There are many appealing things about store-bought granola bars; they’re convenient, portable, kid friendly and don’t require refrigeration. Perfect to compliment the lunch bag void, and for those grab-and-go moments. Sold, too easy right? But darn, sometimes “too easy” is for a reason. After chatting with our resident HaltonParents Registered Dietitian I am starting to re-think my buying habits.
Most prepackaged granola bars have evolved in a big way since their basic beginnings. Today’s store bought bars are often dipped in chocolate or yogurt-type coatings and include ingredients like chocolate chips and gooey marshmallows. Definitely delicious, but this snack evolution hasn’t happened in our favour, especially for a country that struggles with childhood obesity. Too much sugar, salt and fat can make these snacks no better than eating a store-bought cookie. Arghh!
So does it mean we have to stop eating granola bars? No. But try to think about them as a treat, and not an everyday thing. Choosing whole unprocessed foods, like fresh fruits or vegetables will pay off in the long run for your family’s health (and your wallet!).
If you want more control and choice in the granola bar matter try to:
- Make your own
- Read the nutrition labels to find the best on the shelf
7 things to look for on the nutrition label (EatRight Ontario, 2017):
- Serving size: The amount
- Calories: How much energy is in one serving
- % Daily Value: A scale from 0%-100% that tells you how much of the nutrient is in one serving
- Look for MORE: Fibre, protein and whole grains
- Look for LESS: Saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, sugar
- Ingredient list: Look for whole grains as the first ingredient
- Health and Nutrient claims: Statements about the food and nutrients in that food
Comparing nutrition labels can be a little tricky, be sure you are comparing the same serving size for each product. When shopping, try to choose a bar with less than 8 grams of sugar per serving and 3 or more grams of fibre and protein. Don’t forget about the nut-free options if you are packing them for school or camp.
If you like to bake, try making your own bars. I baked these lentil granola bars with my 14 year old son and they were a hit, despite the “secret” ingredient which I proudly shared with the rest of the family afterwards. Making your own bars are great way to gain more control over the ingredients and feel good about what you are eating. When your kids help you in the kitchen they are far more likely to try the final product, and learn some great skills along the way, a win-win for all!
My food for thought! Have you tried making your own granola bars or have a favourite healthy alternative for a grab-and-go snack? Share with us!
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.