For many years, granola served as a stalwart of the health food community. A combination of filling oats and sweeteners, granola buoyed the reputation of 19th-century health clubs, improved the fortunes of one John Harvey Kellogg, and even fed many of the attendees at the original Woodstock.
At some point, though, the granola bar went from being a healthy alternative to candy to becoming… essentially candy, but with a different name. The addition of more sweeteners and a de-emphasis on healthy ingredients led to granola bars being covered in chocolate, drizzled with some form of shelf-stable “yogurt,” and turned into a horrific amalgam that might as well be sold alongside Hershey’s bars.
So, if you want to eat granola bars as a snack, you should consider looking carefully at what you’re eating, to make sure it’s not just over-glorified junk food.
Know what you’re eating
A granola bar will typically contain rolled oats and nuts. This means that they should contain a high amount of protein and unsaturated fats alongside the carbs.
While carbs aren’t bad (in fact, they’re necessary for your body to continue functioning), too many carbs can result in weight gain, as the carbs will metabolize in your body to become fat if they’re not burned quickly enough.
A good balance of carbs to protein and fat should be roughly a 2-to-1-to-1 ratio. This will ensure that the fat and protein help you to stay full, while the carbs give you some energy that is readily accessible when you need it, such as if you’re on a hike or listening to Canned Heat and Mountain with about 450,000 of your closest friends.
If the ingredients list does not have oats and nuts as the top two ingredients, you may want to consider choosing a different bar. Sure, the bar may taste good, especially if some form of sugar is among the top 2 ingredients, but if you’re taking in that much sugar, you’re not going to get as many health benefits as you would for eating a balanced meal.
Many mass-produced granola bars will have long ingredients lists that include several polysyllabic words that you will never hear outside of their ingredients list. While they sound terrifying, the ingredients are typically harmless enough for the FDA to consider them safe for human consumption.
That said, these ingredients often coincide with hefty amounts of sugars, and usually not as many natural ingredients such as fruits or peanut butter. They also tend to have a lot of saturated fats. So, be wary if you see a long name among the ingredients list, as you might just be eating an over-glorified candy bar.
Eat in moderation
Even if you do find a good, healthy granola option, remember that even good granola bars should be eaten in moderation, with a diverse diet that includes other foods. Granola is still a calorie-dense food, so eating several of them in a day will likely lead to weight gain.
As a sub for a full breakfast, however, a good granola bar can work wonders. A good ratio of carbs-to-protein can ensure that you have a filling, healthy breakfast that keeps you from snacking throughout the morning.
Another thing to bear in mind; granola is often high in fiber. This is a good thing, of course; we need plenty of fiber to ensure that our digestive system stays in good form. Further, fiber also helps you stay full. And, because oats are one of the primary sources of fiber in granola, that fiber is soluble, which will help with cholesterol.
That said, taking in a high amount of fiber means that you will want to drink plenty of water. This cannot be overstated enough; be sure to drink some water with your granola. That’ll help you feel fuller, but it will also help your body process that granola. Your body will thank you for the water whenever you’re off catching Santana on his latest tour.