Gluten Free · Recipes

How to pick (Granola) Bars

I bet you didn’t know that January 21st was National Granola Bar Day! I know the day has passed but let’s take a moment to celebrate the goodness of the granola bar.    Oh and don’t worry , a recipe IS Attached!

There are all different kinds of granola bars these days.  Some are oriented towards kids, others for sports-recovery, still others for special diet needs.  In fact, I think it is safe to say that the granola bar probably started the “Bar revolution” that we see in our stores today.  From a simple baked square of oaty-nuttiness, has proceeded  many children and grandchildren bars boasting  “high protein, low carb, paleo, all fruit etc.”  The myriad of granola bars to choose from can make the decision of which to pick off the supermarket shelves a bit confusing!   Let me simplify it!  When picking any bar, look for these things:

Aim for lower sugar options. This means 15 – 20  grams or less. My favorite bar has 7gm-10gms or less (see below).

Beware of the type of sugars.  Avoid bars that contain any form of agave or corn syrup  (key words are” high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids” etc).  This form of sweetener has been shown to store as fat in the body.  Also avoid artificial sweeteners.  Look for natural sources of sweetness like honey, dates or rice syrup or stevia.

Look for protein from unprocessed sources.  Find bars that have protein from nuts or pea protein.  I am personally not a big fan of “islolated” protein forms from soy or whey.   Other professionals may have a differing opinion on this and that is fine.  This is mine. 🙂

Consider the fiber content.   Aim form 3 grams or more.  The more the merrier here!  Note that the higher the fiber content the more you offset any blood sugar increased from the total carbs.  If a bar looks really good for the carb and protein sources but is lower in fiber then it is ok to go with the lower fiber bar…sometimes the best 2 our of 3 is best!

Overall there should be a balance of protein, fat and carbs.   Some bars are mostly fruity  or gain-filled carbs while others are compressed protein powder.  Aim for a balance.

Do look at total calories.  Calories aren’t everything (which is why I am mentioning it last) but they do matter in the larger equation of picking the best bar for your needs. Bars that are 180 – 200 calories or less can be considered snacks.  Once you get above that then know you are getting closer to a meal replacement bar (for most people, this may be different for real, hard core athletes!)

Now for my  store- bought favorite!

kind-bars_1

 

This is not a marketing thing on my part and I am not getting paid to say this.  It is just a simple fact!  I LOVE the nutrition that  KIND bars offer!  They have several different types including: KIND Healthy grain bars, Strong  & Kind, KIND plus and the simple KIND variety. They are gluten free and low sugar. My favorites (italicized in the list above) are the nutty ones because they  achieve a fantastic balance between carbs, protein, and fiber in addition to their ingredient sources being wholesome.

And now for a recipe!  Note that this is not necessarily a low carb recipe but they are still nutritious and easy to make.  Oh, and it probably will save you money too!  Granola bars aren’t cheap!  Enjoy!

I would love to know your favorite bars at the store or recipes you keep coming back too!  Share in the comments below or on my Facebook Page uner Dietitian Cathryn!

 Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Recipe originally from LiveSimply.com but adapted by Dietitian Cathryn

1 cup packed Medjool dates (~10) (you can substitute raisins too!)

1/4cup to 1/3 Cup Honey

1/3 Cup Peanut butter (or any nut butter)

1 tsp Vanilla extract

2 Cups unsalted nuts or seeds (I like sunflower seeds and walnuts)**

1 ½ Cup Old fashioned rolled oats (pick Gluten Free if needed)

½ Cup Shredded, unsweetened coconut

¼ tsp salt

½- 1 Tbsp Cinnamon

Optional: ¼ Cup Chia seeds, soaked in ½ cup water for 15 min

**Whatever nuts you pick it is preferable to soak them ahead of time for 8-12 hours before using.  Soaking in salt water makes them more digestible

 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Oil 13X9 pan with butter or coconut oil.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (chop large nuts if desired). Set aside.
  3. Chop up dates and place them in a microwavable-safe bowl with a small amount of water. Microwave them for 1-2 minutes until soft.  Drain water and mash dates in a puree using a fork or potato masher.  Set aside.
  4. In a Medium saucepan, melt nut butter into honey. Add date puree. Continue to cook until it is smooth and spreadable.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Add chia see mixture at this time (if using).
  5. Add the hot mixture to the dry mixture and still until combined. Press mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  (it may take 35 minutes if using the chia seeds)

 

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2 thoughts on “How to pick (Granola) Bars

  1. Do you have the nutritional facts for your peanut butter granola bar? It looks good. Will have to try it! Meanwhile my fav store bought one is Nature Valley Protein Peanut butter dark chocolate from Costco. Doesn’t meet ALL the criteria but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg! It’s 190 cal., 14 carbs, 10 g protein, 6 grams sugar, 5 grams fiber, total fat 12 g…. it does have fructose, sugar and isolated soy protein…but first ingredient is peanuts.

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    1. Thank you Milli for subscribing and for your comment! I do not have the nutritional profile on the bars that I posted but I can try to get that for you!
      Good for you for looking at the Nature Valley bars you got! I am familiar with them (I have had them before) and while their overall nutritional profile (carbs, fats, and protein content) looks good the ingredient list is not my favorite, unfortunately. Not the most healthy ( although that is good that the first ingredient is peanuts. I am guessing the 2nd is the fructose). While you probably could do worse as far as bars go I would say you could do better!! So eat through that box and maybe explore some other options! Have your tried Grocery Outlet? They have some great options in the NOSH section. In fact I know they had a box the KIND bars for ~ $11 for 12bars (or something like that!) You might also think about looking at online options such as CoastCo’s Thrive Market. I haven’t used them but it is very popular and I hear have some great products! Good luck!
      “Food for Life!”
      Dietitian Cathryn

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