Muesli and granola – which ones are the best?

  • If you are following a healthy diet, should you be skipping the muesli and granola?
  • With so many brands on the market, it might be difficult to choose the healthiest option
  • Our dietitians offer some pointers 

Muesli and granola are for many of us delicious breakfast foods. However, those of us following the carb-clever way of eating will not touch it, and for those who count calories, these cereals may be way too high in kilojoules.

The large variety on the market makes it difficult to choose. In addition, the health claims made by manufacturers can be in some cases misleading and confusing. Nevertheless, these foods can be a great choice because of a number of benefits:

Convenience

If “no time for breakfast” is a reality for you, then here is your solution. Grab and pack a container with your muesli and favourite yoghurt or milk, and enjoy it at the office during the course of the morning.  

Variety

There are so many different varieties flavoured with e.g. vanilla, dried fruit, nuts, and coconut that you will almost certainly find one to suit your taste buds and need for crunchiness.

Energy

Muesli is a great source of energy and can help to raise your energy levels. Starting your day with a healthy muesli or a handful added to yoghurt as a snack can give you a great boost.

Dietary fibre

Most mueslis have oats and or bran cereal as their basic ingredient. Both of these are good sources of fibre. Dietary fibre has many health benefits, such as assisting with regular bowel movements, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping you fuller for longer.

What should you be checking for on the ingredients list?

The ingredients list provides information about the ingredients used to make the product. The ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the heaviest listed first. For example, if the first ingredient is oats, then the product will mostly consist of oats. If the first or second ingredient is sugar, syrup, honey, or corn syrup, then it is safe to say that there is a fair amount of added sugar.

 1. Dietary fibre

For the muesli to be classified as high in fibre, the fibre content should be equal or more than 6g per 100g of muesli. If the dietary fibre is too low, and the sugar content too high, it will increase the glycaemic index (GI) of the product. The GI is an indication of how quickly or slowly the glucose is released into the bloodstream.  

 2. Added sugar

Depending on the brand, muesli and granola can contain a high amount of sugar. It may, however, not be in the form of sucrose. Honey is often added as a binding agent to assist with "caramelisation" and to add taste. The assumption that honey is “healthier” than sugar is unfound. Honey causes the same spike in your blood glucose levels upon consumption as sugar. Just because it is from a bee, does not make it “free” or more “natural”, or healthier for you. For cereals, the added sugar should be less or equal to 14g/100g product.  

 3. Fats

Fats contain twice the amount of energy compared to carbohydrates and proteins. There are mueslis marketed as “low carbohydrate” and “gluten-free”. If the carbohydrate content is low, it generally means that one of the other macronutrients is higher. For example, with a “carb clever” muesli, the carbohydrate content may be lower, but the fat content will probably be higher. Because fat is more energy-dense, it can result in a very high energy muesli.

4. Energy (kilojoules)

Typically, mueslis have a variety of ingredients: nuts, seeds, oats, bran, raisins, dried fruit, oils, etc. Because of all these ingredients, it is quite easy for the kilojoules to add up. The serving size you need may also end up being quite small. This can easily lead us to consume too many kilojoules. 

Comparing two types of muesli 

The table below illustrates the above information, which should make it easier for you to make the best choice:

muesli, granola

Summary:

  • Choose a “Swiss” style, or low-added sugar and low-fat muesli.
  • Limit the baked mueslis that are clumped in clusters and opt for the “rawer” option (where you can see the oats or bran in their natural form).
  • Dietary fibre should be 6g per 100g or more.
  • Stick to the recommended portion size.

Let the team of registered dietitians at Nutritional Solutions help you make healthy choices. Our dietitians pride themselves on offering expert nutritional advice based on evidence-based practices. Go to www.nutritionalsolutions.co.za for more information.

READ | How to choose the best yoghurt on the market 

READ | How the pandemic is highlighting the role of the dietitian

READ | Why does my blood sugar drop after eating?

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