Cookies VS Granola Bars: Who is the winner?

Cookies VS Granola Bars: Who is the winner?

Before you grab a granola bar for a healthy on-the-go snack, or pack a bar to put in your kids’ lunchboxes, you might want to read on—I recently did a little  field research and discovered some shocking information about these so called “healthy” snacks. I thought it would be interesting to nutritionally compare granola bars, which are supposed to be relatively healthy, to a popular kids treat…cookies!  What I discovered was quite interesting.

Nutritionally speaking.

Nutritionally speaking, a granola bar is not all that different from a cookie.  For example, one Clif Kidz Chocolate Brownie Bar has the same amount of carbohydrates, sugar, and protein as 3 Chips Ahoy cookies—yikes!  These two items are also fairly equal in sodium and have around the same calorie count with the granola bar having just around 2 gram more fiber than the cookie.

Clif Kidz Chocolate Brownie Bar (1 bar) Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies (3 cookies)
Calories (cals) 120 160
Fat (g) 3.5 8
Saturated Fat (g) 1 2.5
Cholesterol (mg) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 135 110
Carbohydrates (g) 22 22
Fiber (g) 3 0.7
Sugar (g) 11 11
Protein (g) 2 2

I looked at a few other bars and cookies and found the same pattern; roughly equal amounts of carbohydrates, sugar, and fat.   In one comparison I did, I found that one Kashi Soft-Baked Chocolate Almond Butter cookie actually contained more fiber and more protein than a Quaker Chewy granola bar !

Quaker Chewy School Days Granola Bar, Amazing Apple Flavor Kashi Soft-Baked Cookies, Chocolate Almond Butter Flavor
Calories (cals) 100 130
Fat (g) 2 5
Saturated Fat (g) 0.5 1
Cholesterol (mg) 0 0
Sodium (mg) 50 80
Carbohydrates (g) 20 19
Fiber (g) 2 4
Sugar (g) 7 7
Protein (g) 1 3

So what’s a parent to do?

While I’m not advocating packing cookies for your kids every day (although they are absolutely fine as an occasional snack), I definitely encourage you to proceed with caution and think of granola bars as more of a treat, rather than a healthy snack.  Your best bet is making sugary granola bars and cookies a once-in-a-while indulgence, and focus on less processed foods that make excellent snacks: fruit, cheese, nuts, vegetables, nonfat/lowfat yogurt, hummus, bread …the list goes on!

The easiest way to separate regular food from treats is to look at the packaging or, to be precise, at the presence of packaging.  In our house, everything that comes in a package, especially if it has cartoon characters on it, automatically gets a treat status. Whether it is a super healthy granola bar or 100% whole grain crackers- it is a treat. (Read Why goldfish crackers are NOT a snack). This way, the kids do not expect me to offer them a special food when the snack time arrives but instead make do with whatever I planned for that day.

Snacking on a go: in or out?

I know that many people think that prepackaged snacks are great because kids can eat them on the go. Except kids are not really supposed to be eating on the go that much. A scheduled sit down meals AND snacks are the way to curb the grazing epidemics our kids are falling victims to and to build good relationship with food.

But I also know that sometimes kids just have to eat on their way to an event, class or an airport. Since granola bars are convenient, I recommend choosing a bar that is minimally processed, low in sugar, and free of artificial ingredients.  I like KIND Bars, Glenny’s Fruit and Nut Bars, and Lara Bars. The important thing to remember is that they are not nutritionally superior to whole fruit and vegetables and they are not likely to teach our kids healthy eating habits in the long term.

They still taste more like a cookie than a carrot, don’t they?

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