Breakfast cereal has been a wildly popular staple of our diet for over a century, but granola, both in a bowl or as a bar, is a much younger phenomena, dating back to the late sixties and the hippie movement. For some reason, a health halo has been shining on granola products for decades, allowing manufacturers to charge a premium. In many cases, the products sold are not much better, or even worse than sugary cereals and candy bars.
What you need to know:
Here’s why granola’s health halo is not always justified:
1. More calories. While the average breakfast cereal is 100-120 calories, most granolas are 200-250 calories, twice as much. True, granola is much more dense than corn flakes or rice puffs, but if you are trying to cut down on your weight, beware.
2. Not so natural. Many “natural” sounding products are made up of the same ingredients as candy bars – partially hydrogenated oils (read: trans-fat), artificial colors, and various preservatives. Quaker’s Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Granola has a megillah for an ingredient list, and includes goodies such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, BHT, and artificial flavorings.
3. Sugar. While many granola products names boast titles including “Honey Toasted” and “Maple Syrup”, the lead sweetener is sugar, not the natural sweetener. And there’s lots of it. Take a look at Cascadian Farms Maple Brown Sugar Granola. Its second ingredient is sugar. Number 6 is brown sugar, and number 8 is Maple. All told, there are 14 grams of sugar per serving, or 3.5 teaspoons! That’s more than Froot Loops or Frosted Flakes.
What to do at the supermarket:
Watch out for the calorie count on your favorite granola cereal/bar. Inspect the ingredient list to make sure that sugar in its various names is not the predominant ingredient. Generally – avoid bars with long ingredient lists. A good bar or granola cereal should not be sweetened with anything but dried fruit and possibly some honey.
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