Granola is perhaps one of the most versatile foods on the planet. It can be eaten by itself as a snack, sprinkled on a yogurt parfait, or accompanied with your favorite milk/milk alternative for a rejuvenating breakfast treat. Unlike it's cousin, museli, granola is traditionally baked and sweetened; this makes it both crunchy and a satisfying way to indulge your sweet-tooth. 

Most granolas are made from a combination of seeds, sweeteners, nuts, dried fruits, fats, oats, and grains. Each granola mix is different, making it a surprise medley of flavors and textures. Chocolate, peanut butter, and almond butter varieties have also surged in popularity in recent years- especially with more granola-fanatics wanting higher-protein and low-sugar options. 

What makes a good granola?

Sara: I love a granola that has a lot of stuff going on; I want to be surprised by the tastes and textures every time I take a bite. As an athlete, I like to eat granola that can keep me fueled through a whole conditioning session, so I usually try to eat granola with a high fat and high protein content! This means a lot of hemp seeds, almonds, and coconut. 

Meaghan: It has to have a good crunch. I love to pair granola with softer foods like yogurt or a smoothie bowl so I look for a nice crunch and an array of flavors that follow. I like when I can taste different flavors in granola whether its honey or cinnamon or different types of dried fruits that are thrown in. 

What is your favorite way to eat granola? 

Sara: Straight out of the bag- no fuss! I usually pour myself a tiny Mason jar of granola to keep in my backpack when I'm on campus & get hungry. I also like to add a little crunch on a bowl of protein-oatmeal sometimes, so I'll sprinkle some granola, fresh berries, and nuts on top.

Meaghan: I love a good parfait or smoothie bowl! The granola helps to create the perfect balance of smooth and crunchy in either snack. I find that the granola adds a nice sweetness to a smoothie bowl where the fruit wasn't ripe enough. I also enjoy a handful of granola when I'm studying. I find that granola gives me a quick boost of energy that keeps me going when I'm spending a lot of time in the library. Granola also keeps pretty well which makes it a great dorm snack!

What are your favorite brands and types of granola? 

Sara: Recently, I've been really feeling the GrandyOats Coffee Crunch Cocogranola. I classify myself as quite the caffeine fiend, so I was so excited to find out that GrandyOats offered a java-inspired blend (with real coffee infused into it)! It also has a nutty undertone from the roasted pecans, hazelnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Although it has me constantly reminiscing about fall, I really think that the Coffee Crunch is perfect for any time of year. GrandyOats also has a ton of other delicious flavors like Chocolate Crunch and Super Hemp Blend. These three varieties are also gluten-free and paleo, which makes them perfect for anyone with dietary restrictions. Their products are also made with fair-trade, organic, and vegan ingredients (and in a renewable-energy powered facility), so you know you're supporting a great business.

Meaghan: My go to granola for parfaits and smoothie bowls was Nature Valley's Cinnamon Granola but recently I tried Caveman Foods Almond Butter Crunch Grain Free Granola and I was blown away. My favorite thing about Caveman Foods Granola is that when I turned the bag over I had just about every ingredient in my pantry. They use simple ingredients so I really know what I'm eating. I will say that the Almond Butter Crunch flavor wasn't as crunchy as my Nature Valley Cinnamon Granola but what it lacks in crunch it makes up for in flavor. The almond butter crunch was the perfect balance of sweet and salty. The almonds, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds provide a great source of protein while the maple syrups adds a natural sweetness. If you were already sold on this granola it's also soy, dairy, and gluten free, so most anyone can enjoy it! 

I must say that I'm also a peanut-butter lover to the core, so Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Protein Granola is one of my other all-time favorites. This granola is crazy rich, but not super sweet. It also has chunks of pea protein and peanut halves, which boosts its protein content to 11g per 2/3 cup serving.

As a Vermonter at heart, I also have grown very fond of some of our state's finest granola companies. I first tried Battenkill Crumble at a Farmers' Market this past summer and fell in love. It's gluten-free and made of organic sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, maple syrup, pecan meal, and brown rice syrup. Besides being full of protein, one serving only has 4g of sugar!

Do you have any advice for making your own granola? 

Sara: Don't leave it unattended in the oven, or you will surely come out with very crispy granola. And by crispy I mean burnt. Badly burnt. 

Meaghan: Play around with different ingredients to create a custom blend. Try adding cinnamon, nuts, or dried fruits! The nuts and dried fruit add in some really great texture and another layer of flavors.

So get crunchy, have fun, and let us know what your favorite granola combinations are!