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Granola is one of my family’s favorite foods, but with so many brands and products on the store shelves, I wanted to know more about how to choose a healthy granola.
With its combination of whole oats, dried fruit, nuts and honey, granola is sweet, crunchy, and full of yummy goodness.
Yet like many other foods that have a health halo such as cereal and yogurt, it’s a good idea to know how to read labels and what to look for because not all are created equal.
Many types of granola can be high in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugars. And because it’s so delicious, it’s easy to eat too much.
Today, I’ve got you covered with the health benefits of granola, how to choose a healthy granola, different ways to eat it, plus my favorite healthy granola recipe.
WHAT IS GRANOLA?
Granola is usually served as a cereal or a topping for yogurt.
It’s made with toasted whole oats, a sweetener like honey, sugar or maple syrup, dried fruit like raisins or dried cranberries, and nuts and seeds.
Some granolas have other grains like millet, buckwheat, brown rice and quinoa, nut butters, chocolate, coconut, oils, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla bean.
When you know how to choose a healthy granola, there are several benefits for your family.
Protein and fiber
While each brand and type vary, granola is generally a good source of protein and fiber, which satisfies hunger, balances blood sugar, and can help prevent weight gain.
The nuts and seeds in granola are a good source of healthy fats, which also satisfy hunger and are a vital source of energy.
Healthy fats are also essential for healthy cell membranes, they support kids’ brains and the growth and development of their nervous systems, and help their bodies absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K.
Fat is also necessary to make hormones and immune cells and they help regulate inflammation and metabolism.
Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
Many nuts and seeds are also rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, and zinc as well as antioxidants.
Dried fruit can provide significant proportions of the daily recommended intake of several micronutrients like folate. It also also contains more phenols, a type of antioxidant that’s protective against certain diseases, than fresh fruit per ounce, Anthony Komaroff, M.D. states in this article.
Makes for easy meals and snacks
A healthy granola can make for a quick and easy breakfast—either served with milk, or sprinkled on top of oatmeal, overnight oats, yogurt or a smoothie bowl.
Granola bars can also be healthy, pre-portioned snacks for kids, but since many are highly processed, not a good source of protein and fiber, and high in sugar, it’s a good idea to know how to choose a healthy snack bar.
DRAWBACKS OF EATING GRANOLA
Despite the health benefits, there are some things to be aware of when choosing a healthy granola.
High in calories
Per serving, granola is high in calories. Take KIND Strawberry Clusters. A 2/3 cup has 250 calories.
If you’re trying to lose the baby weight or lose weight in general however, it’s something to be mindful of.
Although experts say parents shouldn’t worry about counting their kids’ calories, it’s still something to be aware of because they can add up fast if you don’t watch portion sizes.
Related: How To Teach Kids Portion Control
A source of added sugars
With added sugars like honey and maple syrup, a seemingly healthy granola can also be a source of sneaky, added sugars.
The American Heart Association says kids under 2 shouldn’t have any added sugar in their diets while those between 2 and 18 should have no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar a day.
HOW TO CHOOSE A HEALTHY GRANOLA
When you’re looking to choose a healthy granola, read labels and compare brands and varieties within each brand.
Scan labels for added sugars that can be disguised with names like corn syrup, maple syrup, malt syrup, brown rice syrup, can sugar, coconut sugar, tapioca syrup, and fructose.
There are also natural sugars like honey, agave and maple syrup that once they’re isolated and added to a food as a sweetener, are actually considered added sugars, Angela Lemond, RDN, told me in this article.
The new Nutrition Facts labels, which have a line for added sugars both in grams and as percent Daily Value, will also make spotting them easier.
Also, avoid granolas that contain partially hydrogenated oils, the major source of trans fat, and look for those with lower amounts of saturated fats.
Check serving sizes
If it’s a toss up between two types of granola, compare the serving sizes for each.
One brand’s serving size may be 2/3 cup while another 1/3 of a cup, but they both have the same amount of sugar.
Read labels if your kid has food allergies
If your child has a peanut, tree-nut, or sesame allergy, be sure to read labels carefully because even if the granola doesn’t contain these ingredients, I’ve found that many are made on shared equipment or in the same facility.
HOW TO EAT GRANOLA
Once you find the one you like, you might be wondering how to eat granola. The good news is that there are several healthy and delicious ways.
Eat granola as a breakfast cereal
You can eat granola solo or serve it with milk or your favorite non-dairy milk. If you’re looking to add some natural sweetness and nutrition, add bananas, fresh berries, or your child’s favorite fruit.
Sprinkle on top of oatmeal, yogurt and more
Sprinkle granola on top of oatmeal, overnight oats, yogurt, or a smoothie bowl.
Grab and go breakfast and snacks
If you do meal prep at the beginning of the week, set aside individual portions of granola for kids to help themselves to at breakfast, or for school snacks or after-school snacks.
Homemade granola bars
You can use store-bought granola to make your own homemade granola bars.
Need a recipe? Try is one for Apple Almond Butter Granola Bars from Danilicious.
No-bake granola energy balls
I love no-bake energy balls because they use real, wholesome ingredients, are quick and easy, and are pre-portioned. When you use granola instead of or in addition to whole oats, they also have some added crunch and texture.
Trail mix can be a healthy, grab-and-go snack for kids, but many store-bought types are filled with salty nuts, loads of dried fruit, “yogurt-” covered raisins, chocolate chips, and candy.
When you choose a healthy granola, it can also double as a trail mix.
MY FAVORITE HEALTHY GRANOLA RECIPE
Like I said, my family and I love granola—especially those that have dried fruit or chocolate.
Yet since my daughter has food allergies and most of the brands are unsafe for her, and because granola is pricey, I prefer to make it myself.
Homemade granola is quick and easy to make, and because it uses real, whole food ingredients, I know exactly what my family is eating.
This is my favorite healthy granola recipe: The Very Best Granola — from Cookie and Kate. It’s sweet, crunch and makes a large batch—if you can make it last!