Healthy Store-Bought Granola Bars

kashi healthy granola bars

I was at the supermarket on Sunday being trailed by all three of my kids playing that age-old game of mothers and children: they slip food into the shopping cart; you notice said food and return it to the shelf. Included was a box of granola bars proffered by my daughter, Rosie, that were coated in enough chocolate to please Willy Wonka, with an ingredient list that must have topped 40 in number. It looked to me more cookie, or even candy, than anything resembling granola.

I have a conflicted relationship with packaged granola bars. I buy them (sometimes), and appreciate their “grab and go” convenience. But I’m often not so fond of what’s in there, or the excessive packaging. Even the healthier ones often have a laundry list of ingredients, some of which I’ve never heard of.  The fact that manufacturers are cramming a whole line-up of “vitamins and minerals” into a one ounce bar doesn’t offset the fact that they are also adding hefty doses of sugar, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. If I’m going to give my kids a sweet, I’ll give them a sweet. I’d rather it not masquerade as health food.

Often, my dissatisfaction with the supermarket options lands me in my kitchen making my own, but it’s nice to know how to find a healthy store-bought granola bar. Here are a few guidelines for when you are perusing the labels. I’ve also included a handful of “Better Bites” — suggestions for the more nourishing choices in the marketplace.

jar of coconut granola bark

What’s A Better Granola Bar?

Less sugar

Aim for about 8 grams of sugar or less per bar. Keep in mind that bars loaded with dried fruits get a little more wiggle room since that’s an added source of natural sugars.

More fiber

At least a couple of grams of fiber per serving is a good goal. The more, the better. Also, look for whole grains listed among the ingredients.

Fewer calories

Some bars top 200 calories, which is a lot for littler appetites, and particularly if you are pairing the snack with a glass of milk or a bit of fruit. I prefer bars that are south of 150 calories.

No trans fats

Watch out for trans fats, which will likely show up in the form of partially hydrogenated fat on the label.

Wholesome ingredients

A giant list of ingredients, many that you can’t pronounce, along with preservatives and artificial additives are red flags indicating a product best left on the supermarket shelf.

kashi healthy granola bars

Six Healthy Store-Bought Granola Bars

1. Kashi TLC Chewy Granola Bars Cherry Dark Chocolate — These bars feature plenty of whole grains, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein and stay within the 8 grams of sugar, even with dried cherries. Plus, they pass the taste test with my kids. Other flavors are also good on the nutrition spectrum, including Peanut Peanut Butter and Dark Mocha Almond (a good one for mom).

2. Bunny Bars by 18 Rabbits — A petite version of the 18 Rabbits bars, this is a solid choice. Besides the cute name, they have relatively few ingredients, range from 110 to 120 calories, with 2 grams of fiber and 8 grams a sugar. The only downside is they are a little harder to find than other brands.

3. Cascadian Farm Oatmeal Raisin Chewy Granola Bars — These petite bars, at just 70 calories, leave room for a glass of milk to wash them down. Even at that small size, they still have 3 grams of fiber. The brand’s Dark Chocolate Almond is also a good one, though heartier at 130 calories and 5 grams of fiber. While the ingredients includes several sugar sources, the bar still manages to measure in at 8 grams.

4. Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bar — These come two to a package. If you count just one bar as a serving, this crunchy option meets all of my criteria: Six grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, 85 calories, with the fewest and most familiar ingredients I’ve seen on a nutrition facts label (that includes the organic ones).

5. Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Granola Bars — Not bad at 90 calories and 7 grams of sugar, but only 1 gram of fiber.

6. Clif Kid ZBars — I know these are popular for many, so I thought I would include them. They rank a little high on the sugar scale, though hit the numbers on fiber and calories. The new Clif Crispy Z bars have 7 to 9 grams of sugar but not as much fiber. Trade offs.

healthy chocolate hemp bars

For a Healthy Homemade Granola Bar, check out:

Chocolate Coconut Copycat Bars

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Chocolate Hemp Amaze Bars

Nut-Free Chocolate Chip Oat Bars by Real Mom Nutrition

Comments

09.08.2011 at4:56 PM #

Kristen

These received rave reviews from my kids, and I really enjoyed one myself at my desk. Not dry at all…worth making!

09.09.2011 at6:14 AM #

Tiffany

Loved this article! Recipe looks great. My kids will be sure to love since it contains the words “peanut butter” and “chocolate chips!” Thank you for also including some “grab & go” options that are dietician approved.

09.20.2011 at3:26 PM #

[email protected]

Those look amazing, chocolate makes everything better! I like using the dates they add sweetness and moisture to baked goods. Yum!

We like the Kashi bars, Cliff Z Bars,

Have your tried the GNU Foods Flavor & Fiber Bars? They come in a variety of flavors, the Banana Walnut -140 calories, 4g fat, 30g carbs, 12 g fiber, 4g fat, 8g sugar

09.20.2011 at3:26 PM #

Katie Morford

I’m not sure I’ve seen those. I’ll look for them. Thanks.

09.21.2011 at8:47 AM #

Erika Lenkert

Thanks so much for featuring my recipe! I’m thrilled you like it and love your site! Keep up the good cooking!

06.02.2013 at11:13 AM #

Angie Dye

Hi,

I love your site and your philosophies! I loved your article about baking cookies when you have a million other things to do…I do that all the time! Agree that it makes the house smell wonderful and it’s so nice to see your kids enjoying something that you prepared. So glad I found your site…very inspirational and a great resource.

06.02.2013 at11:13 AM #

Katie Morford

Thanks Angie. Glad you found us, too.

08.10.2013 at6:30 AM #

Vince

I too recently found the Gnu bar and can’t say enough good things about it. I am 50 and recently was told I need more fiber by the Gastrointerologist. These bars taste excellent and their site has a comparison to other fiber bars, cereals, and supplements. I found your site by looking for recipes to make my own gnu bars. I have NOT experienced any gastric distress or unexpected need to visit the loo but highly recommend drinking more water.
Vince

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