What is your opinion on granola bars? I’m really trying to eat healthy and want to include some snacks in my diet that I can eat during the day when I get hungry. Are granola bars a smart choice for a healthy snack?
The answer to your question is that they CAN be a healthy or smart choice but granola bars are a very tricky little food when it comes to nutrition. Their popularity has grown exponentially in the last decade. Much of this popularity has to do with the fact that as a society, we are much busier than in times past so “on the go” foods are much higher in demand. The market for these bars has exploded with so many different products, that the label “granola bar isn’t really accurate to cover such a broad spectrum. Granola, by definition, consists simply of rolled oats, honey (or some equivalent sweetener), nuts and dried fruit. But of the hundreds of bars on the market it’s actually quite challenging to find some that consist of granola. Marketing teams realize that there is only so many ways to mix these basic foods and keep your interest so they began to manufacture ingredients. And once you begin to manufacture ingredients, the sky is the limit as to the amount of variation you can put into the market place. With a little investigation, you will begin to notice this market has 2 basic groups, the manufactured food group and the natural food group.
Perhaps the best example in the manufactured group is the protein bar. These bars are heavily marketed to those who are interested in fitness and weight loss primarily because of the popularity of high protein, low carbohydrate diets. The problem with developing these super-protein bars is that protein, in its highest form, comes from meat. Now it doesn’t matter how organic, grass-fed or free-range that meat is, it’s not going to taste very good stuffed inside of a protein bar.
So what is the solution? The solution is to manufacture the protein. The funny thing is that manufactured protein also tastes awful so there is a need to add innumerable other ingredients to make it taste good. In fact, I have one of these protein bars in my hand now and of its 37 total ingredients, only 1 (walnuts) can I say is actually food. It has over 25 grams of protein, almost no sugar and yet remarkably it tastes like banana nut bread! How is this possible? The answer is chemistry.
There is an emerging niche within the snack bar market born of disdain for this manufactured chemistry present in our modern-day food distribution. These snack bar companies are really part of a bigger grassroots movement to return us to eating wholesome natural foods. Many of these companies are producing fantastic tasting snack bars with very few ingredients, all of which are natural. You will notice that these bars are higher in natural sugar and lower in protein because of these natural ingredients. The protein, fat and carbohydrates in these products come from completely natural foods. I also have one of these bars in my hand. All 5 of its ingredients: banana, dates, walnuts, cinnamon and nutmeg are natural foods and you know what, remarkably it tastes like banana nut bread. Well, let’s be honest, it’s nowhere near as good as my mom’s banana nut bread but it sure has fewer calories!
One final note is to get into the habit, as with all packaged food, of reading the labels on whatever type of snack bar you decide to purchase. You will find that many contain more sugar and calories than a traditional candy bar with just more protein. The question then lies in whether you want a more natural food source or a manufactured food source. In my mind, that’s not a very difficult question to answer.