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Let’s be honest - many of us are too busy to even think about sitting down for a proper breakfast or lunch, which leads us to grab-and-go meals and snacks.
Inspired by our Spoiler Alert: How Much Sugar is in Your Breakfast, we decided to take things a step further by investigating granola bars.
Are granola bars real food or really unhealthy?
A common theme we found was that A LOT of the big name companies (the ones that you and your kids would typically gravitate to) use sneaky words to trick us (the consumers) into thinking that their products are healthy - when they're FAR from it.
After taking a trip down the oat-filled aisle, we realized not only did we have to pay attention to the ingredients listed when choosing a better bar, we also had to consider the surplus of sugars.
Let's talk about the TYPES of sugar we eat.
Natural sugars (GOOD) are naturally occurring... think fruit, honey, maple syrup.
Added sugars (BAD) are refined and manufactured. Did you know that companies use over 55 words on food labels to indicate sugar? Yep, they use sly words as another way to confuse us. Be on the lookout for ingredients that contain the words "malt," "syrup," or end with "ose." Some common examples:
- High fructose corn syrup
How much sugar should we be eating in a day?
Depending on a number of factors, including your level of activity, it should look something like this per day: (sources linked at the bottom)
- Women: 24 grams of added sugar (40-60 grams total of natural + added)
Just for comparison:
- A large apple has 25 grams of natural sugar.
- A Clif "crunch" granola bar (chocolate chip) has 21 grams of added sugar.
- So ladies, if you eat a Clif granola bar and an apple for breakfast, you’ve already reached your suggested daily sugar intake.
Some really unhealthy granola bars you may have thought were nutritious
For the sake of comparison, we chose well-known brands for the "Really Unhealthy" bars, each of which is highly processed (many with upwards of 20 ingredients listed) and sugar that has been ADDED by the manufacturer.
So, without further ado, here are some granola bars you should avoid.
Clif Bars (blueberry crisp):
Topping the list, these Clif bars contain 22 grams of sugar per serving and are full of manufactured ingredients. Just take a look at the first (and most predominantly used) ingredient, organic brown rice syrup, which is another sneaky name for added sugar... ICK!
Organics Bars (strawberry):
They may be organic but Organic Doesn't Necessarily Mean Healthy. With 15 grams of sugar per serving and an array of other added ingredients, we'll pass on these snack bars.
Quaker Breakfast Squares (blueberry):
With 13 grams of sugar per serving and over 15 ingredients, these bars may "help you fill up," but won't necessarily fuel you!
Special K Protein Meal Bars (strawberry):
These bars market themselves as a "meal." We beg to differ because the first three ingredients are soy, sugar and oil.
Special K Protein Snack Bars (chocolate cherry nut):
Protein snack or manufactured mess? These snack bars have 12 grams of sugar per serving and over 20 ingredients!
Quaker Chewy Bars (s'mores):
This is a prime example of marketing at its finest. With words like 100% whole grains, real chocolate chips and 100 calories per bar, you'd think these bars would be a great grab-and-go. Not so fast, once you take a closer look you'll see they're made up of added sugars and an array of refined ingredients.
Atkins Nougat Bars (caramel chocolate peanut):
Do you recognize 95% of the ingredients in these bars? Nope, we don't either. Real food or really unhealthy... that's a no-brainer!
We're not saying don't eat any of these ever again, but next time you're perusing the aisles at the grocery store in hopes of finding a tasty granola bar, you may want to think twice before just grabbing one off the shelf and tossing it in your basket.
Some granola bars filled with good ingredients
The last three granola bars are made with minimally processed ingredients and naturally occurring sugars (dates, honey, maple syrup, etc.), making them a superior choice when it comes to real food snack bars.
Purely Elizabeth Grain-Free Granola Bars (coconut cashew):
With mostly real-food ingredients and only 6 grams of sugar per serving, we consider these bars a good choice (MUCH better than any of the bars listed above).
With almost all real-food ingredients, RXbars make a great grab-and-go bar.
These bars use ONLY REAL-FOOD INGREDIENTS, making them the BEST choice of the bunch.
While the sugar count may still be high in some of these "real-food" bars, you're better off choosing a bar that's sweetened by naturally occurring sugars than highly processed ones.
Choose bars that have REAL foods in them (especially listed as the first three ingredients)
- Whole grains
Put down the bar if it contains these ingredients:
- Refined sugars - Remember those 55+ words for sugar that we talked about earlier?
- Highly processed additives - All those unfamiliar ingredients your grandmother wouldn't recognize.
Take the amount of sugar into consideration.
Is the bar nutritious and good for you or does it have the same amount of sugar as a cookie?
What's your favorite REAL-food granola bar? If you can't decide, you could always try making your own!
Cheers to a healthy lifestyle and living FULLforLife!
xo, Pam & Kalie
- AHA http://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/sugar-recommendation-healthy-kids-and-teens-infographic
- https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ (idea for post)
- The amount of sugar per day are only estimates, and approximations of individual calorie needs can be aided with online tools such as those available at www.supertracker.usda.gov.