If you’ve eaten granola bars, the commercial ones sold at grocery stores, surely you’ll find most if not all are very sweet. I’ve only tried a couple of them and that’s it. I don’t have a sweet tooth hence decided to make my own granola bars. After much searching and reading recipes, made a few, and I found why granola is so sweet. I figure you’ll like to know too. Continue reading…
What Is Granola Bars Made Of
Granola bar’s main ingredient is grains which mostly use oats. Combined with nuts, seeds and dried fruits, liquid sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup and oil are added, and baked to make granola bars.
In the baking process the sweeteners and oil act as a binding agent while removing moisture from the granola. This gives you the solid bar and crunchiness you desire though some are meant to be chewy.
As food trends evolve and consumers’ tastes and preferences change, many brands start adding additional ingredients to entice customers to buy. Well, additional ingredients could lead to more added sugar. For this reason, health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease arise. (1)
Additionally, store-bought granola bars are filled with preservatives and artificial flavours. If you look closely at the nutrition facts and ingredients printed on the granola packages, you’ll find “natural flavour”. You ought to know it does NOT actually means natural. Read more about natural flavouring here.
Don’t get me wrong. Some granola bars are healthy to a certain extent when not compared to the homemade version. I strongly suggest that you read the label carefully. The shorter the list of ingredients the better. If you cannot pronounce certain ingredients, you may as well put them back on the shelf.
IN BRIEF. granola bars are made of oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, sweeteners such as honey or other types of sweeteners, sugar included, and fat that is oil or butter.
What Makes Food Satisfying
Eager to find out why granola is so sweet? Before that, let’s take a quick read about food satisfaction.
Surely, you like to eat food that’ll satisfy your tummy. Here, I don’t mean food that’s filling. Satisfying food needs to taste delicious. In other words, flavourful.
The 5 basic elements of taste are sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness and savouriness aka umami. On top of that, texture, aroma and colour also contribute to the deliciousness of food.
While each individual has their taste preferences, in this topic on granola, sweetness is likely the top element one prefers. But then again, some are overly sweet!
In snacking, crunchiness ranks first. I found an article on the Frito-Lay website ↓
The “crunch” factor was the most important component of the perfect snack in the latest Frito-Lay U.S. Trend Index. Beyond crunch, other important snack factors included sweet (66%), salty (61%) and filling (53%).
All said but, really, what makes snack food satisfying? Besides being flavoursome, a satisfying snack will ease hungriness and keep you somewhat full until your next meal. Emotionally, you enjoy eating.
Why Granola Is So Sweet
So, is granola bar healthy? Granola bars are often marketed as a healthy snack. Up to a certain point, granola bars are healthy. However, many are loaded with added sugar, calories and artificial ingredients. This is why some people said granola bars are more of a dessert or dressed-up junk food.
In my search for a good granola bar recipe, I somehow found out why granola bars are so sweet.
As mentioned earlier, the sweetener is used as a binding agent. This has to be the cause of overly sweet bars.
Let me explain further.
You see, all the granola bar recipes I followed used a good amount of honey or syrup. If not, nut butter or mashed fruits such as dates, prunes and bananas are called for. I reduced the amount but sweet still.
There were two versions, baked and no-bake. Both, I tried but none of the finished products meet my family members’ expectations that are crunchy, less sweet and stay in bar form.
The baked ones do not have the crunchiness my children desire. It’s dry and hard to bite.
The no-bake versions are worse. The granola bars always fall apart if not during the cutting process, while having a bite. It is messy to eat. If you like chewy granola, then this may be for you if you don’t mind eating them in bits and pieces.
This happens no matter how firm I pressed the granola mixture onto the baking sheet and refrigerate overnight.
Many home baker bloggers, even a consumer brand mentioned honey as a good binding agent. Indeed, but the amount required is too much for my liking. Though the stickiness of the sweetener helps, I find it overly sweet.
Nut butter and mashed fruits help with the binding too but, while these give you more nutrients so is sugar.
Do you understand now why granola bars are sweet? To form granola into bars that do not fall apart, the sweetener is the key. If the homemade version is sweet, how about those mass-produced ones? You have no control of it.
If you read the ingredients list carefully, the word “sugar” may NOT appear. Instead, you’ll see sucrose, glucose or fructose which are quite common. Other less common names for sugar are lactose, maltose and galactose. Regardless, all are sugars.
IN BRIEF. Any type of sweetener for instance sugar, honey or syrup is added sugar. Combined with natural sugar from fruits, it holds the bars together but makes the granola bars excessively sweet.
For this reason, I gave up making granola bars. Granola clusters are what I make nowadays – less sweet, light and crunchy! Would you like to try making yours? Yes… ↓
How to Make Your Own Granola Clusters
Simple ingredients and simple to make.
Gather dry ingredients
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup mixed nuts, roughly chopped (walnuts, almonds, cashews, what you have available)
- 1/2 cup mixed seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, any of your favourite)
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- A pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
Mix all the ingredients well and pour the mixture onto a lined baking sheet. Spread and press the mixture down evenly. Bake in a preheated oven at 150°C for 25-30 minutes. Low temperature and longer baking time reduce the moisture without over baking the granola. You may want to check regularly on the readiness after 25 minutes mark. When done, let the granola cool completely before breaking them into clusters.
Wait, you like chewy granola bars? Here is a no-bake version.
Recipe To Make Granola Bars. Easy No Bake.
Gather these ↓
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup nuts of your choice, roughly chopped (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
- Chocolate chips, optional. 1/3 to 1/2 cup per your liking
- Process dates in a food processor till paste-like.
- Warm peanut butter and honey/maple syrup in a saucepan over low heat.
- Combine and mix well ALL ingredients.
- Pour mixture into a lined 8×8 inch baking dish or container.
- Press down firmly and evenly.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove from dish/container and cut into even bars.
It’s relatively easy to make your own granola but I understand not all of you have the time. Moreover, it is a hassle if you do not have the ingredients readily available. This leads to the next topic ↓
Healthy Granola Bars to Buy. What To Look Out For.
Not all granola bars are produced equal. If you know what to look out for, there are healthy ones available.
First and foremost, look at
Healthier bars generally have whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruit at the top of the ingredient list.
Also, look for whole food ingredients, NOT artificial flavours. NOT EVEN natural flavours. Whole food includes grains, dried berries, apples, almonds, cashews, seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, chia and sesame, and chocolate.
You ought to know ingredients are listed in descending order by weight.
It is best to choose granola bars with a limited ingredients list meaning the shorter the better.
The 5 components you need to pay attention to are fibre, protein, calories, sugar and fats.
The main purpose you eat granola bars is to fill your stomach between meals or as a convenient breakfast on the go. Hence, fibre content should have at least 3 grams per serving. Some brands contain 5 grams of fibre per serving.
Protein also helps keep you full and you should aim for 5 grams of protein per serving to keep you satisfied.
How about calorie content? You’re watching your weight so this is important. Calories content should be fewer than 250 calories per serving.
For snacking, a general rule of thumb is to aim for about 150-250 calories per snack. (1)
As for sugar, of course, you want to avoid added sugar but in case you’re not able to find those, look for bars with less than 10 grams per serving.
Next, let’s take a look at the fat content. There are good fats and bad fats. The main ingredients of granola, oats and nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats. It is saturated fats that you need to be mindful of.
Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietitian and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet says “Just watch out for bars that contain more than 20% Daily Value of saturated fat”. (2)
For US readers, look what I’ve found for you on Amazon US (Affiliate links*).
KIND Bars, Variety Pack
This variety pack gives you 170-200 calories per serving. A good amount of protein and fibre to keep you full longer. Its total sugar is less than 10g.
RXBAR Protein Bar
Only 5 ingredients listed. 200 calories per serving with 12g of protein. Enough to replace breakfast on its own.
OVER EASY Breakfast Bars
This is another granola bar good for breakfast. 230 calories per serving. Protein is slightly less than RXBAR but fibre is higher at 9g.
*I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This allows me to enjoy a cup of coffee while writing and sharing more articles like this one.
In a Nutshell
Granola bars are made of oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruits which (supposedly) are healthy. Gone were the days when these simple ingredients make granola and were healthy food choices.
To entice people to buy and satisfy their palate, many other ingredients, be it “natural” or artificial food additives, also known as synthetic ingredients are added. Food manufacturers market granola bars as a healthy snack but you know they’re too sweet to be considered healthy.
Nonetheless, there are some healthier versions if you know what to look out for and more effort in reading the food labels. Read and study the ingredients and nutrition facts carefully so you’re sure in getting a nutritious and delicious snack.
The reason why granola is so sweet, in my opinion, is the sweetener. It acts as a binding agent to hold the granola mixture in bar form. This I learned from making my own granola bars. Countless recipes I’ve read and followed a few, and I believe so, yes, sweetener is the cause. You’ll need more if you want the bar to hold.
The sweetener could be in the form of liquid such as honey and maple syrup, table sugar as in brown or cane sugar, and natural sugar in dried fruits. The stickiness of these ingredients helps in binding.
Now you know where the sweetness comes from and figured out why granola bars are so sweet, haven’t you? So, will you still buy them or make your own? I’ve found a few healthier ones above if you like to take a closer look. While I’ve given up making granola bars, you may want to make yours. The chewy bars are quite easy to make. Go on, give it a try following the no-bake granola bars recipe.
Remember this → in any food you eat, moderation is key to healthy living. You must eat healthy food, but you should still allow yourself to eat some not-so-healthy foods moderately.
Buy or make yours, tell us in the comments section below. Or if you have a good recipe to share, please.
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Thanks for reading.
Me YourHealthy Corner – Stay in Good Health, Healthy Eating Habits
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Medical Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, and this post should not be taken as medical advice. Please do your own research. The material on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is general information that may not apply to you as an individual and is not a substitute for your own doctor’s medical care or advice.