Walking down the granola bar aisle can be a confusing experience. There are hundreds of products to choose from and it can be tricky to decide which granola bar to select as an easy to grab snack option. Most granola bars are covered in chocolate, stuffed with marshmallows and are closer to a chocolate bar than a healthy snack.
When selecting a granola bar, using the nutrition facts panel is key to making a wise selection. The three main things to look at are: fibre, sugar and saturated fat. However, before you look at these facts, check to see what a serving size is. Some companies can be deceiving and only list the amount for half a granola bar (who only eats half?). The cut-off criteria that I recommend per one granola bar:
- More than 3 grams of fibre
- Less than 8 grams of sugar
- Less than 2 grams of saturated fat
Many granola bars will not meet the above criteria because of their high sugar content. For instance, Vector chocolate chip granola bar contains 19 grams of sugar. This is more sugar than what is found in the Lucky Charms Treat granola bars.
Some granola bars that do meet the criteria for fibre, sugar and saturated fat include:
- Kashi Honey Almond Flax
- Quaker Harvest Ancient Grains Honey Cranberry Granola Bar
- Kind Healthy Grain Bar
Most granola bars don’t contain enough protein to be a good option for a post-workout snack. Athletes typically need about 15-30 grams of protein immediately after a hard workout. Sport bars contain more protein than granola bars, but they also contain high amounts of sugar. However, after a hard workout, higher amounts of sugar are often appropriate to help replenish depleted glycogen stores. Powerbar protein plus and Clif builders bars both contain 20 grams of protein, making them good post-workout options. Because of their high sugar content (12 grams and 21 grams respectively), they aren’t an appropriate option outside of a post-workout refuel.
Because of their added sugar, granola bars shouldn’t become an everyday snack. Instead, granola bars should be reserved for when you’re short on time or don’t have access to anything else. Why not have an apple with 1 tbsp. of peanut butter? Or some carrot sticks and hummus? For athletes, 1 cup of Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein, making it a great post-workout choice. These options aren’t much more time demanding than grabbing a granola bar. They just require a little more planning to ensure that you have them on hand.