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How To Find a Healthy Granola Bar

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How To Find a Healthy Granola Bar

Granola bars sound healthy, right? They are certainly a convenient, on the go snack, but there are a few sneaky facts you need to know before choosing the right one.  Some granola bars are great options, while others pay homage to the candy bar, packing a hefty dose of sugar and fat. Don’t be fooled by the “health halo,” including words like healthy, natural, fiber, low fat, or organic. These claims lure me to the box too…for a closer look.

How is a parent supposed to know which granola bar to choose? The Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredient list on each package can help guide your choices.  First, scour the nutrition facts label to check for sugar, fat, sodium, and fiber; then turn over the package and look at the sources of these nutrients on the ingredient list.

We’ve done some of the work for you.  Check out these randomly selected, kid-oriented options:

 

Brand Calories Total Fat Sat. Fat Sugar Sodium Fiber Calcium
Nature Valley: Strawberry Yogurt 140 3.5 g 2 g 13 g 110 mg 1 g 200 mg
Quaker: Chewy Chocolate Chip 100 3 g 1.5 g 7 g 75 mg 1 g 80 mg
Kashi TLC: Chewy Trail Mix 140 5 g 0.5 g 5 g 105 mg 4 g 0 mg
Hershey’s: Reese’s Sweet & Salty with Peanuts 170 9 g 2.5 g 9 g 180 mg 2 g 0 mg
Kudo’s: Milk Chocolate Chip 120 3.5 g 2 g 11 g 70 mg 1 g 250 mg
Trader Joe’s: Chewy Peanut Crunch 130 2.5 g 0 g 12 g 150 mg 1 g 20 mg
Disney: Chewy Rainbow Chocolate Gems 120 4 g 1.5 g 9 g 105 mg 1 g 20 mg
Cascadian Farm: Organic Chewy Chocolate Chip 140 3 g 1 g 10 g 125 mg 1 g 0 mg
Fiber One: Chewy Oats & Chocolate 140 4 g 1.5 g 10 g 90 mg 9 g 100 mg
Special K: Strawberry 90 1.5 g 1 g 9 g 95 mg 0.5 g 0 mg
Nutri-grain: Strawberry 130 0.5 g 0.5 g 12 g 120 mg 2 g 200 mg

*Nutrition information obtained from www.calorieking.com.

Healthiest: We looked at overall qualities, but you may be focused on a single nutrient such as sugar or fiber. In that case, it’s easy to see how each granola bar fares in nutrient categories compared to its competitor.  Kashi TLC Chewy Trail Mix seems to be the overall best choice with low saturated fat, the least sugar, and a good amount of fiber.  Although its calorie content is on the higher side in comparison to the chart as a whole, it is still a reasonable amount for a snack. Pairing this granola bar with a 1/2 cup of milk would add protein and calcium to make it more nutritious, satisfying and filling.

If you want lower sugar content, aim for less than 9 grams of sugar per serving (a donut has 12 grams!).  For fiber, go for more than 2 grams per serving (5 grams per serving is considered a high fiber item). Is sodium a worry?  Shoot for fewer than 200 mg per serving.

Unhealthiest: Hershey’s Reece’s Sweet & Salty with Peanuts seems to be the least healthy with the highest calorie, fat, and saturated fat content, along with moderate to high levels of sugar–but I bet it tastes good.

Disclaimer: This is just a small representation of a single flavor from each of many popular brands on the market, not of all bars available.  Nutrient content may change with different flavor options within each brand.  The purpose of this chart is Nutrition Facts label education, and not specific brand recommendations.



Jill Castle Jill Castle is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with expertise in pediatric nutrition. She is the co-author of Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, and creator of Just the Right Byte, a childhood nutrition blog. Follow Jill on Twitter @pediRD and Facebook.
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