Over a century ago, Switzerland’s Dr. Maxmilian Bircher-Benner mixed it up. He created muesli, which means mixture. It’s a blend of oats and other whole grains, fruit and nuts, softened in apple juice or yogurt. He prescribed it to patients and had it served in hospitals.
Around the same time, Dr. James Jackson of New York developed a similar formula — oats, dried fruit and nuts — but added a little sweetness and baked the whole thing to make it crunchy. He called it granula. We call it granola.
Simple and mushy in Switzerland, crunchy and sweet in the States, both blends started out all-natural and high-energy. They’re among our earliest health foods. The whole grains offer fiber for digestion, dried fruits have antioxidants, nuts provide protein and healthy omega-3s.
We start mixing it up, too. We add more fruit, more nuts, more sugar, more fat, even chocolate. The good doctors would not be amused.
Upfront Granola (1.4 ounces, $1.49), made in Boca Raton, takes granola back to something Dr. Jackson would like but you’ll still be glad to eat. The mildly sweet blend of organic whole grain oats, maple sugar, flax seed and canola oil is traditional granola with a modern twist — it’s available only in half-cup single-serve packs, perfect for tucking into lunch boxes and backpacks. One bag contains 150 calories per serving, 5 fat grams, 40 milligrams sodium, 4 fiber grams and 3 protein grams. Upfront also makes cranberry and nut granolas, all without artificial anything.
While some muesli has added sugar, Bob's Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli (18 ounces, $4.29) blends oats, rye, barley and triticale (ancient wheat) with dates and raisins for sweetness and sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts for crunch. A 1/4-cup serving contains 110 calories, 3 fat grams, 4 grams each fiber and protein and no sodium at all. You can enjoy it cold with milk or cook it with water like oatmeal for a hot breakfast. The company also makes gluten-free muesli.
Both Upfront granola and Bob’s Red Mill muesli are kosher, GMO-free and vegan. Both are available at Whole Foods.