Some of the popular ones out there are Quaker Oat, Nature Valley and Special K. Some are better than others but generally speaking, these do not provide much nutritional benefit. If you are going to eat packaged foods, at the very least, you should look for some with protein or nutrients. When looking at the nutrition information for the classic chocolate chip Quaker Oats, there was quite honestly not much there. There were many ingredients, most of which were not healthy, but the nutrition label itself didn’t provide much of anything. When eating granola bars like this, with artificial sugar and little protein, you are likely to experience that sugar crash. You can see how this may impact a kid who is trying to concentrate in class after lunch or snack time.
Another popular brand is Nature Valley. Their branding and marketing is done quite well. Their packaging is green, the word “Nature” is in the name, and their commercials usually show people doing adventurous things like hiking and camping. The first one of their products I looked at was the classic Oats ‘N’ Honey Crunchy bars which also doesn't contain much nutrition, expect for some fiber. Then I looked at another classic - the Sweet and Salty bars which again, did not much to provide nutrition and had a whole lot of unnecessary ingredients. Lastly, I looked into their Lunch Box granola bar which seems like their version of the Quaker Oats chocolate chip granola bar and this had a good amount of fiber but the ingredient list was essentially a list of different forms of sugar.
Last on the list is Special K Bars because they are truly advertised as a health product. Yes, some of their products may be low in calories but that doesn’t mean they will promote weight loss and wellness. Their ingredients list is unfortunately filled with a lot of questionable ingredients including sugars in multiple forms and preservatives. I know there are a lot more granola bars out there, and even a lot in the health food section of the grocery store, but this is meant to get you critically thinking about what you are purchasing and consuming. You just have to do your research!
So, what are some healthier options?
The reason for the question mark is because I am not fully convinced some of these options are better. Clif Bars and Larabars actually have more sugar then the ones I listed above, and more calories. However, I am not a calorie counter so that is not the information I am going to dwell on. The only reason I may say that a Clif Bar is better than the options above is because they generally contain more protein, have a decent source of fiber and contain other nutrients. However, they still have multiple sources of sugars, natural flavours (whatever that means), and things I honestly can't pronounce.
Next on the list is Larabars. I personally, like having these on hands for emergencies because I find them quite filling and I sometimes only need half of one. However, they are quite high in sugar and may not be the best option for everyone. The good thing about them is that their ingredient list is super small and the peanut butter one for example only contains peanuts, dates and sea salt - how awesome is that?! Just be mindful of them and determine whether or not they will hinder or support your health goals.
MadeGood granola bars are a good comparison to the Quaker Oats and Nature Valley chocolate chip granola bars. They contain just a little less in terms of sugar, hardly any protein but some fiber. The beneficial aspects of this granola bar is that they contain vegetable powder providing some sneaky ways to get in important vitamins and minerals as well as the fact that they are easy and safe to pack in kids lunches (nut free!).
Lastly, one granola bar that I keep seeing on instagram and social media is the RXBAR. Just so you are aware I have never tried one of these bars myself but my review is strictly based on the label just like many of the other products I have reviewed so far. Their base ingredients, as they boldly advertise, are generally close to the following: 3 eggs whites, 6 almonds, 3 cashews, 2 dates and “No B.S.”. For the different flavours, the ingredient list may change the nut ratio or add things like coconut. They appear to have a good source of fiber and great source of protein but are also higher in sugars like Larabars. Their products contain no artificial preservatives and colourings. So overall, I would say this is one of the better options like Larabars but again be mindful of the sugars.
The Best Option - Make them yourself
Now I know what you might be thinking “Who has time to make homemade granola bars” especially when the point of buying them for many people is for convenience. However, if you stock your pantry right and batch cook, then the process is not so bad.
Stock your kitchen:
Stock your pantry with some gluten-free grain options – rolled oats, quinoa
Buy some nuts, seeds, dried fruit and dark chocolate, coconut flakes
Other common additives are honey, maple syrup, coconut oil, dates, nut butters
Good protein powder if you want to try making protein bars
Make some time:
The first time you do this, it might be a bit time consuming, especially if you are working with a bunch of new ingredients but once you get the hang on it, you won’t even need to follow a recipe and you will have the confidence to make them how you want!
Block off some time on a Sunday and make a large batch or granola and/or granola bars, maybe some protein bars, and/or energy balls.
Leave out some to have on hand throughout the week and store the rest in the freezer.
At the beginning of each week pull some out of the freezer and let thaw.
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