How to choose wisely when picking a granola cereal

    Photo: USDA / CC BY 2.0 via MGN

    When it comes to cereal, granola may seem like a healthy choice, and it can be – in some cases.

    Consumer Reports examined the ingredient and nutrition labels on 38 products and found that granola "can be packed with healthy nutrients, but some brands are loaded with sugars, fat and calories."

    "Granola can have a lot of sugar and the sugar comes from many different things,” said Consumer Reports nutritionist Ellen Klosz. “It can come from the dried fruit or the chocolate or some contain a lot of added sugars in different forms."

    Added sugars are the ones we want to avoid. And don't be swayed by sugar claims on the front of the package. "Lightly sweetened" doesn't mean anything.

    Fat is often used in making granola and some brands use coconut oil, which adds significant amounts of saturated fat.

    Consumer Reports says coconut oil is best avoided.

    "The American Heart Association says that the saturated fat that's in coconut oil is just as likely to raise your cholesterol as other types of saturated fat,” Klosz said.

    Be careful with the serving size

    Granola is sweet and crunchy, and because it's dense, the serving size is much smaller than other cereals, such as Cheerios and corn flakes. So people tend to eat more of it than they should.

    Consumer Reports found that the serving sizes on the granola packages range from a quarter of a cup to three-quarters of a cup.

    "If you're comparing the nutrition information between cereals and you're not checking the serving size, you could be misinformed and think that the nutrition information is less than what it really is,” Klosz told me.

    Consumer Reports' food testing team asked people to fill bowls with their typical amounts of various cereals. Ninety-two percent poured more than the recommended serving size. For granola, the over-pour was the highest, 282 percent on average.

    "If you want to make sure that you are actually eating a quarter cup of granola, it's best to use a measuring cup,” Klosz said.

    More Info: Is Granola Good for You?

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