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BY LAUREN CHATTMAN
Thank goodness for John Harvey Kellogg. In addition to inventing cornflakes, Kellogg coined one of my favorite words in the English language: granola.
To avoid a lawsuit from the inventor of a similar whole-wheat cereal product with the trademarked name Granula, Kellogg called his own whole-wheat cereal Granola. The rest is breakfast food history.
Kellogg was a famously fanatical believer in health foods and exercise. He stopped speaking to his brother over the issue of adding sugar to their cornflakes recipe. It is no surprise that his granola consisted of unsweetened graham flour mixed with water and baked into large, crunchy pebbles.
When health-food enthusiasts in the 1960s revived the name, they revised the recipe to include rolled oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. As granola went mainstream, it also acquired a whole lot of fat and sugar. To make it more palatable to consumers of Cap'n Crunch and Sugar Pops, cereal companies added sweeteners. To get it to bake into browned and crunchy clusters, they added fat. Today, a typical 1/2-cup serving of store-bought granola has 280 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat. A McDonald's hamburger, in comparison, has 250 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat.
Unwilling to give up granola entirely, I took a long, hard look to see if I could make it healthier without sacrificing its flavor and crunch. Following a few new guidelines, I was able to cut sugar and fat without losing the taste and texture I love:
USE MORE OATS
There's no question that rolled oats, the main ingredient in granola, are a superfood. Full of a type of soluble fiber that has proved effective in lowering blood cholesterol, oats contain heart-healthy antioxidants, and also have been shown to stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. They're also low in fat. Some recipes call for equal amounts of oats and nuts. For a lighter granola, I use 4 cups of oats for every ¾ cup of nuts.
FEWER NUTS, MORE NUT FLAVOR
Nuts are famously fattening. But don't cut them out altogether. They contain healthful polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats as well as protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants galore. To get more nut flavor in every bite with less fat, use sliced almonds instead of chopped walnuts or pecans.
ADD JUST ENOUGH OIL
Makes about 6 cups
4 cups old-fashioned rolled