Is granola good for you, what does a normal portion size look like, and is it high in sugar? Nutritionist Nicola Shubrook explains what to look for when choosing shop-bought varieties.
What is granola?
Granola is a breakfast cereal that's similar to muesli, but it's usually coated in some form of sugar such as honey to give it a crunchy, chunky texture. Common ingredients include oats, chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
What is a normal portion size?
A typical serving size is about 40-45g, which is approximately ½ cup or about 3 tablespoons.
Granola can form part of a varied and balanced diet, but it's best to keep to the recommended portion size as granola is often high in sugar. Adding milk or natural yogurt and fresh fruit will help to create a more balanced breakfast, and will add calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. You can also try adding spices such as cinnamon for extra flavour.
Nutritional profile of granola
The nutritional profile of granola varies depending on the brand or recipe. Some have more dried fruit, which will increase the natural sugar content, and others may be higher in fibre, protein and fat if they contain more nuts and seeds.
As a general guide, a typical oat and raisin granola may have around 200 calories per 45g serving – 32g of which will be carbohydrates, 10g is sugar, and there's about 3-5g of fibre and protein, and 4-7g of fat.
Generally, a granola that's lower in added sugars will also be lower on the glycaemic index thanks to ingredients like oats, nuts and seeds.
Nutritionally, granola is typically a good source of iron, zinc and magnesium, as well as vitamin E and B vitamins. Again, this depends on the recipe and ingredients used.
How to buy healthier granola
Always read the nutritional labels if you're looking to make a healthier choice. There are many brands and flavour combinations to choose from, and while some promise ‘high fibre’ or try to tempt with their luxury branding, they may also include lots of hidden sugars, salt or fat that may not be so good for your health.
Try to choose products with low levels of added sugar – this may be listed on the label as honey, sugar, syrups, or a combination of all three. Some brands add fruit syrups to the dried fruit for extra sweetness, which should also be listed in the ingredients list. Keep an eye on the salt content too, as some brands add this as a flavour enhancer.
Look for brands that have a higher oat, nut and seed content as they will be typically higher in filling protein and fibre and lower in sugar and salt.
Products that are high in sugar or have indulgent ingredients such as chocolate should be enjoyed as an occasional treat.
Alternatively, you could batch make your own, allowing you to keep an eye on the sugar content, and store it in the fridge for a few days for convenience.
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This article was published on 5 December 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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