Granola bars: healthy snacks made with real ingredients or decadent desserts filled with sugar, salt and fat? It all depends on how you choose. After reviewing dozens of granola bars, we’ve learned some things that should come in handy before you buy your next box.
-Bars with a chocolatey coating or yogurt drizzle are higher in sugar and fat, so none of them made our list. Let’s face it: These are candy bars, not granola bars! -Fruit-flavoured bars often contain more sugar than bars made with chocolate chips. You read that right: Fruit is healthy, but the fruit found in bars is often concentrated jam or dried fruit that is pumped full of sugar. The takeaway? A few chocolate chips can still be part of a healthy snack! -Some low-sugar granola bars are made with sugar substitutes, such as sorbitol, to keep them sweet. We’ve noted this in case you’re avoiding artificially sweetened products for your kids. -Most granola bars are a source of fibre (two grams on average), but it’s usually not just from oats; many brands list inulin and chicory root fibre as ingredients. These types of non-digestible prebiotic fibres are added to bump up the fibre content on the Nutrition Facts label. But take note: These types of fibre don’t help promote regularity or fight constipation. They are prebiotic, which means that they are the “food” that healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut thrive on. That’s good, but it won’t help your kids poop. -Sometimes ingredient lists are needlessly long. Granola bars don’t require much more than oats, honey and some type of oil, but many are filled with artificial flavours, preservatives, gums, thickeners and sweeteners.
Store shelves are loaded with granola bars, so how did we judge them? The bars that made our list are: -made with real ingredients (whole grains, nuts, seeds and/or dried fruit, with exceptions noted); -have six grams of sugar or less (six grams of sugar equals 1.5 teaspoons); -have as much fibre as possible (most bars have two grams of fibre, but one tops the list with eight grams); and -have no more than 95 milligrams of sodium per bar
These sweet bars boast five grams of fibre (mostly from inulin), which makes them the second-highest fibre bar on our list. Though the ingredient list is unnecessarily long, with lots of types of sugar, the overall sugar content remains low (just four grams!).
What kids will like: These are your standard, kid-friendly granola bars. They also come in Very Berry flavour, with just six grams of sugar per bar.Photo: Nature Valley
This is the only brand on our list that provides 20 percent of your daily intake of vitamins A, B1, B6, C, D and E. How does MadeGood do that? Its products are made with a proprietary vitamin-rich “vegetable powder.” With just six grams of sugar and a clean ingredient list (no additives or preservatives), they are a nutrient-rich choice. They’re also organic, gluten-free and non-GMO!
What kids will like: We know you’re wondering: That vegetable powder is flavourless—completely undetectable. These bite-size granola balls are a nice change from rectangles—they’re fun to mix with pumpkin seeds and raisins for a build-your-own trail mix.Photo: MadeGood
Made with Kashi’s signature blend of whole grains, these bars contain four grams of fibre per serving and have big, luscious chunks of almonds and dark chocolate. Even though they’re higher in sodium (90 milligrams) due to sea salt, they boast six grams of protein from soy flour and almonds. They’re also non-GMO!
What kids will like: No teeny chips here—the big chunks are for serious chocolate lovers.Photo: Kashi
At 150 calories, these slightly larger bars are a good balance of protein, carbs and fat to keep kids feeling full longer. They have only five grams of sugar and a satisfying ingredient list that includes oats, pumpkin seeds, millet, buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa. While the bars are nut-free, they’re made in a facility that processes nuts. They’re also gluten-free and non-GMO!
What kids will like: They have a subtle sweetness and are sort of like eating trail mix in a bar format. They’re great for kids who have less of a sweet tooth (if such a thing exists!).Photo: Kind
These standard bars may not have the best ingredient list (they’re made with sorbitol, artificial flavours and palm oil shortening, which aren’t necessary ingredients in a granola bar). But they made our list because they’re low in sugar, at just five grams per serving!
What kids will like: They are super-sweet, familiar and have chocolate chips. Sold.Photo: Quaker
Made with soy, these bars have more protein (four grams) than standard granola bars and less sugar (just two grams!) than any other bar on our list. But they are tiny: With half the calories (just 70) of other bars, you’ll need to pair them with fruit or string cheese for a more satisfying snack. They’re also vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO!
What kids will like: They’re made with millet, brown rice and soy crisps instead of oats, which makes for a unique crispy texture. Plus, they taste like strawberry ice cream!Photo: SimplyProtein
These bars have a mix of grains, including oats, whole wheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa and sorghum, but all of these ingredients (plus added inulin) only add up to two grams of fibre. They are low in sugar, with just three grams (there’s also the sugar substitute sorbitol on the ingredient list), and they boast five grams of protein, mostly from soy (it’s very common for processed foods to have added soy to bump up the protein).
What kids will like: This is a great snack for picky kids who don’t want bits of dried fruit or seeds in their granola bars—it’s just plain grains and sticky sweeteners holding them together.Photo: Quaker
Thanks to that sneaky vegetable powder, these bars are rich in vitamins. They have six grams of sugar, are a source of fibre and have the lowest sodium content of any bar (just five milligrams). They’re also organic, gluten-free and non-GMO!
What kids will like: The apple cinnamon flavour stands out from all those chocolate chip bars. This brand also makes Strawberry, Mixed Berry and Banana Chocolate flavours.Photo: MadeGood
Along with cashews and coconut, these fun energy balls contain a whopping nine grams of protein from whey powder and eight grams of fibre from tapioca and rice bran. They make a great post-sport snack for young athletes. They’re also gluten-free and non-GMO!
What kids will like: The fun ball shape and array of amazing flavours, including Cacao Orange, Peanut and Berry Coconut.Photo: Bounce
These no-nonsense bars are just oats, sugar and some lime flavour and contain seven grams of sugar, three grams of protein and two grams of fibre. They’re also organic, vegan and non-GMO!
What kids will like: If your kids love citrus, they’ll totally dig these sweet-tart bars.Photo: Taste of Nature