Deceptive Labeling: Granola Bars

Commercial granola bars are little more than candy bars now. The mix of the food industry’s favourite ingredients, sugar, fat and salt make a mean granola bar. But NONE of them are going to help you lose weight.

If you are really in need of a granola bar, I like Larabar or Taste of Nature. These bars are made from whole foods without anything added. They are high in sugar but include a lot of protein and fibre as well to balance out the sugar intake and prevent a sugar high.

This is the ingredient list for Taste of Nature Argentina Peanut Plains bar. This bar has 8g protein, 3g fibre and 4g sugar. The serving size is for 1 bar (which might sound obvious but don’t underestimate what can be done to make the nutrition facts look good):
Peanuts, agave nectar, peanut butter, brown rice syrup, sea salt.

The other bars by this company have higher levels of sugar but in moderation, they are a good choice.

For other granola bars – particularly those found in the middle aisles of the grocery store, it’s going to be challenging to find a good choice. Many feed off their “healthy” names, such as Special K (Kelloggs) or Quaker Oats.

Look for a serving size to ensure it’s the entire bar, then check the fibre, protein and sugar levels. After that, look for the ingredients. A long list of ingredients that can’t be pronounced is going to be bad news.

I checked out a few that looked healthy. I started with the Quaker Fibre and Omega-3 Granola Bar. The website is full of oats and health. The nutrition facts lists looks promising; low sodium; fibre and sugar is not completely out of balance and it includes 2g of protein. But I wouldn’t eat this because of the ingredients list:
GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS [WITH OAT BRAN], BROWN SUGAR, ROLLED WHOLE WHEAT, HONEY, SUNFLOWER OIL, MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHUNKS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOA BUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA), CORN SYRUP, CRISP RICE (RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT), INULIN, ROLLED OATS, INVERT SUGAR, MILLED FLAXSEED, BROWN SUGAR, GLYCERIN, SUGAR, SUNFLOWER OIL, BRAN STRANDS (WHEAT BRAN, OAT HULL FIBRE, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, OAT BRAN, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT, SEA SALT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, COLOUR), HYDROGENATED PALM KERNEL AND PALM OILS, ROLLED WHOLE WHEAT, WATER, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOURS, SOYBEAN OIL, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, MOLASSES, BUTTERMILK, SALT, SOY LECITHIN, MILK FAT, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CARAMEL COLOUR, SORBITAN MONOSTEARATE, POLYSORBATE 60, BHT (PRESERVATIVE), SKIM MILK POWDER.

10 different types of sugar!!! Plus inulin, which, while a form of soluble fibre, is also a sugar and is a popular food additive with manufacturers now. Plus all kind of chemicals in the flavours, colour, additives and preservatives and a good dose of GMO ingredients (soy).
This is a great example of a cheap to produce product that is marketed well. It’s very deceiving.

Kelloggs’s Nutri-Grain bars are popular. A check of the nutrition facts says 2g each of fibre and protein and 13g of sugar. The ingredients list is interesting:

Wheat flour, whole oats, sugar/glucose-fructose, whole wheat flour, vegetable oil, water, chicory root (inulin), dextrose, milk ingredients, wheat bran, salt, cellulose, potassium bicarbonate, natural and artificial flavour, mono- and diglycerides, soy lecithin, wheat gluten, cornstarch, carrageenan, guar gum.
Filling: Sugar/glucose-fructose, blueberry puree concentrate, glycerin, water, sodium alginate, modified corn starch, natural and artificial flavour, citric acid, methylcellulose, calcium phosphate, malic acid, colour.

A double dose of high fructose corn syrup (called glucose-fructose in Canada) and flavours, GMO chemical additives (mono- and diglycerides) and the controversial carrageenan.

The best type of granola bar is the one you can make yourself. Using raw nuts, seeds, organic sweeteners and other ingredients you know are good for you. The effort you go to making the granola will make you appreciate what you are eating. You can cut the bars into small portions, only a small amount will fill you up and keep you satisfied for quite a while.

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