There’s a reason for that adage, “You are what you eat.” Eating a healthy, balanced diet can not only help mitigate health risks and prevent certain diseases but offers benefits like better sleep, more energy and even better cognitive function.
However, not all foods we consider to be healthy are. For example, you may think that reaching for a granola bar as a midday snack would be a healthier choice than a candy bar. The reality? Many popular granola bars contain the same amount of calories, sugar and carbs.
Here’s a look at why granola bars aren’t the best option and how to find a healthier alternative.
The truth about granola bars
Wondering what could be so unhealthy about a granola bar? In its simplest form, granola bars typically contain a mix of nuts, oats and dried fruit – all of which are heart-healthy ingredients that won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
Where it gets tricky is when granola bar brands start to sneak in added sugars and artificial ingredients.
How can you tell if your granola bar has been compromised? Unfortunately, if your bar seems too good to be true (read: it contains chocolate chunks, M&Ms or other sugary additions), it probably is.
To take a closer look at whether or not the granola bar you’re considering is a healthy option, the amount of saturated fat in one bar is one place to start.
Consuming too much saturated fat has been linked to high cholesterol, which can cause blockages to arteries and even the heart. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that any snack you’re consuming isn’t clocking in at more than 20% daily value of saturated fat.
Other factors to consider are the amount of protein, fiber and unsaturated fat the granola bar contains. This can be the determining factor in whether your granola bar will give you a much-needed energy boost – or leave you feeling sluggish.
Ideally, your bar should have a minimum of 5 grams of protein, fiber and unsaturated fat.
Alternate healthy snacks to consider
If you’re looking for an energy boost that’ll satisfy you without the added sugar or saturated fat, one healthy option is a handful of raw almonds, cashews or walnuts.
They contain a healthy amount of unsaturated fat. They are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to a host of health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease, fight inflammation and even minimize the risk of certain cancers.
They’re also high in Vitamin E, which are high in antioxidants, which protect your cells against free radicals – molecules produced during the process of breaking down food within our bodies. Nuts are calorie-dense, so be sure not to overdo it on your snacking.
An easy way to stay on track is to buy prepacked nuts measured out to individual serving sizes. If you’re making your own to-go package, the recommended amount is around a handful of nuts per serving.
If you love granola bars and are savvy in the kitchen, you can quickly whip up your own homemade healthy version using oats, nuts, honey and natural nut butter.
There are plenty of recipes like this one you can use, swapping in different nuts and dried fruits to customize your bars to your liking!