Welcome to the breakfast club. The first rule of breakfast club: you must eat. The second rule: you must eat breakfast. The third: avoid granola. This breakfast imposter may be guised as a healthy option, but hidden inside its deliciously crunchy, earthy exterior lies a dark, dangerfood personality that will derail any diet.

It’s Called Project Morning Mayhem – The Need-To-Know

Granola combines some of nature’s most nutrient-dense treats, including oats (rolled), nuts, honey, dried fruit and seeds, as well as a slew of other potential add-ins– sugars and preservatives. But don’t be fooled. While granola sounds, looks, tastes and feels like a healthier breakfast option than, say, 10 slices of bacon, it actually packs just as many calories!

Then there’s the sugar to consider. Well-known nutritionist Joy Behar found that a typical serving of granola is the equivalent to 4 teaspoons of sugar. That is 2 times too many more than Mary Poppins would condone… and it most certainly will not help the medicine go down. A better breakfast option: one high in protein, since it helps reduce cravings and overeating laterNatural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast skipping teens. Leidy, HJ., Lepping, RJ., Savage, CR., et al. University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas and University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri. Obesity 2011 May 5..

To its credit, granola does have a good side. One of its main ingredients, oats, has been shown to contain antioxidants that exhibit anti-inflammatory behavior as well as help protect again coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and skin irritationPotential health benefits of avenanthramides of oats. Meydani, M. USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrition Reviews 2009 Dec; 67(12):731-5.. And when the right granola is chosen, its high fiber count can help the body feel full for hours.

The Urban Granola – Your Action Plan

There is a way to outsmart and win the fight again granola— work with it! When considering bars and cereals, keep an eye out for ingredients that are as natural as possible and try to avoid any sugar alias lurking in the ingredient list. Beware of terms like “glazed” and “frosted,” steer clear of granolas with fructose, corn syrup, and cornstarch, plus avoid brands with chocolate and candy-like add-ins.

If buying organic, it’s not a free pass to forgo analyzing the nutrition label, since the term “organic” only refers to the method of production. Case in point: organic sugar is still just that– sugar. Ultimately, the best way to control what goes into granola is to make a home-made version… if considered as an option at all.