Quaker Chewy Rocky Road Granola BarsWelcome to What’s In It Wednesday – Part 4. This week, to celebrate the beginning of a new school year, we will take a good look at a lunch box favourite. Granola bars are a quick and easy grab and go snack.They are marketed as a healthy choice made from whole grain oats but perhaps we should take a closer look. Take a peek at the ingredient list on this box of Quaker Chewy Rocky Road Granola bars. To me that sure seems like a really long list of ingredients.

Sugar – First of all, the chewy bars are pretty small but still have 7 different forms of sugar listed 12 times in the ingredient list including brown sugar, honey, glucose, sugar, sorbitol, dextrose and corn syrup.

Unhealthy Fats – Modified palm or palm kernel oil has been linked to an increase in risk of heart disease. Highly refined vegetable oils such as sunflower or canola oils are also used. These oils are cheaply produced with GMO crops. Refined oils such as these are often produced using high heat, pressure and solvents. Read more information on oils.

Modified Corn Starch – Modified corn starch is chemically treated to change it into a thickening agent, emulsifier, or a stabilizer. These modified starches are difficult for the body to digest and most often created from GMO corn crops.

Sodium Hexametaphosphate -Try saying that 5 times fast! Sodium Hexametaphosphate is an emulsifier and may cause respiratory tract irritation. It has also, it’s been linked to pancreatic cancer in continual doses in mice.

Colours Currently in Canada, food manufacturers aren’t obligated to specify which particular colour or mix of colours are included in the ingredients. If you or your child are prone to hyperactivity, or have ADD/ADHD or other behavioural concerns, these should be avoided.

SulphitesManufacturers add sulfites to processed foods as a preservative and to improve its appearance but can cause symptoms including asthma-like symptoms, hives, facial swelling or gastrointestinal discomfort.

Butylated hydrozytoluene (BHT) is a common preservative that keeps foods from changing color, changing flavor or becoming rancid. Effects the neurological system of the brain, alters behavior and has potential to cause cancer.

Soy Lecithin – This is also used as a thickener. Since it is soy based, it is from a GMO crop.

Artificial Flavour – Chemical creations intended to enhance the flavour of the food we are eating. When’s the last time Grandma used some of this?

I don’t want to be unreasonable here by taking apart the ingredient list of our beloved granola bar. I simply want to expose the granola bar for what it is most times – a ‘health washed’ chocolate bar. By all means, enjoy a store bought once occasionally but recognize it for what it truly is.

Instead of buying granola bars, why not make your own? It really is quick and easy. The best part? You end up with an end product that is delicious and actually is healthy. Pop on over to my granola bar recipe and try it for yourself!granola bars - mine

When I purchase granola bars – which does happen in our house from time to time – I am looking for a short ingredient list with recognizable ingredients. The bars are simple and to the point. No candy coloured bits and smothered in chocolate for us, although if I am being totally honest, I do like a few chocolate chips! The bar that I choose to pack in my boys’ lunches is plain chocolate chip from Nature Valley. They are packed only once in a while and don’t make a regular appearance in my pantry. They are nut free which is important for our school board and the ingredient list is reasonable. Having said that, Nature Valley also has varieties with long ingredient lists and too much sugar per serving for me. My favourite store bought granola bars are from Nature’s Path, but unfortunately they don’t have a nut-free guarantee.

When feeding our families, it really is up to us to learn how to read ingredient lists and make our own choices. Companies pay big bucks to have their advertising efforts lead us to believe what they want us to hear. Don’t know where to start? Guess what? You already have! You are learning by taking the time to read this post! Pick one ingredient and commit to not allowing it in the house. My favourite way to start my clients is by making sure that we avoid products with any artificial flavours or colours. Once that is mastered, we move on to glucose-fructose. It really does get easier as we go. The slow and steady approach is what I prefer. Don’t try and eliminate everything all at once. You will drive yourself, as well as your family bonkers and it will be tough to stick to your new ideals. Need help? You know where to find me! I’m here to rally you on and be your biggest cheerleader!