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Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Granola

Granola was once synonymous with health and fitness. Although it is by no means on the same level as Doritos or Twinkies, commercial granola comes loaded with unnecessary – and unwanted – extras.

First, consider that the standard serving listed on a food label for ready-to-eat granola is a quarter of a cup, which is ridiculously small. If you are having granola for breakfast you are very likely pouring in three times that amount into your bowl.

A quarter cup provides 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar. That means that 3/4 of a cup adds up to 450 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 15 grams (almost 4 teaspoons) of sugar.

Granola bars aren’t much better. They might sound healthy, what with being “oat and honey” flavored or “made with real berries”. The ingredient list always tells the tale.

Consider the ingredients in Nature Valley’s Oats & Honey granola bars:

Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Crisp Rice (Rice Flour, Sugar, Malt, Salt), Soy Protein, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor, Almond Flour, Peanut Flour.

Kudos for having whole grain oats, but jeers for having sugar as the second ingredient (and then having it appear four more times, once as the dreaded high fructose corn syrup).

At the end of the day, one serving (two small bars) provides 11 grams of sugar (almost an entire tablespoon) but only 2 grams of fiber.

Quaker’s low-fat chocolate chip granola bars only offer a longer list ingredients.

Even more troubling, at only 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber, they lack enough of these nutrients to make us feel full.

This is often a problem with low-fat processed food — it does not help our body feel full, so 45 minutes later we’re snacking on something else and consuming more calories.

For such a small granola bar, it sure manages to fit in a slew of ingredients:

Granola [Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Rice Flour, Whole Grained Rolled Wheat, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oils With TBHQ And Acid Added To Preserve Freshness And/Or Sunflower Oil With Natural Tocopherol Added To Preserve Freshness, Whole Wheat Flour, Molasses, Soy Lecithin, Caramel Color, Barley, Malt, Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk), Corn Syrup, Crisp Rice (Rice, Sugar, Salt, Barley Malt), Semisweet Chocolate Chunks [Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin , Vanillin ([An Artificial Flavor]), Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Glycerin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fructose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Cottenseed Oil, Sorbitol, Calcium Carbonate, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Salt, Molasses, Water, Soy Lechitin, BHT 9A Preservative), Citric Acid.

Number of times sugar appears on the label: 11!  As if that weren’t enough, there are also cloyingly sweet sugar alcohols added on (in the form of sorbitol).

Even worse, partially hydrogenated oils show up TWICE on the food label. Remember, partially hydrogenated oils indicate the presence of trans fats. Additionally, food manufacturers can get away with saying there are 0 grams of trans fat in their product if there are less than .5 grams per serving.

Half a gram might seem like nothing, but we really shouldn’t be getting ANY trans fat in our diet.

What to do when you are on the road and craving granola? Opt for the much healthier Kashi TLC granola bars. I love the crunchy roasted almond and crunchy pumpkin spice flax varieties!

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  1. The Granola Health Myth – Three Quick Thoughts | Fooducate