The pleasant crunch and sweet flavor of granola has earned the cereal a steady and consistent spot on grocery store shelves. Certain brands, as well as homemade versions, can be calorie-heavy and alarmingly high in fat, some of which is problematic saturated fat. Of course, swapping your usual granola for a low-fat version is one option, but plenty of other substitutions are also lower in fat and calories.
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Traditional Granola Stats
Granola has earned a reputation as a health food, but not all varieties deserve that reputation. A cup of homemade granola, for example, contains 597 calories and about 29.4 grams of fat, of which about 5 grams are saturated. That same serving also contains 24.4 grams of sugar, which is equal to about 6.1 teaspoons of sugar. All that sugar is part of why some varieties of granola are so high in calories.
Dry Breakfast Cereal
Many varieties of breakfast cereal will give you the crunch you're looking for, but for far fewer calories than granola. A 3/4-cup serving of bran flakes, for example, contains 97 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. Bran flakes contain about 5.3 grams of sugar per serving, and this lower sugar content is part of why the flakes are also lower in calories than granola. A cup of puffed rice is another option with 56 calories and less than 1 gram of sugar. Muesli is another option that's lower in calories than most types of granola.
Nuts and Seeds
Though nuts and seeds contain a lot of calories relative to bran flakes and puffed rice, an ounce is still lower in calories than most types of granola. Plain nuts don't contain any sugar, either, and most of the calories they do contain come from heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Nuts and seeds can replace the granola you sprinkle on oatmeal or yogurt or add to trail mix. Sprinkle an ounce of chia seeds on your nonfat yogurt, for example, for 138 calories and no added sugar. An ounce of pistachios contains 161 calories and no added sugar. Hemp seeds are another nutritious option.
A Few More Ideas
If you sprinkle granola over yogurt or oatmeal, replace it with crunchy fruit, such as apples, to cut the calorie count significantly. If you eat a bowl of granola for breakfast, swap it for a bowl of cooked oatmeal, recommends the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. While cooked oatmeal isn't crunchy, you can add crunchy foods, such as nuts, to get the texture you're looking for. Make your own granola as another way to control calories. Use only a small amount of sugar and oil to make the granola, and add in unsweetened dried fruit and plain nuts to keep the sugar content, and therefore the calorie content, lower.