There's nothing wrong with munching on granola or tossing some in your bowl of yogurt. However, it's good to know that it can be pretty high in calories, sugar, and fat, especially if store-bought. All things considered, you can still maintain a healthy diet that includes the breakfast staple. With a few tweaks, you can have a better-looking granola to keep at home and to take with you on the go.
Adding In Too Many Sweet Items
First things first — "granola is a good option for people who work out a lot, but it's not the best midday snack if you aren't active," Natalie Rizzo, MS, RDN, told POPSUGAR. One of the biggest reasons is the sheer amount of sugar most store-bought varieties contain. "Oats aren't sweet on their own — most granola is covered in sugar just for taste," Rizzo said. To cut down on sugar, she suggests making your own recipe like this simple pumpkin granola, which uses spices and a touch of agave for sweetness.
It's also worth noting that you don't want to overdo it on healthy items either, like nuts and seeds, as it will result in a granola with too many calories and fats in general per serving. Balance is key.
Eating Too Much at Once
If you're left dipping your hand into the granola container, you're likely to go for a few rounds. This is where putting granola into preportioned baggies to take with you comes in handy. "The serving size for granola is about 1/3 to 1/2 cup. If you eat it for breakfast with milk, you're probably having two cups or more," Rizzo said. "It's got a decent amount of sugar and calories, so having that amount can be problematic."
Rizzo suggests looking at granola as a snack rather than a meal. Enjoy it as pre-workout fuel for intense activities, or add a true serving size to Greek yogurt.
Having the Wrong Ratio of Macronutrients
If your granola is mostly carbs with little fat or protein, it might not be as great as you think. "It's hard to give a specific ratio, but I always aim for 50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, 20 percent fat," Rizzo said. While it may be hard to find this breakdown in a store-bought variety, read the labels and come as close as you can to this ratio as possible.
Coating Healthy Ingredients in Sugar
Added sugars include cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, honey, and brown rice syrup, to name a few, all of which you should try to steer clear from. "To sweeten your granola, make sure to use the healthiest ingredients possible and that they offer some nutritional benefit," said Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT. "Lightly sweetened carob chips provide the chocolaty flavor you crave without a ton of added sugar, and a bonus, they have those glorious polyphenols!" Shaw is also a fan of stevia and dates.
"Natural sugar, on the other hand, is naturally occurring in foods, such as the sweetness of fruits, including those that are dried without added sugar (hint, check the ingredients!)," Shaw said. However, often people make healthy foods, like dried fruit or nuts, less healthy by coating them in these sugars or adding them to the mix.
Not Including Enough Protein
You'll want to make sure your granola can fill you up and keep cravings at bay so you're less likely to be hungry when less than an hour has passed.
"Protein is found in many whole grains like quinoa and amaranth, so I like to experiment with adding a little bit of each to granola to pump up the protein," Shaw said. "Another great addition is nuts, like pistachios. Pistachios are one of the lowest-fat, lowest-calorie snack nuts and also a good source of plant-based protein and fiber."