For many people, breakfast is their favourite meal of the day; eggs benedict, waffles, bacon and perhaps even the occasional mimosa.
Granola can also be a healthy addition to any breakfast, but not all granolas are created equal.
So, what is granola?
Granola usually consists of rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, honey or other sweeteners, and is baked until golden brown. It’s very calorie-dense and full of healthy nutrients like fibre and protein, both of which help keep you fuller for longer. It also contains other nutrients, such as iron, unsaturated fats and other vitamins and minerals.
Sugar is the sweet, sweet devil
But, granola can also be filled with added sugars, and fat. Sugar is known by many aliases, including maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses and tapioca syrup, among others. Look for granola with no more than eight grams of sugar per serving.
“A little sweetness in your granola can help make it tasty, but you want it to come from dried fruit. Be wary of added sugars in the ingredients list such as maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar or tapioca syrup,” said Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports health and food editor.
And experts also say that if a type of sugar is listed near the top of the ingredients list, then it’s safe to assume the granola contains a high amount of added sugar.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that added sugars make up no more than 10 per cent of your daily calories. That equates to about 48 grams of sugar, based on a 2000 calorie-per day diet.
Make fat your friend
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t avoid fat. In fact, it’s one of the core nutrients your body needs to function and stay healthy. But with that in mind, there are good fats and bad fats.
Granolas can be higher in fat due to healthy ingredients like nuts and seeds. While fat is higher in calories, don’t let that deter you; make sure to stick to healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Limit your intake of unhealthy fats, like saturated and trans fats.
Your granola shouldn’t contain fillers. Look out for ingredients like “soy protein isolate,” “chicory root fibre,” or “inulin.” Look on the ingredients label; short pronounceable ingredients should make up the list, as that means your granola is made with whole foods, and not processed ingredients.
“Some manufacturers pump up the protein or fiber content of granola by adding processed ingredients, like chicory root fiber, or isolated soy protein. But it’s always better to get your nutrients from whole foods, like nuts, seeds and whole grains,” said Calvo.
Count the calories
Another big thing to watch out for is the calories. Because granola is typically higher in fat and sugar, that drives up its calorie intake. Look for granolas which have less than 200 calories per quarter cup serving, 270 calories per one-third cup serving, or 400 calories per half cup serving.
Ideally, your granola should contain three to five grams of protein, and at least three grams of fibre per serving.
Consumer Reports’ food testing team asked a group of consumers to pour out their typical amounts of breakfast cereal and granola. More than 90 per cent of people poured more than the serving size described on the package.
“But, we found the average ‘over-pour’ for the granola, was two to four-times the recommended serving size,” said Calvo.
You can use it as a topping for yogurt, fruit, pancakes, trail mix or whole grain cereal.
When in doubt, make sure to read the nutritional label and the ingredients list. And if you’re still concerned, make your own homemade granola at home, just like seven-year-old Jackson. “I’m going to pour all of this in and then it gives it a little bit of coconut essence,” he said. “I would have it anytime.”