Granola is one of those “healthy” foods that can go either way. While the oats found in most granolas deliver a healthy dose of fiber, it’s the rest of the ingredients that really determine whether granola is truly healthy or not. Many store-bought varieties pack a pretty big sugar punch. Others deliver a heavy dose of fat. Others fill your tank with a whole lot of empty calories.
So how do you know which granolas to go for? We turned to Nutrisystem’s Registered Dietitian Courtney McCormick to get some of the facts on what to look for in granola—and what to avoid.
Be Careful about Added Sugar
The biggest area where granola can go wrong is with the added sugar, says McCormick. Granolas are often higher in sugar because it is needed to bind all of the other ingredients together. As a rule of thumb, McCormick advises looking for granolas with fewer than 12 grams of sugar per serving.
“One way to reduce the overall added sugar is to choose varieties that do not contain dried fruits,” McCormick explains. “Instead, add your own fresh fruits to the granola, or add your own unsweetened dried fruits.”
Granola bars are also notorious for added sugar, if you aren’t reading nutrition labels carefully. McCormick warns that some granola bars are actually no healthier than eating a candy bar! It’s important to look for granola bars that incorporate whole grains, healthy fats and limit the added sugars.
What to Look For
Besides honing in on added sugar, McCormick suggests seeking out granola that contains a nice mix of whole grains and nuts to get a balance of both fiber and healthy fat. This combination will help keep you fuller for longer, which can be very helpful to those who are trying to lose weight.
In addition, the fiber from the whole grains and the healthy fat from the nuts are definitely a nutritious benefit. Many granolas on the market today are also incorporating healthy ingredients like chia seeds, which boost the fiber and healthy fat content even more, adds McCormick.
This is great, but one of the biggest mistakes that people make with granola is eating too much of it. There is always the possibility of eating too much of a good thing.
Since we know how easy it is to go overboard, we offer granola products in the perfect portions. Nutrisystem’s Granola Cereal is a delicious option for granola-lovers. The Nutrisystem Peanut Butter Oat Bar is another tasty treat that goes big on granola flavor.
But if you don’t have these diet-friendly options on hand, you can still go for granola. Just be smart about your selection. According to McCormick, “when choosing granola, always be sure to look at the serving size… Even though ingredients like nuts are healthy, they deliver a large amount of calories per serving. The serving size for granola is often very small—usually around a quarter cup.”
McCormick suggests that purchased granola products be portioned out into smaller Ziploc bags so that serving size cannot be overlooked. This ensures the correct portion is ready to go when needed.
The Bottom Line
Whether it be sprinkling some on your yogurt or grabbing a bar on the go, granola can be a healthy option. With so many granola products on the market these days, McCormick reminds us that it is important to be careful of what you’re buying. Just watch your portion sizes and pay attention to the ingredients.
Fortunately, with a program like Nutrisystem, a lot of that legwork is eliminated. But if you’re shopping for granola in the supermarket, always be sure to read the labels and avoid the products with too much added sugar.