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Healthiest Granola Bars: A Review

healthiest granola bars
photo by Angie Garrett/Flickr

I’m looking at the nutrients found in common, popular kids’ foods and this month we are looking for the healthiest granola bars on the market. 

Granola bars are a convenient, on the go snack, but they aren’t always the healthiest options for kids. While some of these granola bars may be great options, others pay homage to the candy bar, packing a hefty dose of sugar and fat, and hiding under a “health halo.”  

Just look at the packages: healthy, nature, fiber, TLC, organic. These claims lure me to the box too…for a closer look.

How is a parent to know which are the healthiest granola bars to choose?  

The Nutrition Facts Label and the ingredient list on each package can help guide your choices.  First, scour the nutrition facts label to check for sugar, fat, sodium, and fiber;  then turn over the package and look at the sources of these nutrients on the ingredient list.

We’ve done some of the work for you.  

Randomly selected, kid-oriented granola bars:

Brand Calories Total Fat Sat. Fat Sugar Sodium Fiber Calcium
Nature Valley: Strawberry Yogurt 140 3.5 g 2 g 13 g 110 mg 1 g 200 mg
Quaker: Chewy Chocolate Chip 100 3 g 1.5 g 7 g 75 mg 1 g 80 mg
Kashi TLC: Chewy Trail Mix 140 5 g 0.5 g 5 g 105 mg 4 g 0 mg
Hershey’s: Reese’s Sweet & Salty with Peanuts 170 9 g 2.5 g 9 g 180 mg 2 g 0 mg
Kudo’s: Milk Chocolate Chip 120 3.5 g 2 g 11 g 70 mg 1 g 250 mg
Trader Joe’s: Chewy Peanut Crunch 130 2.5 g 0 g 12 g 150 mg 1 g 20 mg
Disney: Chewy Rainbow Chocolate Gems 120 4 g 1.5 g 9 g 105 mg 1 g 20 mg
Cascadian Farm: Organic Chewy Chocolate Chip 140 3 g 1 g 10 g 125 mg 1 g 0 mg
Fiber One: Chewy Oats & Chocolate 140 4 g 1.5 g 10 g 90 mg 9 g 100 mg
Special K: Strawberry 90 1.5 g 1 g 9 g 95 mg 0.5 g 0 mg
Nutri-grain: Strawberry 130 0.5 g 0.5 g 12 g 120 mg 2 g 200 mg

*Nutrition information obtained from www.calorieking.com.

The Healthiest Granola Bars:

We looked at overall qualities, but you may be focused on a single nutrient such as sugar or fiber. In that case, it’s easy to see how each granola bar fares in nutrient categories compared to its competitor.  

Kashi TLC Chewy Trail Mix seems to be the overall best choice with low saturated fat, the least sugar, and a good amount of fiber. Although its calorie content is on the higher side in comparison to the chart as a whole, it is still a reasonable amount for a snack.

Pairing this granola bar with a 1/2 cup of milk would add protein and calcium to make it more nutritious, satisfying and filling.

If you are concerned with sugar content, aim for less than 9 gm per serving (a donut has 12 gm!). For fiber, go for more than 2 gm per serving (5 gm per serving is considered a high fiber item). Sodium a worry?  Shoot for under 200 mg per serving.

The Unhealthiest Granola Bars:

Hershey’s Reece’s Sweet & Salty with Peanuts seems to be the least healthy with the highest calorie, fat, and saturated fat content, along with moderate to high levels of sugar…but I bet it tastes good.

What are your criteria for choosing granola bars for your child?

Disclaimer: This is just a small representation of a single flavor from each of many popular brands on the market, not of all bars available.  Nutrient content may change with different flavor options within each brand.  The purpose of this chart is Nutrition Facts label education, and not specific brand recommendations.

 

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    1. Katy–nut free granola bars can be found with brands that specialize in allergen-free foods such as Energy foods, and Kashi. In my new sports nutrition book, i have a recipe for granola, of which could very easily be pressed into bars (it’s a skillet granola recipe–super easy and fast!)

  1. Great post! I always recommend the Kashi TLC bars – they are my fave when it comes to granola bars.
    Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN