10 Things to Look for in a Healthy Granola Brand

Whether you’re looking for a wholesome way to start your day or you’re in need of a healthy, energizing snack to power through your afternoon, granola can be a great choice. But do you know how to choose a healthy granola brand?

There are so many different granola brands on the market today and so many varieties of this delicious food. No matter what your dietary requirements or health goals are, you’ll be able to find granola that meets your needs.

But it’s not as simple as heading to the store and grabbing the first package of granola that looks good. It’s important to understand how to spot the healthiest granola brands out there.

Is granola healthy or unhealthy?

Before we take a closer look at how to choose healthy granola, let’s answer this common question: is granola actually healthy? Do a simple Google search and you’ll see that this question gets asked all the time.

The answer can be complicated. While there are many very healthy brands of granola available, there are also plenty of granola brands that appear healthy (and even make health claims) but won’t actually do anything to support your health.

If you’re ready to wade through the healthy vs. unhealthy granola waters, then keep reading. We’re sharing 10 things to look for in a healthy granola brand.

Coconut Granola Bowl from a healthy granola brand

How do you know if granola is healthy? Look for these 10 things.

1. Whole Grains

The first ingredient on the label of any granola you buy should be a whole grain. Normally, it will be rolled oats, but any type of whole grain is healthy, including spelt, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Seeking out granola with whole grains ensures your choice includes plenty of fiber and protein. Pay attention to the type of oats the granola contains as well – some brands use gluten-free oats while others do not.

2. Healthy Oils

The vast majority of granola brands (even a healthy granola brand) use oil when making their product. The type of oil used is something to pay close attention to. While many brands use highly refined canola oil, the healthiest granola brands use high-quality oils like organic coconut oil or organic sunflower oil. 

3. Non-GMO

When you’re learning how to choose healthy granola, it’s important to look for the non-GMO label on any products you’re considering purchasing. Many GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops are used to make ingredients that Americans eat every day, such as corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil and granulated sugar.

While the scientific community is mixed on their thoughts about GMOs in foods, there are concerns that GMOs can increase the risk of allergies, cancer and environmental issues. To ensure you’re getting the healthiest granola possible, look for non-GMO granola brands.

4. Natural Sweeteners

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to finding healthy granola brands is finding low-sugar granola. Many granola varieties on the market today include refined white sugar, corn syrup or even high quantities of more natural sugars. 

Instead, look for granola that uses less refined sugar sources, like pure maple syrup, organic date powder or raw Demerara sugar. Be sure to check the overall added sugar content, too. Aim for granola that has about 4g of added sugar or less in each serving.

5. Nutrient Dense Ingredients

Of course, finding the healthiest granola brands isn’t only about what to avoid. There are also many ingredients to seek out in your granola. Look for high-quality, nutrient-dense foods like rolled oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and health-boosting spices like cinnamon and ginger. 

Bowl of Maple Vanilla TNG Granola from True North Granola brand

6. High Protein

The best granola will not only taste good – it will also fill you up. Look for granola that has a good dose of protein in each serving, which can help you feel more satiated for longer. Ingredients like nuts and seeds provide a good source of protein, while some healthy granola brands may also include ingredients like whey or pea protein powder for an extra boost.

7. Serving Size 

Be sure to pay attention to the serving size listed on any package of granola – they can vary widely from company to company. A granola may appear low in sugar, but if the serving size is only a couple of tablespoons then you’re bound to take in more sugar than is listed. Look for granola that has a serving size of at least ¼ cup and make sure it includes no more than 4g of added sugar per serving.

8. Calorie Count

Total calories are another piece of the healthy granola puzzle. While everyone’s calorie needs are different, the key to finding a healthy granola is by looking at the total calories per serving size. 

Some granola brands make their product look low-calorie by listing serving sizes that are only a couple of tablespoons. So be sure to do the math! That 100-calorie granola adds up quickly if the serving size is 2 tablespoons and you’re eating half a cup. Aim to find a granola that is under 200 calories per ¼ cup serving whenever possible.

9. Allergy-Friendly

Be sure to pay attention to any allergies or dietary restrictions you may have when exploring how to choose healthy granola. There are so many options on the market today, from dairy-free and vegan granola to gluten-free granola, grain-free granola, low-sugar granola and even nut-free granola. Look for common allergy-friendly labels on granola packages, but be sure to read the ingredients list closely too to ensure the granola meets your needs.

10. Unique Flavors 

One of the most important factors of a healthy granola brand is the taste. After all, you’re only going to stick with a healthy habit if you enjoy eating it! Look for a granola brand with unique flavor options and many different flavors, so you’ll have plenty of variety.

At True North Granola, for example, we have many unique flavors that customers love, from our classic maple vanilla granola and chocolate granola to our ginger-lemon granola and pumpkin granola.

granola on peanut butter toast

Common Questions About Healthy Granola Brands

Still have questions about how to choose healthy granola? Explore our answers below to some of our frequently asked questions.

Is homemade granola healthier than store-bought?

It depends! While it’s absolutely possible to make healthy granola at home, it’s also just as possible to find healthy store-bought granola. When you make granola at home, you’re able to opt for natural sweeteners and control the amount of sugar added to your granola. If you’re going with store-bought granola, look for a low-sugar variety like our date-sweetened granola or granola sweetened with organic maple syrup.

What is the healthiest way to eat granola?

You really can’t go wrong when it comes to eating granola. But one of the best ways to eat granola is to pair it with another high-quality, nutrient-dense food. Using granola on top of organic, whole-fat yogurt is a nutrient-dense, filling option that makes a great breakfast or snack. Add fresh berries or other fruit for another health boost. 

You can also use granola as a topping for roasted vegetables or chop it up as a breading alternative for chicken. Our Mediterranean granola is a great option for savory dishes!

Is grain-free granola better for you?

It depends on your health needs. There are many proponents of grain-free diets, but there are also many health benefits to eating a diet rich in whole grains. If you are on a grain-free diet or are allergic to gluten, wheat or other grains, then it will be important to find a grain-free granola brand you love. 

At True North, we offer several varieties of grain-free granola along with our traditional granola.

cherry vanilla granola in a bowl with cherries

Ready to shop for healthy granola?

No matter what your dietary needs are, True North Granola has an option for you. Shop our full line of:

Have questions? Contact True North Granola any time to learn more about our ingredients and our mission.