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You have got to try these ‘granola’ bars

July 28, 2010

Recommendation for you

Oh man, I just had one of these Quaker ‘Caramel and Nut’ bars yesterday and it is so good!!  I only had about 45 minutes before swimming last night and I had missed my evening meal.  I knew I had to get some energy into my body before swimming or I would be flagging towards the end, yet I couldn’t eat anything too hard to digest or I would risk throwing up.  In the end I went for the granola bar and what a great choice it was!!

I was expecting one of those bastard hybrids that satisfies no one.  You know, the kind that are too crunchy and fibrous to be good and too sweet and chocolate covered to be healthy, but boy was I surprised to find out how wrong I was.  These ‘granola’ bars were the tastiest candy bars I have ever had.  They were the perfect blend of chocolate and caramel and puffed rice cereal and not too much nut.  You know how the O’Henry chocolate bar has just too much nut to really be a candy bar?  Not this treat, just a smidgen of diced nuts.  I am craving one right now as I write this.  How lucky I was to find a whole box of these things in the cupboard too, right in there with the lunch and snack choices.  I am not sure why candy bars are in the food cupboard, but boy did that ever workout well for me.

Recommendation for your kids

If you want a candy bar, I cannot recommend enough that you reach for a Quaker brand candy bar. If you are looking for a healthy snack to feed kids though, this isn’t it.  You would need to have your head examined if you thought this was a healthy choice for a kid.  This is a candy bar, pure and simple.  You may as well give your kids a lollipop for a toothbrush and serve them a milkshake with their chocolate chip pancakes at breakfast.

This is a healthy snack for your kids if you live in Candyland and every day is Halloween.  This is just the kind of snack you would pick for your children if you were the witch in Hansel and Grettle and you were fattening your kids up so you could eat them later.  If you want to see what it looks like for a child to sweat palm oil and crap out sugar cubes, then this is the ‘healthy snack for you’.  I hope I am being clear enough about whether or not you should be feeding this healthy granola snack to your kids.

You see, that is my problem with Quaker.  They mix and match healthy products with unhealthy products and don’t really want you to question which is which.  They ‘extend their brand’ from healthy rolled oats to candy bars and hope that the goodwill and reputation for health will extend to keep you buying their products.  At the end of the day though, whether it is good business or not, it is plain deceptive.  They call these things snack bars.  They are candy bars.  They call them chewy granola and maybe some of them are really just that (although many of them aren’t), but chewy granola isn’t a very healthy food item.

We all think that granola is healthy, but this is one of those questions of what we mean by healthy.  Granola is rolled oats (excellent), nuts (good for you but high calories), raisins and honey (a type of sugar).  It turns out this is a very calorie dense food, which is terrible for weightloss, but on the other hand it is an excellent, and quite often natural and relatively raw food choice, for fueling your body so you can exercise more.  In fact that is what we most often associate granola with (according to wikipedia):

Besides serving as food for breakfast and/or snacks, granola is also often eaten by those who are hiking, camping, or backpacking due to the fact that it is lightweight, high in calories, and easy to store; these properties make it similar to trail mix and muesli. It is often combined into a bar form.

So, granola is a great food to snack on when you are hiking or camping.  It is great when you need a quick pick up from the sugar and a little bit of lasting energy to complete whatever task you are doing.  It isn’t good though when you are trying to lose weight.  I am referring to home made granola here, or a trailmix, essentially the mix I list above.

Whatever the hell Quaker is putting in their box of chewy granola bars is so far from granola I am surprised they are allowed to use that name.

Look at the ingredients in this box:

How many different versions of sugar do you count in this list?  I have 12!?!??!  Both Milk Chocolate and Caramel show up as ingredients before oats!!  This isn’t making oatmeal palatable to kids, this is turning oats into candy.

If you had any doubt about the healthfulness of this product, think about the nutritional panel:

Let’s compare this to a O’Henry bar:

Quaker Bar:

  • Size:           34g
  • Calories:    160
  • Fat:             6g
  • Sugar:        15g

O’Henry:

  • Size:           57g
  • Calories:   263
  • Fat:             13.1g
  • Sugar:        26.3g

If I adjust the O’Henry for size:

34 grams of O’Henry:

  • Size:           34g
  • Calories:   156
  • Fat:             7.8g
  • Sugar:        15.6g

Kids Quaker snack bar or candy bar… you pick.

On a closing note, what gave away to me just how bad these are is the calorie density.  Candy bars have one of the worst calorie densities of any foods at around 5.  If you see a calorie density of above 3 you know it is a poor choice for weightloss.  (To calculate calorie density divide the number of calories by the number of grams in the product).  In this case, the calorie density was 4.7!  That is massive!  That is candy bar territory.  Straight butter has a calorie density of 7 and cooking oil, which is straight energy comes in at the highest end of the scale at 8.8.   In ‘You Are Not A Fit Person’ there is a chart comparing calorie densities of food that will help you to understand what you should and shouldn’t be eating if you want to lose weight.

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