There’s no denying that healthy granola is delicious – it’s a sweet and crunchy snack that’s kid-friendly and easy to take on the go.
But the calories and sugar content of store-bought granola can add up quickly.
“Granola is one of those tricky products on the market that big food companies like to perceive as ‘healthy’ when in reality they add a ton of added sugars, oil and preservatives,” explains Ashley NaderDR
That doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the nutrients that granola provides — or the delicious flavor.
Learn how to make healthy granola at home and you can enjoy this simple and versatile snack in a way that nourishes you.
1. Start with dry ingredients
Oats are the perfect base for a healthy homemade granola.
Beyond that, you can add variety to your granola by choosing a nut, seed, and dried fruit to add to the mix.
Nuts provide “a healthy dose of plant-based protein and important nutrients like vitamin E and potassium,” says Mackenzie BurgessRDN, Registered Nutritionist and Recipe Developer at Cheerful Choices.
You may want to include a type of chopped nut (like pecans) and a type of whole nut (like almonds) for extra texture.
Just make sure you buy raw, unsalted nuts.
If you’re making this granola as part of a weight loss nutrition plan, be aware that while nuts are healthy, they’re very calorie dense.
Pumpkin, hemp, and sunflower seeds are good options, but Burgess prefers chia seeds in their granola because these tiny-but-mighty seeds provide heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Think of unsweetened dried fruit more as a condiment than a main ingredient in your granola.
The calories can add up quickly, but a little pinch brings delicious hits of chewy texture and sweet flavor.
Consider using freeze-dried fruits – they have a crunchier texture than traditional dried fruits and no added sugars.
2. Add spices
Cinnamon is a classic choice, but feel free to experiment with your creation.
Combine cinnamon with cloves, nutmeg, ginger and allspice for a pumpkin spice granola.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, use five Chinese spices to give your healthy granola the warmth and sweetness you love from cinnamon, with a hint of licorice flavor.
3. Choose your wet ingredients wisely
This is where your homemade granola will look very different from the pre-packaged granola in the grocery store aisles.
While store brands use canola or soybean oil, you can opt for unrefined virgin coconut oil and control the amount.
You’ll also need to choose a sweetener — something less processed than the high-fructose corn syrup found in many store-bought brands of granola.
Maple syrup and honey are both solid choices, and you can use just enough to sweeten it to your liking without overdoing it. Stevia and monk fruit are good sugar-free options.
Nader notes that you don’t necessarily need to use sweeteners in your healthy granola — you can add a little sweetness with dried fruits or savory spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and pure vanilla extract to the square.
4. Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately
Mix your nuts, seeds, dried fruits (if using) and spices together.
If you’re using coconut flakes or chocolate chips in your granola, set them aside for now — you’ll add them in the last step.
Set this mixture aside and mix your oil and sweetener in another bowl. If you add vanilla extract to your recipe, it goes with the wet ingredients.
5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients
Mix them to coat your dry ingredients as much as possible. (Nobody wants a bite of dry oats.)
Transfer this mixture to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat baking sheet.
If you like granola with large chunks, don’t spread the mixture too thin. Oats, nuts and seeds need to be close together to form those perfectly crunchy clusters.
6. Bake until golden brown
Bake your granola mixture at 325°F for 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, or until the granola is lightly browned and crispy.
Keep an eye on your baking sheet to make sure no clusters get too crispy around the edges.
If the granola is browning unevenly, you can use a spatula to gently move it around in the middle of your cooking time.
7. Save the Coconut and Chocolate for Last
If you plan to use shredded coconut or chocolate chips as granola ingredients, there are some specific steps you need to follow.
The chocolate chips should be added at the end when your granola is out of the oven and has cooled to room temperature or you’ll end up with a gooey mess.
Shredded coconut will brown faster than the other ingredients mentioned above.
If you want to use it, add it halfway through the cooking time so it turns golden but doesn’t cross over into the burnt territory.
Creative ways to use healthy homemade granola
Now comes the fun part: thinking of different delicious ways to enjoy your healthy granola.
However, a healthier homemade granola can still add up, so Burgess recommends sticking to a quarter- or half-cup serving depending on your calorie needs.
Make “Nature’s Cereals”
Here’s Nader’s special recipe: she puts a serving of healthy granola in a bowl and adds chopped fresh fruit, like bananas and strawberries.
Then she covers it with unsweetened almond milk.
Add protein by using regular milk instead of almond milk or by mixing almond milk with protein powder before pouring it over the fruit and granola mixture.
(For a more balanced breakfast, enjoy it with another source of protein, like two hard-boiled eggs.)
Top your Greek yogurt or make a parfait
A sprinkle of homemade granola makes a bowl of Greek yogurt much more flavorful and texturally complex.
Add fruit if you want something akin to a parfait, or layer the ingredients in a glass for a real parfait experience.
Take it on the go as a snack
Granola is an easy on-the-go snack when tossed in a bag, especially if you make sure your recipe includes oatmeal clusters.
Pair it with something that contains protein, like a protein shake or yogurt drink.
Sprinkle it on a salad
You may be more used to salty croutons, but healthy homemade granola also brings a welcome crunch to your bowl of greens.
Granola is a perfect topping for goat cheese and strawberry salad!
Add it to frozen desserts
The vermicelli is great, but it doesn’t add much in terms of flavor. Instead, Nader suggests sprinkling your ice cream or frozen yogurt with homemade granola.
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