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Is it a Healthy Breakfast or Sugar Loaded Dessert?


Have you been telling yourself...

"I am going to make homemade granola,"

but for one reason or another, you keep putting it off?

Granola can be an ideal snack...paired with yogurt and fruit, or enjoyed with milk for breakfast, and believe it or not, making homemade granola is easier than you might think!

 

Why?

Granola is extremely versatile, inexpensive to make, and is perfect to pack and take on-the-go -- you don't have to worry about keeping it refrigerated, or that it will get smashed and crumbled.

 

Where did the idea of granola come from?

In 1863, Dr. James Caleb Jackson, a nutrition advocate, created the first recipe for what would become granola.  What he called granula, was basically unsweetened bran nuggets soaked in milk.  Dr. Jackson ran a sanitarium in Dansville, NY where he believed in vegetarianism and a diet of simple foods.  Over time, another health reformer, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, (sound familiar?) who owned a rival sanitarium in Michigan, allegedly stole Dr. Jackson's recipe.  When Dr. Jackson sued him, he changed the name from granula to granola.

Dr. Kellogg and his brother, Will Keith Kellogg, experimented with this recipe, which led to the creation of corn flakes. Dr. Kellogg, who was a Seventh Day Adventist wanted to keep his cereals sugar-free, but his brother Will, insisted on sweetening them, and they parted ways.  I am sure you can guess what happened next...Will went on to launch the Kellogg Company, which we know today as the producer of cereals like Fruit Loops and Cocoa Krispies.

Over the years, granola recipes have evolved and become a mainstream product, with many companies offering their own sweetened versions.

 

What are the health benefits of granola?

Granola in general is extremely nutritious because it offers a variety of vitamins and minerals:

  • Fiber! Granola contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps regulate the digestion of food
  • Lightweight yet filling, granola is low in cholesterol and sodium
  • Includes powerful antioxidants such as manganese, which can help prevent cancer and heart disease
  • The iron found in granola can help prevent anemia
  • High in potassium and low in sodium, granola helps with hypertension and lower blood pressure

 

This is all the "good" in granola, so how can it be "bad?"

Many granolas, especially pre-packaged granolas, include substantial amounts of added sugar.  These added sugars can quickly take granola from being a healthy snack to being more like a dessert.  Some granolas have more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut!

 

What is the benefit of making your own?

With homemade granola, there are several big benefits.  The taste of homemade granola is so much better!  Plus, with homemade you know EXACTLY what is in your granola!  And, you will save some money since homemade is less expensive than most of the store-bought versions.

When you make your own, you are in control of the ingredients, including the amount of sweetener...you can customize your granola just the way you like it!  Don't feel like you need to have a specific recipe…here is a formula to use as a guide:

 

Homemade Granola Formula:

 

3 cups of oats (old fashioned rolled oats)

1 3/4 cups of nuts and seeds

1/4 cup sweetener

1/4 cup of oil

1/2 tsp salt (OPTIONAL)

1 tsp spices and/or extract

2 egg whites (lightly beaten until foamy, OPTIONAL)

1/4 to 1/2 cup OPTIONAL add-ins

 

  1. Combine everything and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  2. Bake at 300 degrees for 30-45 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
  3. Let cool on baking sheet, and then add: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of add-ins such as dried fruit or dark chocolate chips.

 

Tips for successful homemade granola:

 

  • Old fashioned rolled oats will produce great results (see our coaching tip on oats).
  • Nuts and seeds can include your favorites, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, uncooked quinoa, flax seeds, chia seeds, plus many more.
  • Great choices for sweetener are honey or pure maple syrup.
  • Oil can include melted coconut oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil or others.
  • Excellent granola spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and pumpkin or apple pie spice.
  • If desired, you can vanilla extract, almond extract, or get creative and experiment with others.
  • Including egg whites in the mixture will help your granola clump together, giving you bite size clusters.
  • Other optional add-ins can include canned pumpkin puree, mashed banana and unsweetened applesauce.
  • Lining your baking sheet with parchment paper will help keep your granola from getting too brown.
  • The key to successful granola is baking it at lower temperatures, such as 300 or 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until it becomes golden brown and smells fantastic!
  • Once it is done cooking, let it cool completely on the baking sheet…this will help it to crisp up.
  • If you are adding dried fruit or dark chocolate chips, stir those in after baking when granola has completely cooled.

 

Go ahead and get your granola on!

Try making your own granola and see what you think -- we have several ideas on Eat REAL America to get you started!

Cranberry Coconut Granola

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Banana Dark Chocolate Granola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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