0||3g/.5/0||4g/2/0||6g/3g/0|
|Carbs (Total/ Sugar/Fiber||29g/12g/2g||30g/23g/4g||24g/12g/3g||29g/10g/9g||25g/12/4g|
|Ingredients||Mostly pronounceable||Unsweetened cherries, dates and almonds (that’s IT!)||Lots! (And really weird things no ones every heard of)||Lots!||Lots!|
|Taste||I think they’re delicious. Especially slathered with peanut butter.||I like them!||Pretty tasty, but definitely not filling||Like a cardboard candy bar||Like a chalky candy bar,|
|Overall ratings||I think they’re filling, and I think they win on taste. However, the nutrients really don’t measure up.||They contain 7g of unsaturated fat (which are good!) and have a super simple ingredient list. They do have a decent amount of calories and lots of sugar, even if from natural sources.||Doesn’t contain much to keep you full or satisfied. Not a good option overall.||This is a good option to get a lot of fiber, which makes it filling. Some like the taste, but others don’t prefer it. I have also found they can leave you feeling bloated. Personally, I’d prefer to get my fiber from fruits and veggies.||If you’re looking for lots of protein, this delivers. Definitely not the most natural ingredient list, and contains 200mg of sodium and 3g of saturated fat. Also a higher cal option.|
So, I think the moral of the story is that you have to sacrifice on something in granola bars. You can’t have both the best taste and the most filling, or the most fiber and the most protein. It’s probably better to choose a snack that’s not prepackaged, like a handful of almonds and an apple. 1 medium sized apple and 1 ounce of almonds provides 226 cal, 14 g fat (1 g saturated/0 trans), 23g total carb/6 g fiber/14g sugar and 6g protein. Cheaper, more natural, and healthier.
*I use the term granola bars loosely to describe cereal bars, protein bars, etc.