Granola is a popular breakfast and snack option, but it can also contain hidden sugar. Consuming too much sugar during the day can negatively affect health, especially if you do it every day without knowing it! 

This round-up of lower sugar granola will help you find good store-bought options and highlight the amount of sugar in each.

If you’re looking to eat less added sugar, you can use this as a guide to pick the best options. 

Understanding Added Sugar in Granola

As you walk through the brightly lit grocery store aisle, one habit to get into is checking the nutrition label. Checking for added sugar can help keep you healthy. 

Honey, maple syrup, and other thick and sticky sugars help the ingredients in granola stick together while offering a sweet taste. Sugar has other functions besides a sweet taste; it helps preserve ingredients and improve texture and browning during baking. 

Decoding the nutrition facts panel is the best way to understand added sugar. A label has two sections for sugar: total sugar and added sugar.

What is Total Sugar? 

Total sugar = naturally occurring sugar + added sugar. 

Naturally occurring sugar isn’t too big of a concern. In the history of humans (as far as I know), there have been no reported cases of people having chronic diseases from naturally occurring sugars like those in fruits.

Added sugar, on the other hand, is a different story. Plenty of research has found that limiting this type of sugar improves health.

What is Added Sugar?

Added sugars are those added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation, not naturally occurring ones like those in fruits.

These sugars can contribute to excessive calorie intake without providing nutrients, which can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. 

It’s recommended that people over the age of two limit their added sugar intake to less than 10% of total daily calories.

However, in the United States, we are surpassing that, and our added sugar intake accounts for 270 calories, more than 13 percent of total calories per day (1). 

The daily value can help you know what is low or high in sugar. 

  • 5% DV or less is a LOW source of added sugar.
  • 20% DV or more is a HIGH source of added sugar.

Below the nutrition facts is the ingredients list where sugar can be found with many names. 

List of Added Sugars

After you spot them on the nutrition facts panel, sugars can be hidden in the ingredients list. These are some ingredient names that are code names for added sugar. 

  • White granulated sugar (table sugar)
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar)
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Corn syrup
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Molasses
  • Invert sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Maltose
  • Dextrose
  • Sucrose
  • Lactose (when added as a sweetener– NOT dairy-free)
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Palm sugar
  • Treacle (fermented molasses) 
  • Barley malt
  • Rice syrup

When you see any of these on the ingredients list, keep in mind that these are the ones to limit. That doesn’t mean never having them, but instead reducing the frequency with which you eat them. 

Benefits of Lower-Sugar Granola

Oats are the main ingredient in granola, a whole grain loaded with fiber and beta glucan to improve heart health and cholesterol. Granola also contains many other nutrient-dense ingredients, like pumpkin seeds, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. 

granola at the grocery store
The granola aisle has low and high sugar options.

Diets higher in fiber help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and lower the risk of gaining excess weight.

Choosing whole grains at breakfast gives you better long-lasting energy instead of feeling like you need a snack an hour after eating or feeling that mid-morning crash later in the day.

Criteria for Selecting Low-Sugar Granola

Whole grains, nuts, and seeds are key ingredients to look for when choosing granola. Granola with nuts and seeds helps make a better, well-balanced breakfast or snack because it has two food groups: carbohydrates and protein, a perfect combination. 

  1. Total Sugar Content: Look for granola with no more than 3 grams of sugar per serving. Check the nutrition label for total and added sugars to ensure you select an option with minimal added sweeteners.
  2.  Fiber Content: Choose granola with at least 3 grams per serving. Higher fiber content can help balance blood sugar levels and improve digestive health.
  3. Whole Grains: Look for granola with whole grains as the first ingredient, such as oats, quinoa, or buckwheat. 

Using these criteria to assess granola options, you can find a nutritious, lower sugar choice that complements a balanced diet.

The Best Lower Sugar Granolas

Instead of having to look at every single label at the grocery store. This list compiles options with 0g of added sugar and meets the “good granola” criteria. 

Name of GranolaServing SizeAmount of Added Sugar (g)
Alter Eco Cinnamon Raisin Granola`⅓ cup0g
Original Lil Bucks¼ cup0g
Carbonaut Strawberry Vanilla Crisp Granola⅓ cup0g
Cascadian Farm Organic® No Added Sugar Blueberry Vanilla Granola½ cup0 g
Cascadian Farm Organic® No Added Sugar Cinnamon Apple Granola⅔ cup0g
Cascadian Farm Organic® No Added Sugar Coconut Cashew Granola⅔ cup0g
Carbonaut Tropical Coconut Cardamom Granola⅓ cup1g
Carbonaut Cinnamon Apple Crumble Granola⅓ cup1g
Three Wishes Original Granola½ cup2g
Three Wishes Maple Pecan Granola½ cup2g
Three Wishes Chocolate Almond Granola½ cup2g

Please let me know in the comments if there are any others I missed.

lower sugar granola packages from the list above

DIY Lower Sugar Granola Recipe

If you want to make your own instead of buying it, try this vanilla almond butter granola recipe. Making granola at home keeps the ingredients simple, and you know what’s in it. You can also use less sweetener according to your taste preference.

Some granola may be higher in calories or calorie-dense. Check the serving size if weight management is one of your goals and pair granola with a higher protein food to decrease hunger later in the day.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, granola can be an excellent meal addition when choosing a lower sugar variety. Each brand likely tastes different, so if you’re not a big fan, don’t be afraid to try a new one or start making your own at home. 

We want to limit added sugar in our diets, but it is unlikely to be eliminated 100%. Aiming to get as low as possible on most days is a great goal.

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