How to Select and Bake Great-Tasting, Good-for-You Granola

Granola is downright delicious, but sometimes deceptive as well. Most varieties come packaged with fiber-rich oats and whole grains, crunchy heart-healthy nuts and seeds, and nutrient-packed dried fruit. All A+ ingredients. But many recipes and commercial brands also pack a ton of added sugar into the mix.

If you love granola like me, don’t fret. Here’s how to pick a winning brand at the market using three simple steps.

  1. Keep the sugar low. Surprise, surprise—granola is notorious for containing as much sugar (if not more) as a bowl of sweetened kid's cereal. When reading labels, it’s important to look at the amount of sugar per serving and where that sugar is coming from. Aim for no more than 10 grams of total sugar per serving, and that’s a combo coming from natural sugar (think dried fruit) and added sugar (think honey, cane sugar, brown sugar, agave, fructose, molasses, and fruit juice).
  2. Look for familiar and wholesome ingredients. Scan the label to identify natural ingredients and words you recognize, like whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds, and coconut. And avoid brands that contain artificial flavors and colorings, partially hydrogenated oils, BHT, and high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Watch portions and calories. It’s easy to go overboard with a bag of the good stuff—that’s because portion sizes are small (typically a quarter to a third of a cup). Use a measuring cup the first few times so you’re familiar with an appropriate serving.

    How to Make Healthy Homemade Granola

    Whipping up a batch of crave-worthy homemade granola is a cinch—even if you’re crunched for time. Plus, it can be the perfect opportunity to create a blend that contains the ingredients you love. That’s because when it comes to granola, anything goes.

    Want only cashews, pistachios, and raisins in your mix?

    No problem. Craving a savory yet sweet blend? Done. No more searching store-bought packages for the perfect munchies! Here’s how to make your own hearty granola at home:

    1. Follow this ratio: 6 parts dry to 1 part wet.
    2. Pick your dry ingredients. The staple of most granola is…you guessed it…rolled oats. After that, the rest is user’s choice. Think nuts and seeds, or any other whole grains. Try oats mixed with pistachios, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, chia, puffed brown rice, puffed millet, and sunflower seeds.
    3. Pick your wet ingredients. The wet ingredients are important to help serve as the “glue” and also brown your great big batch of goodness. For a sweet granola, use honey or brown rice syrup. And for unsweetened, you can get away with about three egg whites, which helps provide a crispy, clumpy texture to the granola. The addition of oil, like olive, grapeseed, canola, or sunflower seed oil provides healthy fats while increasing the flavor profiles, but is not necessary. By the way, nut butters are yummy extras, too.
    1. Season to taste. Use whatever flavors you crave. Anything goes here…think cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg, spicy curry, or even barbecue.
    2. Bake until golden brown. Do this at 300 degrees for up to 45 minutes. If you prefer a chewy granola, bake for less time.
    3. Flavor it up with fruit. Allow your mixture to cool completely, transfer to a large bowl and mix in the dried fruit of your choice, like cranberries, cherries, shredded coconut, raisins and blueberries. Then, use your homemade granola as a yogurt topper (I love using it in this Berry-Granola Power Parfait recipe), dump it into ice-cold milk and eat it with a spoon, or simply enjoy it on its own. You can store your granola in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

    By Joy Bauer, MS, RDN, CDN, Health and Nutrition Expert for NBC’s Today Show and founder of Nourish Snacks.

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