14 February 2017Is "Healthy Granola" Just a Good Marketing Scheme?

Did you know that some store bought granola contains so much fat, sugar and calories that you might as well be eating a chocolate candy bar? Ironically, even though granola is touted as a health food, the calories of nuts, honey and dried fruit can add up quickly to a breakfast or snack higher in calories than you thought. One cup of granola can easily provide 500 calories, which for a person trying to lose weight on a 1500-calorie diet, provides one third (1/3) of the calories needed for the day.

Is "healthy granola" just a good marketing scheme? No, when eaten in moderation, using a healthy homemade recipe, granola is an excellent source of fiber, iron, heart healthy fats, and protein.

Health Benefits of Ingredients in Homemade Granola

Not only will your house smell amazing while your homemade granola is baking in the oven, you will be able to control the calories, fat and sugar content by choosing healthy ingredients.

  • Wheat Germ – One part of a wheat kernel is the wheat germ, which is loaded with B-vitamins, iron, zinc and the antioxidant vitamin E. During the processing of white flour, this richest part of the wheat kernel is tossed out. You can put back this highly nutritious part of the wheat kernel by including wheat germ in your granola.
  • Nonfat dry milk (NFDM) – Even though I am a product of the 1960’s, my mother continued the 1940’s war time rationing of adding nonfat dried powdered milk to baked items to increase the protein and calcium. Adding NFDM to your granola today can increase the nutritional quality.
  • Canola oil – High in heart healthy omega three fatty acids. Stay away from fats that contain high amounts of saturated fats, such as palm oils, coconut oil, and hydrogenated fats.
  • Oats – Choose 100% old-fashioned oats which are higher in fiber and B-vitamins compared to “instant” or “quick cooking” oats
  • Flax seeds – High in fiber (just 2 tablespoons contain roughly 4 grams of fiber) and omega three fatty acids. Flax seeds also contain 800 times the phytochemicals found in other oil seeds.
  • Chia seeds – As part of a healthy diet, chia seeds can help decrease triglycerides, blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Nuts and seeds (in moderation) – High in protein and healthy fats. From magnesium to copper, from manganese to zinc, different nuts are high in different vitamins and minerals. Thus, eat a variety of nuts to benefit from the unique nutrient makeup of each type.

Good for You Granola Recipe

As a rule of thumb, remember the ratio of six to one.

In making homemade granola, use six cups of dry ingredients, such as oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit to one cup of wet ingredients, such as oil and honey. This Good for You Granola recipe is flexible and easy to modify based on your taste preferences. Because I like to put the granola into glass jars with a ribbon around it for presents, I make a large recipe of a total of 14 cups and bake it on two sheet cake pans (with edges). The recipes make 28 portions of 1/2 cup each or 56 portions of 1/4 cup each.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 45-60 minutes
Bake Temperature: 300 degrees Fahrenheit

In a large mixmaster bowl, combine the 11 cups of dry ingredients first.

7 cups of old-fashioned oats
1 cup of wheat germ
1 cup of nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup chopped nuts, your preference, for example: pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.

Add wet ingredients and mix well.

1 cup canola oil
1 cup honey

Spread in an even layer on two sheet cake pans or jellyroll pans (16" x 24" x 3").
Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 45-60 minutes until lightly browned.
Stir and switch pans in oven after 30 minutes.

When cool, add the dried fruit.

1 cup dried fruit (e.g. cherries, raisins, dates, etc.)

Store in airtight containers.

Nutrition Information:
1/2 cup = 288 calories, 15 g total fat, 36 g total carbs (6 g fiber), 7 g protein
1/4 cup = 144 calories, 7.5 g total fat, 18 g total carbs (3 g fiber), 3.5 g protein

Note: If you are is trying to gain weight, enjoy a generous portion size of granola. Boosting your calories from nutritious ingredients compared to pop, chips, or candy is healthier for you.

How to Eat Smart for Weight Loss

Small portion size

Think of granola as a topping for other healthy foods. For a granola parfait, in a bowl put some Greek yogurt (0% fat), which is naturally high in protein, calcium and vitamin D and add fresh anti-oxidant rich berries. Then, sprinkle a few tablespoons of granola over the top for a crunch.

Make a Mixture

Mix in bowl 1/2 cup of granola and 1/2 cup of old-fashioned dry oatmeal. Oatmeal, by itself, is low in calories and high in fiber. By "diluting" your granola with healthy old-fashioned oats, you can increase the fiber and lower the total calories.

Healthy Weight Loss Plan

By mixing together healthy ingredients for the recipe of Good for Your Granola and eating smart for weight loss, granola can be a part of your weight loss plan. Note: You can copy the customized recipe from dietitian or dietician if you wish to use it without entering it yourself.

In good health,

Martha M. Henze, MS, RDN

I think my family and friends will be happy now that I am done writing this blog. They were the recipients of many kitchen experiments while I created my Good for You Granola recipe.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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