Granola bars are a popular snack, but are they healthy?

Registered dietitian Tina Hreso prepares a healthy meal.
Registered dietitian Tina Hreso prepares a healthy meal.

Some companies put misleading words or pictures on the box to make the product look “close to nature,” said Tina Hreso (pronounced Her-RESS-o), a registered dietitian at Novant Health Bariatric Solutions in Charlotte. “If you look at the labels, they can be comparative to a candy bar.”

Check out the ingredients in breakfast bars by some of the most well-known companies and you’ll find chocolate-topped and cereal-flavored options – products loaded with nearly double the amount of recommended sugar and lots of additives.

But granola bars aren’t all bad – most include nuts and whole grains – just avoid the flashy marketing tricks by studying the Nutrition Facts label. Hreso explained what to look for.

1. Sugar

Keep in mind that sugar can be disguised on an ingredient list.

“A lot of times they’ll use honey, they’ll use straight up sugar, they’ll use different things like maltose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey, fruit juice concentrate – all these different things are names for sugar,” Hreso said.

A best practice is to choose a granola bar with less than 10 grams of sugar.

2. Protein

Granola bars with extra protein are more likely to provide longer, more sustained energy.

“When we’re talking about energy and satiety, protein sits a little longer in the stomach,” Hreso said. “So, it’s going to keep you full a little longer and it’s also going to help to slow that release of sugar into the bloodstream.”

Hreso said to find one with at least 5 grams of protein.

3. Fiber

Fiber “helps control fats within our bodies,” such as cholesterol, Hreso said. It can also normalize bowel movements and help control blood sugar levels.

Look for a granola bar with at least 3 grams of fiber.

4. Ingredients

Some companies are moving back to basic, simple ingredients. It can help to find a brand with a shorter ingredient list.

“It’s always better because it prevents the amount of additives that they put in there,” Hreso said.

Listen to the podcast to hear what other grab-and-go snacks Hreso recommended.

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