Nature Valley or a Slippery Slope?

Nature Valley introduced the world’s first granola bar in 1975.  Since then it’s become a “natural” food brand juggernaut and has expanded into all different forms and flavors.  From promotions like the one on the box above to preserve parks to advertisements like the one below, Nature Valley has created an idyllic, natural world where things are “100% Natural, 100% Delicious.”

But as I scanned my local grocery store’s shelves for my “All Natural … Really?” series, Nature Valley caught my eye.  After all, how could so many wonderful flavors be so natural and good for you?  Unfortunately for consumers, after taking a closer look, I discovered Nature Valley looks more like a slippery slope than a pristine “All Natural” brand.  Here’s what I found out.

Now the original part of Nature Valley appears to be pretty clean and is made with real ingredients. But with 12g of sugars, 6g of fat, 160mg of sodium, and several genetically modified ingredients (GM) Nature Valley isn’t as pure and good for you as one might think.  In fact, there is just as much sugar in one serving of Nature Valley Oats ‘n Honey granola bars as there is in a bowl of Fruit Loops, and Fruit Loops has even more fiber (3g).

NV Granola Bar Oat and Honey 150 ashx

But the story gets even worse. As you fork off into different varieties of Nature Valley’s bars and snacks, you find even more dirty little secrets. For example Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut granola bars contain high fructose corn syrup and high maltose corn syrup.  They also use palm kernel oil, a frequent food additive that avoids the use of hydrogenated oils but is still a chemically processed saturated fat.  Harvesting palm kernel oil is also a well-documented cause of substantial and irreversible environmental damage … hardly a pristine valley, huh?  Other questionable ingredients include the addition of several colors that aren’t listed as artificial, but they sure don’t look very natural.

NV Granola Bar Sweet and Salty Nut Peanut 107 ashx

So how can Nature Valley do this?  Isn’t it supposed to be “100% Natural, 100% Delicious”?  Well first and foremost, “natural” means very little on any processed foods package. But to stretch the meaning even further, here’s where the processed food industry’s slight of hand comes in.  Take a close look at the logo’s on the two boxes:

Notice how Nature Valley conveniently leaves off 100% Natural on some varieties

Yes, the truth is only a small part of Nature Valley is 100% Natural (and even that part of the valley is infested with genetically modified sugars, corn, and canola).  The rest of the valley leverages the 100% Natural equity of the brand only to conveniently leave out the facts in the fine print. In my book that is a pretty sneaky move, but unfortunately totally legit and a frequent practice in the processed food industry.

So how can we be sure of what we are eating anymore?   How do you navigate the world of food to eat as healthy as possible?  What seemingly healthy or natural brands have you found really aren’t so good for you after all?

To read more articles from my series “All Natural … Really?” click here.

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25 thoughts on “Nature Valley or a Slippery Slope?

  1. It is so easy to make your own granola or granola bars. It never ceases to amaze me that folks will buy a product with the prettiest artwork with no regard to the ingredients.

    • Thanks for your comment Dot. I agree. But knowledge is power, and if people don’t know the food they’re eating isn’t good for them OR they don’t know how to do make something better, they opt for the easy route. If you have a chance, I’d love to see your granola recipe. Feel free to email it to me (click the contact tab on the navigation bar) or just post it here in the comments.

      Thanks again for being part of my blog community!

        • Here’s 2 recipes I’ve used for making my own granola:
          First is a variation on Scooby’s Workshop bars-
          Rolled Oats – 2 cups
          Shredded Carrots – 1 cup
          Milk – 1 cup, varies
          Honey – several onces
          Ground Flax – several onces
          Protein powder – optional
          Mix this up and refrigerate, use just enough milk to bind the rest together without becoming too soggy, if that happens toss into the oven to cook it a bit, which dries it too.

          The second version I learned from a vitamix demo, you toss a cup of peanuts or almonds in, a cup of oats, cup of raisins, cup of shredded carrots, and some flavoring like vanilla, cocoa, and/or cinnamon. You blend that up for a minute and it’s ready to eat or store for later.

  2. I see you keep touting grams of fat when trying to make a point of products being unhealthy. What you really should be pointing is saturated fats and trans fats and in this case like Sun Chips they are low in saturated fat and have no trans fats. Instead point at the calories of these products not overall fat. As much research has shown eating a good dose of poly-saturated and mono saturated fats is good for heart health.

    • PolyUNsaturated and monoUNsaturated. Saturated fats are really bad for you and lead to increased risk of CVD.

  3. I agree with all of this. But I don’t agree with your views on saturated fat. You make it sound bad. And saturated fat is the healthiest of the fats (next in line, MUFAs and never touch grain/seed oils). I eat a high fat diet and it’s the best thing I have ever done for my health. Fat is good for you!! Red Palm Oil is probably the best sat fat you can find. (I put coconut oil next in line). On another note: I can take a “non-GMO”, “all-natural”, “gluten-free” bagged or boxed product, look at the ingredients and blow all those labels out of the water. It’s sad what people believe but at the same time it’s sad the these companies go out of their way to deceive us.

      • I agree! It’s the quality of the saturated fats you eat! I was doing the low fat thing at 288 lbs and now that I eat a Real Food diet with plenty of coconut oil, grass fed butter and tallow, and pastured bacon I am down 58 lbs. ( I also do make sure to get a good amount of olive oil too) My doctor can’t believe it and says I’m as healthy as healthy can be and don’t stop what I’m doing! A high fat diet following SAD guidelines of course would be unhealthy, but when you learn to make your own meals and don’t buy food because of the convenience, it makes all the difference.

    • Hmmm… I just looked on their website, and I didn’t see the 100% Natural. But who knows, you may be right. Food manufacturers are doing package updates all the time.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Bruce

  4. And another thing nature valley never claims that all their products are 100% natural so you cant act like they are doing something sneaky because they take it off some of their products. You dont get mad at pepsi because you saw a commercial with a kind of pepsi with no calories and then find pepsi with calories at the store.

  5. So I would like to know what exactly do you and your family eat? It is very difficult to say the least to make good decisions when it seems we are constantly being told something is good and safe and then just as fast, we read we should leave it alone! Help!

    • Sorry for my slow response, Judy. I’ve been traveling a lot for work and haven’t been blogging lately.

      To answer your question my family primarily eats real, unprocessed foods. So that means lots of vegetables and fruit. We aren’t vegan or vegetarian so we eat humanely-raised meat, dairy, and eggs—just not tons of it.

      Getting off a processed foods diet takes some real effort. I’ve made my transition slowly over time. So pick some food or beverage item that you know isn’t helping your health and replace it with something fresh or real. Then over time keep making additional improvements to what you eat. Before you know it, you’ll be eating a diet primarily made from real food.

      Best of luck!

      Bruce

  6. Found this while trying to win an argument with a friend that these aren’t that healthy. I also have an easy alternative that doesn’t require making your own, i found nature’s path organic honey oat crunch flax plus bars! they taste the same, have a slightly less crunchy (and in my opinion better) texture, and are ACTUALLY all natural/organic. worth a buy!

  7. This was great information, this tells me that I should not eat Nature Valley as they are not 100% natural. I was just doing some research for a project, and came across your cite.

  8. I disagree with your article. Comparing the crunchy granola bars to Froot Loops is misleading, as Froot Loops are made of processed corn flour and sugar is the first ingredient, not to mention all the artificial flavors and colors they contain. Crunchy granola bars, on the other hand, are made mostly of oats, and yes, sugar.

    As for Nature Valley’s other bars, I agree with you that they’re not all that healthy. I don’t eat them. But I’m not sure I agree with the “sleight of hand” comment. They are not all-natural. They do not claim to be all natural. Not sure what’s misleading there…

  9. Any idea what they say is “natural flavor” on the ingredient list? This always makes me think there is carmine or castoreum (aka beaver butthole juice) in it, or worse.

    • You’re right, natural flavors on a label really doesn’t tell us much. Even if you call the manufacturer they won’t likely tell you what’s in the natural flavors. So, it comes down to making you own real food or buying packaged foods from manufacturers you trust. I know, not that easy.

      Thanks for your comment.

  10. I just started getting “all natural” snacks from Nature Box. It says on the bags, “All Natural,” No High Fructose Corn Syrup, No Artificial Sweetners, 0g Trans Fat, etc. Are you familiar with them & are they worth the $20 a Month for “Healthy” Snacks?

    • I’m heard of Nature Box, but I’ve never purchased from them. There are some healthy snacking options out there, but you do have to be careful. The claims you listed can be said by many different brands of granola bars that have lots of added sugar. The bottom line is to look for healthy snacking alternatives that are as close to real/fresh food as possible with few if any added ingredients. That’s why I believe a piece of fruit or a handful of carrots or nuts will always be hard to beat.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Bruce

  11. Ok, so they ain’t no homemade salad. You’ve got a valid point there. But, you have to admit they’re a better choice than Doritos, right? It’s not like granola bars are the spawn of satan or something.

  12. You know what, i’m glad i read your blog about this because i just cut out nature valley bars out of my diet last year in august! i was eating them for awhile and first one i bit into, fell in love….why? because reading the label saying 100% natural! i really thought i was getting an affordable healthy bar! later to find out on my own, i wasn’t. how i came to figure out about the corn syrup (silent killer i call it) was my kids were constantly eating the bars one after the other, and i wanted to look at the nutrition facts to see the calories, i read down further and saw the ingredients! i could’t believe it! High fructose corn syrup! I got rid of them bars quicker than you can say “nature valley”!! Smh, in disgust with the company for false advertisement!

  13. I eat Nature Valley Crunchy Oats ‘N Honey Granola Bars. I like them, and in all honesty, I eat them in lieu of a bowl of oatmeal. I have high cholesterol, and I know that Oatmeal helps in this situation. I prefer fried eggs, grits, bacon and toast, but my doctor would freak out if I ate this for breakfast.