By Maggie Badore for DietsInReview.com
Granola has become synonymous with healthy eating, so many granola bars and cereal bars enjoy this same health halo. However, it doesn't take a lot of label reading to uncover the fact that many cereal bars are too high in sugar to be considered a nutritious choice.
But are all cereal bars out when it comes to grabbing a quick breakfast or snack? This round of Food Fight compares some of the most popular products and some general guidelines for what to look for in a bar.
"It’s important to read the ingredients list to see that a whole grain like oats is listed first," says Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips. She recommends avoiding cereal bars that have sugar listed in the top three or four ingredients. "You may have to consider the granola bar as a little bit of a treat, since it likely provides at least a few grams of added sugar as well. Aliases for added sugar include corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, and/or syrup."
As a general rule of thumb, Zied says you should look for bars that have 100 to 150 calories, fewer than 10 grams of sugar, fewer than two grams of saturated fat, no trans fat and at least three grams of fiber.
Cereal Bar Breakdowns:
- Example Flavor: Honey Nut
- Per Bar: 90 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 6 grams sugar, 1 gram protein, 3 grams fiber
- Example Flavor: Oats & Chocolate
- Per Bar: 140 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 10 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 9 grams fiber
Health Valley Organic
- Example Flavor: Apple Cobbler
- Per Bar: 130 calories, 0 grams saturated fat, 16 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 3 grams fiber
Quaker Fruit & Oatmeal Fiber & Omega-3
- Example Flavor: Dark Chocolate Chunk
- Per Bar: 150 calories, 2 grams saturated fat, 7 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 9 grams fiber
- Example Flavor: Strawberry
- Per Bar: 120 calories, 0.5 grams saturated fat, 11 grams sugar, 2 grams protein, 3 grams fiber
Winner: Special K
The Special K cereal bars win out for being the lowest in sugar and also in calories, and they also contain as much protein as the other competitors compared here.
Runner Up: Fiber One
You would think that fiber would be a major nutrient in a cereal bar, however Fiber One is the only bar that really has a serious serving. Keep in mind that the American Dietetic Association recommends that you eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber per day.
Overall, it's important to keep in mind that cereal bars and granola bars are a highly processed food with additives you should avoid. For meal-replacement diets, like Nutrisystem, they are a staple. They may be a good source of quick energy when you're going on a long hike or running long distances, but someone who's looking to lose weight may do better to snack on fresh fruit or veggies for a biggest dose of nutrients and more filling fiber.
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