Are Granola Bars Healthy?

August 15, 2016   12 Comments

I feel like I have tried every granola bar on the planet as I call myself Snack Girl. Are granola bars healthy?

Are Granola Bars Healthy?

The concept of a snack bar made with oats, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe a little bit of chocolate is a good one. You can tell that food companies like the idea because they keep coming out with new variations.

I love the idea of tossing something like this in my purse and eating it instead of something far worse (I am looking at YOU – chocolate chip cookie) when I get hungry in the late afternoon and am looking for a pick me up.

The problem is that most granola bars are:

1. Packed with sugar (by that I mean over 5 grams per serving).
2. Too many calories (you want less than 150 calories for a snack).
3. Not tasty (some taste like the plastic they are wrapped in).

Some granola bars feature long ingredient lists and even have artificial sweeteners. My biggest complaint is just when I have figured out which bar will work for me – the company will change the recipe or discontinue it.

I have to buy bars without walnuts, pecans, and hazelnuts because my family has tree-nut allergies. My favorite bar – a KIND bar – that featured fruit and nuts and less than 5 grams of sugar – added walnuts to the recipe (ARGH!). But even this bar wasn’t perfect because it has 200 calories (Dark chocolate nuts and sea salt).

The Nature Valley bars in the above photo are 160 calories but they have 9 grams of sugar per bar (but no walnuts).

Do you see how the hunt for the perfect granola bar is a lifetime journey?

Here are my tips for finding a healthy granola bar:

  • Buy the ones with whole nuts. These will provide you with the most nutritional bang for your calorie buck because of the fiber and protein that naturally occur in nuts.
  • Keep it as close to 5 grams of sugar per snack as possible. If this means cutting up the bar and wrapping up the other half for another day – then do it. Half a bar is usually the perfect snack.
  • Don’t buy “chewy” as these are the ones with the most sugar.
  • Check the ingredients list every once in a while to ensure the food company hasn’t changed it.

Finally, if you are sick of getting the less than perfect bar – make my homemade granola or my fruit and nut bars.

These are about 5 grams of sugar per serving and you can design the recipe to fit your taste buds. Also, my granola and bar taste FRESH (which you cannot find in a box).

What is your favorite granola bar? Please share.

Other posts you might like:

Homemade Granola: A Small Cupful of Goodness

I make this granola often because I love it. I developed the recipe for my book because I wanted to give readers an alternative to boxed cereal.

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Fruit and Nut Bars

Have you ever heard the phrase “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”?...

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I discovered Made Good brand, school safe, made without tree nuts and with 6 g of sugar total. They come in bars and the chocolate chip and apple cinnamon come in minis- little bites that my kids love.

I'm always promoting the granola and granola bars made by Providence Granola in Rhode Island. It's more expensive than supermarket granola, but it's VERY delicious, and the company is a nonprofit created to help newly arrived refugees get job skills in the United States. They make it in small batches, using organic ingredients. They deliberately make it very chunky, so the granola is a lot like bars, just on its own, but you can easily break it up for a more cereal-like experience.

We like the Nature Valley Protein snack bars. The 3 I like the best are the salted caramel nut, coconut almond, and the peanut honey almond. The price for them is great for a "protein" bar, also. I find these in the granola bar section, not with the "protein" bars, at my local WalMart. Each has 190 calories, 6-7g sugar, 10g protein, 5g fiber. Not too bad but still not perfect. I can't find anywhere that they have your offending nuts in them - just peanuts and almonds. They are gluten-free (not a big deal to me) if that matters to anyone else. The list of ingredients is a bit long (no shock) but it is a very handy snack that satisfies me longer than the usual bar. I like them for breakfast with a banana if I'm running out the door.

Great post, thank you! We have nut allergies (and banana and avocado and shellfish and legumes. . .thankfully not all in the same person, LOL!) in our family so that makes me a compulsive label reader and recipe adjuster, too. I can't wait to make your Kitchen Sink bars. I'm always looking for great snack ideas. I'm so glad I found you!

I was looking at the Everything But The Kitchen Sink recipe and sounds like something I will try when the weather gets cooler! Too hot to bake now, something that I love to do!

I noticed the statement above the recipe says "have you tried to make your won.." I think you meant own. Also the recipe says to "pour over corn syrup.." and I think you mean "pour corn syrup over.."

One thing people should also consider is if the granola bars contain added vitamins and minerals. I already take the vitamins my doctor recommends so I don't want any additional supplements in my bars in order not to take too many. I have been using only Larabars - occasionally as I do not eat bar snacks too often - as they are made with only with real food only. For example, the peanut butter cookie bar contains dates, peanuts, sea salt. That's it. It does have 18 grams of sugar - all from the dates - and 220 calories (which is why I only use them when hiking and needing a nourishing but tasty snack.) The lemon bar contains almonds, lemon juice concentrate, dried lemon juice concentrate, and natural lemon flavor. Oh, did I mention? They actually taste good so I feel satisfied when I eat one. By the way, I do NOT own stock in this company. They simply make a good tasting product.

You took the words out of my mouth and I don't have to worry about allergies. I'm still on the quest to find one that fits my own rules (similar to yours) but also tastes good. Haven't met a Lara I like yet. Thanks for posting. Glad I'm not alone.

To Angie M: I Googled "Almond". According To Everyone Who Responded Almonds Are Tree Nuts.

We make our own and love it. Dark chocolate coconut is our favorite.

I was pleased to see that I'm not the only one who enjoys MadeGood products. As far as I'm concerned their granola bars and mini snack bites are the best and most nutritious products of their kind. As far as I know they are Canadian made so if you can't find them you can discover their merits by visiting which is my favorite source for user friendly products of all kinds. MadeGood means no added sugar or any ingredients that might trigger common allergic reactions. By the way, I don't work for the company and am not a spokesperson for - just someone who tries hard to maintain a fit body.

Unfortunately it is true. Even trail mix isn't great for you either. It is always disappointing, Some bars are good for you, but normally don't taste good. You can make your own, I just feel like that defeats the purpose of what granola bars are all about, convenience. right? Great post!

Even thought they aren't perfect, they are better than anything else I could reach for when a mid-afternoon pick me up is needed. And by that I mean the assorted bakery goods that are available in the cafeteria at my work! Good choices are relative...

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