Nutrition Bars, Sports Bars, and Vegan Bars – Oh My!
Have you been to the “nutrition bar” aisle in the store lately? Yes, most stores now have their own aisles dominated by what is usually referred to as a nutrition, sports, or meal replacement bar.
They come in every shape and size with large lettering featuring fiber plus, fat free, low calorie, gluten free, and even vegan. But, even though they’re marketed as snacks, they usually contain enough calories to be a meal on it’s own. Careful marketing by companies tend to blur the line between their product being a meal replacement bar versus an occasional snack.
Now, before you throw out all of your bars, listen to me. I’m not saying that all bars are bad because I definitely eat them sometimes. The key is to eat “nutrition bars” occasionally, not as your usual morning routine.
If you’ve read my food philosophy, you’ll know just how I feel about whole foods for a whole life. The closer you can get to the source of your food, the better. For example, eating whole strawberries rather than the dried strawberries usually found in some cereals will allow your body to take in more nutrients. If you try to do this 80% of the time, I promise you that you’ll feel the results.
Now, for that other 20% of the time when you are craving that “bar”…
Look for low sugar. If you’re going to eat a “healthy” snack, make sure it doesn’t have as much sugar as a candy bar. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that you limit your sugar intake to less than 25% of your daily calories. So if you’re on a standard 2,000-calorie per day diet that means you should be eating no more than 500 calories from sugar or 125 grams. Or you can go by the American Heart Association standards, which allows a maximum of 6 teaspoons per day (about 100 calories or 48 grams) for women and up to 9 teaspoons per day (about 150 calories or 36 grams). So next time you look at the amount of sugar in your favorite bar, you may think twice. For example, the fan favorite Clif Bar (yes, I like them too) have a whopping 21 grams of sugar in their Oatmeal Raisin Walnut bar. (Just to give you a side-by-side example, the Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has 23 grams of sugar.)
Read the ingredients! The more ingredients the bar lists, the more likely you can’t pronounce half of them and therefore have no idea what you’re putting into your body. Try and find a bar that has less than 3 lines of small print for ingredients, with ingredients that you are familiar with. Just because it says “all natural” on the label, doesn’t mean it actually is “natural.”
Check those calories and serving sizes. How many times have you opened up your favorite bag of chips or juice, thinking it was a single serving, but then realized, after you finished it all, that there were more than two servings in the package? We’ve all been there. So don’t get caught up in consuming 500 calories in one “snack” just because you thought it was a single serve portion for 250 calories. It may look like it’s a single serve, but looks are deceiving, especially when it comes to food packaging.
Now that you know what to look out for, here are three of my favorite bars when I’m in a hurry. (Remember 20% of the time).
- Kind Bar – These nutritious bars are packed full of nuts and spices. My favorite is the Cashew & Ginger Spice bar with only 4 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein. It’s gluten free and one bar comes in at 200 calories.
- Only Fruit Bar– I had the good fortune to try these bars from the EU and I’m super impressed by their ingredient list and flavor. My favorite is the hazelnut bar with five ingredients: prunes, hazelnuts, mixed berries, oat flakes, and cinnamon. No added sugar here.
- That’s It – These bars are full of flavor and also contain no added sugar, no preservatives and are raw, vegan, and gluten-free. Seriously! And they’re still amazing.
And if you’re really feeling up to it, try out this amazing recipe and just make your own!
Melissa Beveridge is an Certified Integrative Health Coach, organic gardener, and health writer. She has shared her passion for living a bountiful life with others through cooking, gardening, coaching, and writing. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be rich or boring. It’s all about living the life you’ve always wanted to live! Learn more about what makes Melissa tick at MBeeWell.com.