Healthy Recipes

10 Toxic, Sugar-Filled Granola Bars That You Should Never Eat (and their healthy swaps)

10 Toxic, Sugar-Filled Granola Bars That You Should Never Eat (and their healthy swaps)
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This fantastic article was written by Trisha Miller, a freelance writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. We encourage you to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter

People seem to have this misconception about “granola,” in that many think it is always healthy. Granola is simply a mixture of grains, oats, dried fruit, and nuts, which sounds great. However, many manufacturers believe they can put the cheapest, low-quality, ingredients into our food and call it “healthy.”

This means that not all granola bars are created equally. Many breakfast bars, energy bars, and granola bars come packed with added sugars, fats, and very few ingredients that are actually beneficial to our bodies.

If you aren’t already aware, ingredients are listed from highest quantity to lowest. This means if the first few ingredients are sugars or other additives, you’re essentially eating sugar with some granola on the side.

A high-quality granola bar should be packed with protein, fiber, and lovely vitamins – not just sugars, carbs, and oil. Not to mention, all of the ingredients should be easily identifiable and found in nature.

What Are Granola Bars Commonly Made Out Of?

granola bars, healthy granola bars, homemade granola bars

Dried and candied fruit, sugar, man-made sweeteners, preservatives, lots of carbs, tons of oils, and GMO ingredients.  Of course, all of these ingredients are most likely okay in small doses.

Yet, eating a bar or two per day with all of these ingredients inside is not the way to curb hunger and give your body the essential building blocks it needs to keep your mind fresh and your body full of energy.

If you take a closer look at some of the below examples, you can see that many are filled up with processed sugars in many different forms: chocolate, brown rice sugar, glucose, corn syrup, and plain ol’ bleached white sugar.

Again, while some of these are okay once and a while, making this a staple of your diet can undoubtedly increase some health risks such as imbalanced spikes in blood sugar, which totally defeats the purpose of eating a granola bar in the first place.

It has been proven that our brains don’t know how to process and expel ingredients like processed sugars, which means you’ll be left feeling sluggish, groggy, and unfocused all day. [1] 

Serious Health Risks

If that wasn’t enough, eating these on the regular can even greatly increase your risk for much more serious health problems like diabetes. Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which the sufferer is unable to produce any or enough insulin to keep up with the sugars ingested into the body and absorbed into the blood. [2] 

This results in an inability to control daily blood sugars and can lead to rapid and unhealthy weight loss and gain, extreme fatigue, an inability to heal cuts or bruises on the body, and numbness/tingling in the hands and feet. In addition, those at risk for diabetes are also commonly linked with an increased risk for cardiovascular problems.

With all of that being said, please understand your body and how it prefers to function. Feeding yourself things that your body can use to keep it running strong is always a good idea. Eating one of these bars on an infrequent basis does not mean an increased risk for diabetes.

A diet that revolves around an unproportionate sugar, oil, and carbohydrate could lead to dangerous conditions such as diabetes. Let’s take a look at some bars that do not have your body’s best interest at heart.

10 Granola Bars You Should Never Eat

1. Fiber One

Fiber One bars are packed full of a laundry list of ingredients that your body doesn’t need. They had the longest list of ingredients out of any bars I mention in this article.

Things like corn syrup, puffed rice or corn, rice flour, and palm oil are all at the top of the ingredients list. Sure, they are higher in fiber than some other bars out there, but with all the added junk that they do have, it’s just not worth it. [3] 

2. Quaker Oats

Albeit marketed towards children, these bars really aren’t healthy for anyone. The first 5 ingredients are whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, rice flour, sugar, and salt. Not to mention many bars contain things like milk chocolate, which just adds even more unnecessary sugars right on top. It’s a struggle to find anything of value in any of these bars. [4] 

3. Special K

I will give Special K credit for having a decent looking product. One bar called the “Nourish” bar seems much better than most big name bars. However, it still contains unneeded ingredients like corn syrup, sugar, fructose, and cane syrup. It does contain a couple of healthy nuts like peanuts and almonds but still falls way short from bars that are truly healthy. [5] 

4. Clif

Clif bars are arguably designed for those who need a boost pre or post workout. Someone who eats this bar as a snack will not see much of a positive result. Clif bars are high in calories, sugars, and carbs. This might be good for someone going on a long run and could benefit from some extra calories, but to the everyday Joe, all of their products are just way too much. [6] 

5. Kashi

Kashi is the perfect example of why reading the label is so important. Some of Kashi’s products are good and others are just downright disappointing. For example, the Kashi Go Lean Plant Powered Bar in Salted Dark Chocolate & Nuts contains a lot of ingredients that should be much lower on the list or not included at all, especially for a lean bar. [7] 

The first few ingredients are cane syrup, tapioca syrup, pea crisps, chocolate, and peanut flour. [7] It’s not the worst bar on this list by any means, but it’s a great eye-opener for companies who claim to be healthy.

6. Zone Perfect

I’m not even sure where to start with Zone bars. They are in no way shape or form good for you. A newer item called the “Cinnamon Bun Cookie Dough” bar contains 200 calories in one bar, 80 calories from fat, 50 grams of cholesterol, 210 grams of salt, and 14 grams of sugar. The ingredients list is atrocious as well. Just stay away from these at all costs. [8] 

7. Balance 

The Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat bar from Balance is essentially what you would see in a candy bar. 23% of your daily saturated fat needs are being met in one bar along with 22 grams of carbs and 12 grams of sugar. [9] 

If that wasn’t enough, you could also see ingredients like tapioca syrup, sugar, palm oil, cane syrup, butter, and brown rice syrup…yikes. [9] 

8. Nature’s Valley

Their classic Oats & Honey bar contains whole grain oats, sugar, canola oil, rice flour, honey, salt, brown sugar syrup, baking soda, soy lecithin, and “natural flavor.” I think that list speaks for itself. Aside from the processed oats, there are no quality ingredients in this bar. [10] 

9. Odwalla

Similarly to Kashi, Odwalla’s ingredients aren’t all bad, but there are far too many of them. I counted about 15 completely useless ingredients in the Apple Toffee Pistachio Chewy Nut Bar. Although the nutritional information doesn’t look terrible, this is another bar that isn’t really doing much for your body. [11] 

If you want Pistachios, you’d be better off just buying some unsalted ones.

10. Think Thin

These bars are in the same category as Zone Perfect. I tried to pick a bar that sounded like it would have less junk in it, but to my surprise, the Lemon Delight bar has a whopping 240 calories, 260 milligrams of salt, and only has one ingredient of any use – almonds. [12] 

These bars brag about the 20 grams of protein inside, but what you don’t know is that they get it from processed soy and many other nasty ingredients. 

10 Great Granola Bar Alternatives: To Buy and To Make

1. Kind 

Kind has exactly the types of ingredients that I like to see. The list is short and includes only ingredients that are great for the body. Things like dried (and unsweetened) fruit and nuts. However, you might occasionally see some added glucose, which is a bit disappointing, but these bars are still light years beyond many bars on this list.

2. Larabar

I wish every bar were as wonderful as the Larabar. The original bar in Apple Pie contains six ingredients: dates, almonds, cinnamon, unsweetened apples, walnuts, and raisins. The sugars are a bit high because of the dried fruit, but all in all every single ingredient is good for the body and has a purpose. [13] 

3. Health Warrior

These bars are very low in calories, about 100, and have a nice short list of ingredients. They contain plenty of fruits and nuts and fewer carbs and grains. The main ingredient is chia seeds, which have a wonderful amount of fiber to support healthy digestion.

4. Curate

Curate bars are free from any GMO ingredients and don’t contain any wheat, which is fantastic. The ingredients contained in the bars could be a tiny bit better, but all in all, they are good. Things like quinoa, fruit, flaxseed, chia seeds, and nuts fill up the ingredient list, which is refreshing, to say the least.

5. Cascadian Farm

Cascadian Farm makes a very traditional granola bar, but they do it better than just about anyone else out there. Organic ingredients and only 80 calories per bar show that they know what they’re doing. If they would update their ingredients with some nuts, seeds, and berries, they’d be unstoppable!

6. Nature’s Path

The Qi’a superfoods bars are an excellent example of what to look for in a granola bar. Low sugar, high protein, and a good amount of calories. Cashews, pumpkin seeds, and blueberries can be found in one such Qi’a bar. [14] This shows that quality ingredients make a quality bar.

7. Zing

The Cashew Cranberry Orange Bar is packed full of protein, coming in at 10 grams. It also has other beautiful ingredients like Cashews (as the first ingredient), cranberries, and agave syrup. This bar is completely naturally sweetened and is a great pick-me-up for snackers and gym bodies alike. [15] 

Simple DIY Granola Bar Recipes


The best way to know exactly what’s in your food is to make it yourself. If you’re tired of sifting through the ocean of nasty ingredients you’re bound to find on the shelf, check out one of these quick recipes for a satisfying snack that you can make right at home.

Raw Superfood and Seed Energy Bars

From Nourish the Roots and why I love it. This bar is not messing around. It contains 6 different types of nuts and seeds and absolutely no sugar. The dates help the bars stick together and give it all the sweetness that it needs. That is going to keep your heart healthy and keep your brain sharp all day.

Grain Free Granola Bars

From Intoxicated on Life and why I love it. For those of you who might be looking for more of a traditional granola snack, this is the one for you. The ingredients are very simple (there’s only 7 of them) and you can make this recipe work with whatever ingredients you choose. It calls for unsweetened fruit and nut butter, but there are so many to choose from!

Oat + Nut Chewy Granola Bars

From Edible Perspective and why I Love it. For a bar that looks so tasty, this one contains so many great ingredients. The hemp seeds are very high in protein (10 grams per 3 tablespoons) and so are the nuts and nut butter that you choose to add. This bar would be a wonderful pre-workout treat or just a grab and go snack.

So, there you have it! Remember, it isn’t always about how much sugar or fat is in a product to determine its healthiness. There are so many other factors that contribute to a well-balanced snack. 

Quality ingredients are the first things you should look for in any worthwhile granola bar. Now you know the best and the worst granola bars out there as well as what to look for when you’re at the supermarket.

Try these delicious homemade bars/snacks!


[1] Agrawal, R., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2012, May 15). ‘Metabolic syndrome’ in the brain: Deficiency in omega-3 fatty acid exacerbates dysfunctions in insulin receptor signalling and cognition. Retrieved from 

[2] Medical News Today. (2016, January 5). Diabetes: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments. Retrieved from

[3] Fooducate. (n.d.). Fiber One Chewy Bars, Oats & Chocolate. Retrieved from!page=product&id=2DD3E46A-E106-11DF-A102-FEFD45A4D471

[4] Quaker Oats Company. (2014, September 01). Quaker Chewy Granola Bars: Dark Chocolate Chunk. Retrieved from

[5] Kellogg Company Inc. (n.d.). Special K Nourish* Dark Chocolate Chunks & Almond Bars. Retrieved from

[6] Clif Bar & Company. (n.d.). Clif Bar: Chocolate Chip. Retrieved from

[7] Kashi Company. (n.d.). GOLEAN Plant-Powered Bar, Salted Dark Chocolate & Nuts. Retrieved from

[8] Abbott Laboratories. (n.d.). Cinnamon bun cookie dough. Retrieved from

[9] Nutrition Express Corporation. (n.d.). Balance Bar Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat 6 Bars. Retrieved from

[10] General Mills. (n.d.). Oats ’N Honey Crunchy Granola Bars. Retrieved from

[11] Odwalla Inc. (n.d.). Apple Toffee Pistachio Chewy Nut Bar | Odwalla®. Retrieved from

[12] ThinkThin, LLC. (n.d.). Lemon Delight. Retrieved from

[13] Larabar. (n.d.). Apple Pie. Retrieved from

[14] Nature’s Path Foods. (n.d.). Superfood Bars. Retrieved from

[15] Zing Bars. (n.d.). Cashew Cranberry Orange. Retrieved from

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