Granola bars have become almost a staple in the average American diet now a day. I mean why not? They are a quick, easy, nutritious and on the go breakfast or snack, right? SCREEEEEECH!... Let's step on the breaks for a second and take a little deeper dive into these so-called healthy breakfast or snack options.
Granola bars have gained a lot of popularity the past couple decades for their convenience and their alleged health benefits. Some brands promote theirs bar to be a great source of fiber, protein, and a boost of energy, great for a busy lifestyle. However, when you flip that little bar over and check out the nutrition label you will find, most often, that these convenient bars are loaded with added sugars and may not contain the amount of fiber or protein you were hoping for. Now, I’m NOT here to tell you to never eat a granola bar ever again. When I’m in a rush and need a quick snack, I reach for a granola bar too, but I try to be mindful of the kind I am choosing.
Let’s talk sugar, to be more specific, added sugar! Added sugar tends to be hidden in plain sight when it comes to granola bars. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 25 grams of added sugar/day for women and 36 grams/day for men. Studies have shown that added sugars may increase the risk for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Here are a few examples of popular granola bars and their added sugar content; Chocolate Chip Quaker Chewy Granola Bars contain 7 grams of added sugar, KIND Dark Chocolate Chunk granola bar contributes 8 grams of added sugar, and finally a Chocolate Brownie CLIF Bar brings in a whopping 20 grams of added sugar…. 20 GRAMS! I was shocked by this one!
The America Heart Association recommends consuming 25-30 grams of fiber/day, 46 grams of protein for adult women and 56 grams for adult men (these recommendations differ per population). Several granola bar brands advertise as a good source of fiber and protein. Let’s take a closer look at these claims. Starting with the Chocolate Brownie CLIF Bar, which contains 4 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein, Oats n’ Chocolate Fiber One Bar racking in 9 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein, KIND Dark Chocolate Chunk Bar ringing in 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein, Chocolate Chip Quaker Chewy Granola Bar bringing in a slim 1 gram of fiber and protein, and Peanut Butter Rx Bar contributing 5 grams of fiber and 12 grams protein. Studies have shown that fiber is a great asset for maintaining and improving our health. Studies have also shown that adequate amounts of protein promote muscle mass and strength.
It may be better to snack on less processed foods like fruits or nuts, but sometimes a granola bar may be the only realistic option. When that is the case, we should start to be mindful and curious about the nutrition label. A general rule of thumb when selecting granola bars is looking for labels that include real food ingredients, 4-5 grams of protein, at least 3 g of fiber, and limit the amount of added sugars, or avoid them completely. My personal preference is an Rx Bar, they have 0 grams of added sugar, ~5g of fiber, and ~12 g protein. They also tend to be made from a majority of real food ingredients.
Granola bar or glorified candy bar? It depends, on the brand, your opinion, and your health needs. However, there are some brands that tend to have very little health benefits. Next time you reach for your favorite granola bar, flip the box or bar over and check out the nutrition label!