Granola: Friend or Foe?

Initially a food darling among health enthusiasts, the once lauded granola has suddenly become a lightning rod for controversy in nutrition circles. Sure, most of its ingredients can be pure and natural. But too much of even a good thing can still be too much. When dieters started loading up on granola, their scales often cried “foul” and, before long, granola found itself in jail with other misunderstood diet favorites like trail mix and energy drinks (many of which proved to be more hype that health).

As with any food (decadent or otherwise), it all comes down to ingredients and portion size. This is especially true for granola, which is easy to confuse as a grab-anytime-snack and overindulge in even as you’re pouring it into your breakfast bowl. And even though granola with a low-sugar and healthy-ingredient content can be good for you, it’s typically calorically dense, so you’ll want to be mindful of portions, specifically if you’re trying to get rid of some excess weight.

Choose Wisely

Choosing better-for-you granolas isn’t as difficult as it used to be. Look for lower-sugar varieties and pay special attention to portion size. Some of the “healthier looking” granolas at popular natural food stores seem to have minimal calories per serving—until you check the measurement amount, which is sometimes listed as 1/4 of a cup. I don’t know about you, but that is not going to do it for me at breakfast time.

To compensate for these smaller serving sizes, mix in some healthier whole grain cereal to increase the volume (while still makes it possible to enjoy granola’s irresistible “crunch appeal”). Try layering 1 to 2 tablespoons of granola between other good-for-you ingredients like Greek yogurt and fresh or frozen berries or chopped fruit.

In other words, rely on the granola as more of a flavorful accent rather than the whole meal.

Do It Yourself

Why not make your own granola at home (it could be a fun afternoon activity for the whole family)?

Get Inventive

Whether homemade or store bough, healthier granolas also become great ingredients in fun-to-make recipes like a parfait, which offers an energizing combination of protein-rich yogurt and fiber-rich berries. It’s a tasty way to start off any day. And if you want to skip the granola, you can substitute whole grain cereal for granola. 

By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks. Joy’s latest book is From Junk Food to Joy Food

Continue Reading