Sports drinks, diet food, and energy bars. All healthy options, right?
Not necessarily. Many foods that masquerade as health foods are really diet disasters in disguise.
Typically loaded with sugar and oil, granola is another one of these shady characters. But I really like granola and have yet to find a better camping breakfast – all other cereals turn into a pile of crumbs after 2 days in a backpack.
I have tried a few sugar-free granola recipes and even a couple of oil-free granola recipes. But honestly, they were so … ummm … well … I’d rather eat plain oatmeal (and I’m not a big oatmeal fan). So I set out to create a healthier granola.
First on my list of objectionables was the sugar load. A typical granola recipe calls for about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey and/or sugar for every 3 cups of oats. And granola you can buy at the grocery store often packs in over a cup of sugar for every 3 cups of oats. That’s as much sugar per serving as a Twinkie. Yikes!
So in my granola experiment I started out by replacing the white sugar with healthier options – turbinado sugar (Sugar-in-the-Raw) and pure maple syrup. Then I drastically reduced the sweetener amount overall and added dried fruit for natural sweetness. While I wasn’t able to eliminate the sugar completely, I reduced it to a healthier level and was happy to be able to use pure maple syrup – a better sweetener because it offers some vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Next on my black list was the oil. Once again, nearly every granola recipe I could find had a ridiculous amount of oil in it – usually about 1/2 cup oil for every 6 cups of oats. (Even the “healthiest” oils are still 100% refined and 100% fat.)
I tried eliminating all of the oil in my granola recipe and using almond butter instead, but the granola turned out heavy and tough. So then I tried replacing most, but not all, of the oil with almond butter and adding some crispy rice cereal to lighten it up.
It came out great! Still not as healthy as plain oatmeal, but a whole lot tastier.
- 4 cups rolled oats (not quick oats) (Gluten-free oats can be used if desired.)
- 1 1/3 cups crispy rice cereal
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped raw walnuts
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds or pecans
- 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar or evaporated cane juice
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons almond butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 teaspoons maple flavoring
- 2/3 cup dried fruit pieces, such as chopped dates – optional
- Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Mix together first six ingredients in a very large mixing bowl.
- In a separate bowl, using a fork or an electric mixer, cream together maple syrup, oil, almond butter, salt, vanilla, and maple flavor.
- Drizzle wet mixture over dry ingredients. Gently toss with hands until all of the oats are moist, but do not over mix.
- Lightly oil 1 large or 2 medium oiled baking sheets. Spread granola into a thin layer onto baking sheets.
- Bake on middle rack of oven at 250°F for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Continue baking for an additional 40 to 45 minutes or until granola is completely dry.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Stir in dried fruit. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
Be sure to use pure maple syrup in this recipe. Maple-flavored syrup, pancake syrup, and other similar products, in which the primary ingredient is usually corn syrup, not only contribute to weight gain, but have a negative effect on health as well.
For the crispy rice cereal, I’ve tried several brands, including Barbara’s Fruit Juice Sweetened Brown Rice Crisps, Nature’s Path Organic Brown Rice Crisps, and Kellogg’s Brown Rice Rice Krispies and they’re all very good. Both the Nature’s Path cereal and Kellogg’s are certified gluten-free, while Babara’s states that it’s manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat; so if gluten is an issue for you, be sure to choose the Nature’s Path or Kellog’s brand.
Another consideration: the ingredients in the Nature’s Path Brown Rice Crisp cereal are organic and there’s no BHT in the packaging.
Have you tried any of these cereals or any of the other brands? Which one is your favorite?