January 21st is Granola Bar Day! Granola bars are the perfect grab and go snack food to fit into any busy schedule, and there are hundreds of varieties on the market to choose from. Although granola bars were originally created to be a healthy snack bar to keep you energized throughout the day, many manufacturers have since hopped on the granola bar bandwagon, causing healthfulness of their product to come second to taste appeal. Reading the nutrition label is important to do for every product you purchase at the supermarket, but especially for granola bars since a majority of products out there are full of sugar and void of nutrients.
There are a couple of ingredients to look for on the label when choosing a healthy granola bar for you and your family. First off, you always want to make sure that the product is made with whole grains. On the ingredient list, the first ingredient that is listed should be whole grains, whether it’s whole wheat flour, whole oats or a whole grain blend. Other ingredients that make for a healthy granola bar include nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Sugar is often the culprit ingredient among many granola bar products, so always purchase a granola bar that contains less than 8 grams of sugar per bar. You also want to avoid granola bars that contain saturated and trans fats. For bars that contain a lot of nuts, the fat and calorie content might be high, but always keep in mind that nuts are a source of healthy fats! You want to look at the product as a whole when analyzing its calorie content. For example, if a granola bar contains 90 calories it might appeal to you, but usually lower calorie bars contain more sugar and fat so always check the rest of the label.
Another ingredient to look out for when purchasing granola bars is sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol and isomalt are chemically processed and used in products in place of sugar because they provide little to no calories. Protein bars often contain a high amount of sugar alcohols, which can result in bloating, stomach pains and diarrhea. If you are interested in increasing your protein intake, it is best to get your protein from food sources, such as lean meats, eggs and vegetable sources like beans and legumes rather than a protein bar.
It is definitely a challenge to find a perfectly healthy granola bar at the supermarket especially when the more healthful varieties might not be the most affordable. That is why making your own homemade granola bars might be the best option to ensure healthy ingredients are being used.
Now you might be thinking right now that there is no time in your day to be making your own granola bars, but you will be surprised at how fast and easy it is to bake your own.
To make your busy life less busy, here is a brand new original recipe for Strawberry Banana Oat Bars that can be whipped up in no time!
Strawberry Banana Oat Bar
Yield: 12 bars
Serving Size: 1 bar
1½ cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup crushed bran cereal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sliced strawberries
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place oats on a baking sheet in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. After five minutes, flip oats.
3. In a large bowl, mix toasted oats, crushed bran cereal, cinnamon, salt, and brown sugar.
4. In a smaller bowl, combine the mashed banana, egg and vanilla extract.
5. Combine the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Mix in strawberries and chocolate chips.
6. Pour batter into a 11 x 7 baking pan coated with nonstick spray.
7. Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Allow pan to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into bars. Refrigerate if not serving immediately or freeze for later use.
Your turn to take action: Please let me know how you liked this recipe. What are your favorite homemade granola bar ingredients?