How to choose a granola bar

Written by Jolene Hrynyk, a volunteer at Calgary Family Nutrition. For more information, you can see her bio here

Today we’re tackling a grocery store aisle that is stressful for a lot of people, the granola bar aisle. I’m going to share with you some straightforward guidelines to help decrease the confusion a little.

Firstly we have to make a distinction between two kinds of bars. Plain granola bars and bars with nuts high on the ingredient list that are more like energy bars. I’m only going to talk about plain bars today as many schools today are nut-free, and many nut-based bars supply more energy than most children will need as a morning or afternoon snack.

The granola bars below fall into the “choose most often” category of the alberta nutrition guidelines for children and youth. These guidelines were created to help schools and childcare centers choose healthy food to offer children using the nutrition facts table, but can be helpful for parents as well.  In addition to looking at the nutrition facts take a peek at the ingredients list – remember less is more! Make sure you also look out for flashy health claims like “half a day’s fibre” or “full serving of vegetables”  as these are used as marketing to get you to buy the product.

According to these guidelines, a granola bar falls under the “choose most often” category if it has;

  • Less than 5 g of fat,
  • Less than 2 g of saturated fat,
  • Greater than or equal to 2 g of fibre
  • Less than or equal to 10 g of sugar
  • Made of whole grains


If that seems like a lot of numbers to remember don’t worry, I’ve highlighted some options that fit that criteria below.

 Made Good

All of the Granola bars made by this brand fall within the guidelines, and they have one of the simpler ingredient lists of commercial granola bars. They are however pricier at 80 cents per bar at my local grocery store.



Image result for nature valley lunch box gra


All the granola bars in nature valleys lunchbox line fall within guidelines and this flavor in particular features 4 g of sugar but still has chocolate which may appeal to your child. They are also 40 cents each at my local grocery store making them an affordable option.




Bar <5g Fat <2g saturated fat >2g fibre <10g sugar
Nature’s path chococonut granola bars
Cliff kids Z-bar chocolate chip granola bars No
Quaker chewy apple fruit crumble granola bars
FibreOne oats and chocolate granola bars
PC blue menu berry blend chewy bars
PC dipped and chewy chocolate and marshmallow granola bars No No No
Kirkland soft and chewy granola bars No


There are also other options for on the go snacks like unsweetened applesauce in squeeze pouches, a baggie of air-popped popcorn costs very little and small homemade muffins allow you to control the ingredients.

Nutrition Fun fact:

Most granola bars on the market contain fibre additives to increase the amount of fibre listed on the label. One of the most common of these added fibres is inulin or chicory root fibre.

Add some pumpkin to your fall with these pumpkin banana muffins!

It is definitely fall in Calgary with a forecast for the white stuff (gulp!). Add these muffins to your fall prep for school and workout snacks. They are easy to whip up and a hit with the kiddos.

Banana Pumpkin Muffins

The banana and pumpkin keep these muffins moist. A great morning snack for the kids with fruit or add peanut butter for a post-activity snack!

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Keyword Snack for kids
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 24 muffins


  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Bananas, very ripe, mashed
  • 1/2 cup Canned Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie!)
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek yogurt (at least 2%)
  • 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups All purpose Flour
  • 3/4 cup Mini Chocolate Chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease muffin tins or line with muffin liners. 

  2. In a large bowl (or I use my high powered blender), mix eggs for 10 seconds. 

  3. Add bananas, pumpkin, yogurt, brown sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt. Mix until blended. 

  4. Mix in flour just until all flour is incorporated. Do not overmix here. 

  5. Add chocolate chips and fold in.

  6. Pour into muffin tins filling 2/3 full. 

  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. They are cooked when you insert a toothpick into the center and no batter is on it when you remove it. 

  8. Cool completely before storing. You can store these in the freezer for up to 3 months and in the fridge for up to one week. 

The easy solution to packing school snacks!

When my first son was in kindergarten we had the best teacher! This helped with so many things in the transition to school and we are so grateful to this day to have had her (not once but twice with our younger son).

One of the amazing things she did was put the class on a snack schedule. Here is a picture of the schedule:


This may sound like a simple thing and I know if you ask her she will say not everyone followed her schedule which was disappointing for her. However; we still use this snack schedule 5 years later!

These are the reasons I love it:

  1. Structure – menu planning and snack/lunch packing can be so overwhelming at times and the easiest thing to do is grab another package from the pantry. This schedule makes snack planning easier because you just need to pick a food within each category.
  2. Choice – when you are meal planning and making your grocery list, involve your children in choosing what they want. Children respond much better to “Monday’s snack is a vegetable, what vegetable would you like?” than “What you do you want for snacks this week?”. For the younger children, you can give them even more direction and give them a choice of 2 or 3 items to choose from. This way they still have input into their snacks which makes them much more likely to eat them if they are hungry.
  3. Favourite food Friday (FFF) – you and your child can come up with what these favourite foods look like. Is this homemade chocolate chip cookies or a packaged granola bar?  Either way, you get to understand what their favourite foods are and then decide how much of this food you want in your house. For example if they choose a food that you don’t want them eating all the time then you can buy them in singles and they are allocated for the snack on Friday’s. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to buy them in bulk at Costco! However, if you have a box of 25 how are you going to explain to anyone in your house that those are for lunches only (and then there is an element of restriction which isn’t good for anyone!).
  4. Variety – this schedule really helps with providing a variety of snacks each week. This is especially helpful when you get into the snack rut which happens to me around November!

Here is the example of our snack planning this week:

  • Vegetable: Carrots
  • Bread or Cereal: Zucchini muffin
  • Fruit: Peaches
  • Dairy: Yogurt
  • FFF: Granola Bar

I don’t think our kindergarten teacher realizes how much this has helped our family with snack planning. I know if you start following this schedule it can help you too!

If you are needing a tune up with family meal and menu planning, one of our Registered Dietitians can help! Contact us to book an appointment.



Lunchbox tip #4: Provide slightly more food than your child usually eats.

Written by Jolene Hrynyk, a volunteer at Calgary Family Nutrition. For more information, you can see her bio here

Kids can’t ask for seconds when they are in the lunchroom so it’s important to provide adequate food. On the flipside, you shouldn’t be upset if they don’t eat all the food you provide. Kid’s appetites vary meal to meal and over the course of the week. Respecting how much your child chooses to eat is the best thing you can do for their future relationship with food. Here at Calgary Family Nutrition we strongly support the Division of Responsibility (DOR) model by Ellyn Satter. In this instance, you (the parent) are responsible for what food is offered and your child gets to decide how much to eat or if they eat at all. Letting your child follow their natural hunger cues and decide how much is just as important as what you choose to pack when it comes to their future health.

One more lunch idea following the principles discussed earlier in the week:

  1. Main including a carbohydrate, protein and fat
  2. Fruit
  3. Vegetable

Waffles, peppers and strawberries


Main: Waffle made with Kodiak mix which is high in protein.

Fruit: Strawberries

Vegetable: Mixed Peppers

Syrup to dip waffles and strawberries in!


I hope you have enjoyed this week’s tips and samples of lunches. Contact us here for more tips and guidance on nourishing your family with real food.

Lunchbox tip #3: Pack your lunch the night before.

Written by Jolene Hrynyk, a volunteer at Calgary Family Nutrition. For more information, you can see her bio here

Some nights are crazier than others, some involve working late or taking two kids to two different activities. However, on night’s where a family dinner is in the cards, try packing lunch while cleaning up or while cooking. When the cutting board is already out slicing up some fruit or vegetables it doesn’t feel like the same amount of work when everything is put away. You could even try packing the next few day’s lunches if you know the next night is a crazy one. 

Here is an example of a dinner I made the night before after having tuna melts for dinner. It uses the same principle that was discussed earlier this week:

  1. Main with carbohydrate, protein and fat
  2. Fruit
  3. Vegetable

Tuna pita with fruit and vegetables
Main: Mini pitas with tuna salad. The pita is a carbohydrate and the tuna with mayonnaise provides protein and fat.

Fruit: Peeled orange and blueberries

Vegetable: Cucumber and red pepper


Meal planning for your busy family takes planning! Book an appointment here with one of our Registered Dietitians today to help you navigate the back to school meal planning and lunch planning.