Why Granola is Not a Health Food

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

GranolaDo you enjoy a cup of granola with milk in the morning for breakfast, or a yogurt parfait with granola?

How about some granola to snack on during the day?

Think again. Even though granola is made from heart healthy oats, it is not always healthy.

We need to remember what else it is made with: oils and sugars.

1 Cup of Granola Contains 450 Calories

granola-nutrition

This is an average. It depends on what brand you buy. Still, 450 calories is a lot for 1 cup of a grainy product.

Second, there is sugar and oil added. There is a small amount of oil used when baking the granola, and plenty of sugar (15-17 grams of sugar is common per serving).

Where do all these calories come from? The oats themselves are pretty dense because they are an uncooked grain. Any uncooked grain has not absorbed the water that is normally does in cooking. Therefore, the grain remains calorie dense.

Brands of Buy or Avoid

  • Avoid: Kellogg’s Granola- Due to high sugar content and some processed ingredients.
  • Avoid: Kellogg’s Special K Granola- Also mainly due to the processed ingredients.
  • Choose this!: Bear Naked Protein Granola- Watch your portion size. Contains 140 calories, and 6 grams of sugar per ¼ cup serving. The slightly higher protein content will help to ease the blood sugar increase.
  • Choose this!: Udi’s Au Naturel Granola- Only 5 grams of sugar per ¼ cup serving. Made only from oats, honey, and canola oil.
  • OK: Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola- Uses omega 6 rich soybean oil.
  • Choose this!: Kind Granola Clusters- Contains a blend of whole grains including quinoa. All natural ingredients.
  • Avoid: Cascadian Farms Cinnamon Raisin Granola- Due to higher sugar content, but try one of their other flavors which are all lower in sugar.
  • OK: Kashi GoLean Crunch- Not a true granola, but similar. A little high in sugar and some people don’t digest chicory root well.

Bottom Line

You must portion control your granola to about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup serving. This way, it is easier to keep the sugar intake under control.

Avoid purchasing parfaits at coffee shops that are loaded with granola and sugary yogurt.

Or, Try Making Homemade Granola

It is pretty easy to make granola at home. All you need is a little honey, rolled oats, olive oil, and some cinnamon!

Two of my favorite recipes can be found here at Diet Girl and here at Healthy Green Kitchen.

Do you eat granola?

21 Comments

  1. Doug

    That’s 345 calories, not 450. And what’s wrong with a small amount of oil for baking?

    Reply
  2. Sc

    Thanks a lot. This is very useful I’ve been eating natures path granola pumpkin flaxfor years now. It only lasts three servings and each serving has 20 g of sugar. I need to find something else for breakfast.

    Reply
  3. BT

    I recently got into the KIND granolas, which are quite delicious. I love that they’re gluten free (dealing with some celiac-type symptoms at the moment), and very low in sugar. I wish they made them without the soy, but aside from that I have nothing bad to say about them. They’re filled with five super grains, so even if they are calorie dense, they’re packed with protein and extremely filling. 1/4-1/3 of a cup with 6oz of yogurt is like a whole meal right there.

    Reply
  4. Mirinda

    yep! hidden with heaps of sugars the best way to be safe is make your own or just use rolled oats topped with some chopped fruit/nuts/shredded coconut it tastes just as good 🙂

    Reply
  5. Beatrix

    I just recently started changing my eating habits to “Burn the Fat”. I never realized just how bad sugar was. I’ve been eating granola my whole life thinking it was healthy. Who knew!!! Anyway, I’ve been charting my results and before and after pics on my website.

    Reply
  6. maddie

    is carmans muesli okay? i eat the honey clustered flavour with my yoghurt and just wanted to make sure it is healthy or if it is just as bad as kelloggs?

    Reply
    • ted

      I think you missed the point.. Nicole was basically saying that NO granola is healthy because all of them are too sugar rich. She provided some that were better ingredient wise but granola should be an occasional treat really.

      Reply
  7. Ryan

    Like I keep telling people, grains have to be soaked or fermented properly to reduce the anti-nutrient content. Granola is never healthy.

    Reply
  8. Sue

    Cereal (grains in general), whether granola or other types, is best eaten in very small quantities because of it’s higher glycemic index and glycemic load (its carbohydrate enters the blood stream more quickly than the majority of less carbohydrate dense vegetables and fruit).

    Reply
  9. eJean1981

    I remember a suggestion from long ago that you sprinkle a little granola on top of your regular plain cereal, for texture, flavor, and nutrition.

    Reply
  10. Heather

    Hmm I recommended granola to my girl friend wanting to gain weight and having trouble making herself eat enough (though did recommend bear naked) and do eat it myself if going on multi day backpacking trips and want to keep food weight down. I don’t consider the homemade or good stuff to be unhealthy so much as not low calorie….

    Reply
  11. adam

    If you do the math, the Kellogg’s low-fat granola w/raisins featured at the top actually has FEWER calories per 1/4 cup serving (86kcal) and the same amount of sugar (6g) as the Bear Naked granola the author recommends. As an RD myself, I agree that granola should not be considered a health food. But you have to evaluate products carefully, and in this case, from a calorie standpoint, the Kellogg’s product would be a healthier choice than the Bear Naked version because it has almost half as many calories and the same amount of sugar. Just because a product sounds healthier and is more “natural” (a loaded and often meaningless term) doesn’t make it so.

    Reply
    • ted

      I think she recommended it for the all natural ingredients more so than the calorie amounts, all granola is loaded with sugar.:-)

      Reply
  12. Stan Starsky

    So many brand name granola bars contain way too much processed sugar…Thanks for pointing out which brands to avoid.

    However, I really prefer to make my own granola so I know what is in it.

    Reply
  13. Jim F.

    Can someone explain the difference between muesli and granola?

    This is sad as these some of these breakfast cereals are my favorite snack food… (mainly when I have a sugar craving).

    Reply
    • Spectra

      Muesli is like cold oatmeal–you soak whole oats and fruit in milk or yogurt overnight to get a sort of chewy, cold cereal. It’s pretty popular in Europe but I personally do not care much for the taste of it.

      Reply
      • Jim F.

        That’s what I call Bircher Muesli. I thought ‘muesli’ was just a breakfast mix of oats and other grains (toasted or straight).

        Reply
  14. kitekrazy

    Bear Naked is too expensive. I like to mix a little granola with other cereals. It’s great with corn flakes.

    It was nice of the author to add how to make your own.

    Reply
  15. Spectra

    I never did like granola much. And I always did know it was high in calories. I’d rather just have oatmeal, to be honest.

    Reply
  16. Ian Szalinski

    Or choose muesli 🙂

    Reply
    • ted

      I agree that muesli is much better heath wise, but some people don’t like the chewy texture, so they turn to granola for the crunch.

      Reply