One of the most convenient snacks to eat on the run is a tasty granola bar. They’re great to have around, are shelf stable, and are easy to whip out pre-meltdown.
However, as you may know, not all bars are created equal. They can come drizzled in chocolate with a few dried fruit chunks scattered throughout.
They taste delicious, but we all know deep down that we will be disappointed when we read the nutrition label.
Many granola bars today have the honor of being known as are “glorified candy bars.” I cannot disagree with this statement! Even as a dietitian, I have a hard time finding healthier versions of the sugary treats marketed towards today’s kids.
More than not these granola bars have as much sugar as a Snickers bar and almost as much fat. The ingredients list also read like a chemistry textbook crossed with a chapter from Willy Wonka!
Try These Healthy Options
With all this in mind, here are a few of my favorite granola bars. Give these a try the next time you’re looking to stock up for the grab-n-go section of your pantry.
Keep in mind that just about all these companies produce a variety of bars, and their compositions can change over time. Always read the label of the bar you’re looking to buy before you purchase.
- Larabar Kid and Nut and Seed: I love that these folks keep their ingredient list short and sweet – literally! For how tasty these bars are, it’s a miracle that all of the flavors for these varieties contain less than 10 grams of sugar.
- Nature Valley: Yep, the folks with the incredibly crumbly oat and honey bar know what they’re doing. Part of the reason their dry bars are so brittle is they go easy on the oils and sugar – adding up to a great treat for you! Almost all of their varieties contain less than 10g of sugar, which is impressive.
- Kashi Bars: They have a great selection of bars, are all very tasty, and most are just what we’re looking for in a snack. They are made from whole grains, contain less than 10g sugar and are a good source of fiber!
- Nature’s Path: Being completely organic and with many gluten-free options, these bars are an excellent choice for anyone!
- RXBAR for Kids: With a max of 7 ingredients, these bars are very clean, have no added sugars, and ingredients you can pronounce! Not to mention they are the perfect portion size for your little ones.
- Cliff Kid Zbar: These bars have kid approved portion sizes, a variety of delicious flavors, and contain less than 10g of sugar. I usually throw one in my purse as a snack for myself!
Pay Careful Attention to Your Snacks
With any packaged snack food, it’s important to read nutrition facts labels and know what you want to look out for. Any time you buy a manufactured product, they will likely contain ingredients you cannot pronounce.
There’s a chance you’ll be tricked into buying something with too many ingredients you don’t want in your little one’s body if you’re note careful.
Know that terms on the front of the label like ‘all natural’ or ‘pure’ are just marketing terms. Any company can place these words on the packaging of a product.
The only part of the label that carries any legal weight is the back, black and white ‘nutrition facts’ area.
Head straight there to get the skinny on exactly what has gone into your food and what you should expect from it.
Let’s take a look at some key factors you should weigh when judging a granola bar.
The biggest pitfall when it comes to selecting a granola bar is to avoid those that are high in sugar. You want to always check the total amount of sugar in the whole bar.
A good rule of thumb I like to use is comparing the granola bar you’re looking into with a regular Snickers bar. This particular candy bar contains about 27g of sugar.
If the granola bar you’re looking at contains as much or more than that, then you might as well grab the candy bar instead. (But don’t take the candy bar, there are better options out there, I promise.)
Look for 10g of sugar or less per serving
One reason this can be tricky is that the process of making granola does involve adding some sugar, often in the form of honey or agave nectar.
Don’t expect to find very many bars with absolutely no sugar in them. If this is the case, they most likely contain sugar alcohols or sugar substitutes like Splenda (sucralose) to sweeten them up.
If anything, look for monk fruit extract or stevia as natural sweeteners.
The Rest of the Package
Here are a few common marketing terms that make it even harder to make a decision!
- Natural: no added color, artificial flavors, ingredients or synthetic substances
- Sugar-free: the product contains less than 0.5g of sugar per serving; however, it may still contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols
- Organic: 95% of the product’s ingredients consist of organically produced ingredients
- Zero Trans Fats: the product contains less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving
One element that can be tricky to navigate is the fat content of these bars. They’re often made with hydrogenated oils or contain different types of nuts, causing these products to seem as though they have a high fat content.
Don’t’ let that automatically dissuade you from a bar you like. Pay attention to the different types of fat present. A bar with some mono- or poly-unsaturated fat isn’t necessarily a problem! However, a bar high in saturated or trans fat is one to avoid.
Granola Bars Can Be a Life Saver
There are so many options when it comes to choosing a granola bar. Any of the suggestions included in this article are a great place to start when thinking of your little one.
Regardless of whether you make it yourself or head to the store, granola bars can be a great snack in your arsenal day in and day out.