The Search for No Sugar Added, Healthy Granola (Part 3)

In my continued search for what truly qualifies as a healthy granola, I have thus far neglected to point out that there are tons of recipes out there for making your own dang granola.  Even if a given recipe uses sugar or some other ingredient you don’t want in your granola, you could easily adapt it to change out said ingredient for a healthier, no sugar added one.  OK—so now we’ve established that you can go the homemade route, but….really?  Making your own granola is both time-consuming and messy, what with all the mixing and baking and, most of all, the cleaning–that if you’re like me, you may go through that process once or twice a year, but then decide to buy from then on.

So that’s where we are: finding the best of what’s out there that’s already been made.  In my last post I talked about Erin’s Homestyle granola, which I described as very tasty, even dessert-friendly (but that’s almost all granola, isn’t it), but pointed out that it’s sweetened with processed honey.  As it turns out I may not have given Erin’s a fair shake in that regard, as it turns out that it’s mainly too expensive for a moderate- to large-scale production to use only raw honey to make their granola…it just isn’t cost-effective, and who can’t appreciate that?  Well, actually, diabetics probably don’t appreciate that, since as I discuss raw honey on my unrefined sugar page, it has a much lower glycemic index than sugar, while pasteurized/processed honey has a GI even higher than table sugar.

If diabetics or others who are otherwise sugar sensitive want to indulge in healthy granola, there’s always Go Raw’s Simple Granola, which I discussed in Part 1.  The rest are going to be sweetened either with sugar or refined honey, though there’s still a significant quality range among these products, so let’s take a look at a couple more.

Bear Naked is a granola that can be found in mainstream supermarkets more than places like Whole Foods, even though it does have a short list of ingredients.  They do use honey as the main sweetener, but they also for some reason find it necessary to over-sweeten the dried fruits they add in: whether raisins, cranberries, or bananas, each has glycerin, oil, and/or sugar added, presumably for preservation, but is that really necessary.  The nice thing about Bear Naked is that it’s relatively affordable for a spare-ingredients granola, but there are two key turns offs about the product which for me are deal breakers:  one is that it turns out that Bear Naked is owned by the cereal behemoth Kellogg’s, and it’s not that alone that’s an issue, but when you combine that with the fact that none of their granola products are organic, and that they scored a 10 out of 700 on The Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Cereal Scorecard, it makes me never want to pick it up again.

Bob’s Red Mill, a very popular cereal brand widely available at both supermarkets and Whole Foods and its ilk, also makes granola with a rather short list of ingredients, but unfortunately again, the 2nd ingredient happens to be brown sugar, which is no better than white sugar as far as our health.  Though Bob’s scored a 242 out of 700 on the aforementioned Scorecard, most of its cereals, including the granolas, are NOT organic, and that means another nail in the coffin as far as I’m concerned.  Am I making too big a deal out of organic vs. non-organic?  If I were talking about the farmers’ market stalls, I think I would be, as farmers becoming certified organic is an expensive, often bureaucratic process that’s not worth the extra money.  For cereals, on the other hand, it just seems ill-advised not to go organic, even though it’s significantly more expensive.  I’ll discuss some organic options in the next chapter of the no sugar added, healthy granola hunt, but in the meantime, check out The Cornucopia Institute’s video on cereals and organics, ominously dubbed “Cereal Crimes”:

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