The Skinny on Energy Bars

June 2, 2020

Whether you’re an athlete looking for a shot of energy before a race, a busy mom trying to find a quick snack while juggling work and kids, or a high school student looking for an easy breakfast as you rush out the door to school in the morning, you have probably turned to an energy bar at some point. Go to any grocery store in America these days and you’ll likely find an entire aisle, like the one in the picture above, devoted to bars. So, given the multitude of choices out there, how do you know which bar to choose? The easy answer is, there is no one “right” bar.  Energy bars don’t have any magical ingredients. Rather, they are simply a quick and convenient way for people to get a nutritious bite to eat. That said, there are certainly some that are more nutritious than others, so let’s take a quick look at things to look for and things to avoid.

What to Look For:

  • Nuts and Seeds – An excellent source of heart-healthy fats and vitamin E, nuts and seeds are wonderful additions to bars.  They help keep you satiated and are a great source of protein for muscles.
  • Whole Grains – When looking at a grain-based bar, make sure to look for “whole grains” such as oats, whole wheat, etc.  Athletes take caution though – too much fiber right before a competition is not a great idea!
  • Dried Fruit – While dried fruit can often contribute a good deal of sweetness to a bar, it is healthy, natural sugar as opposed to added sugar. Dried fruits also offer a decent amount of fiber.

What to Avoid:

  • Added sugar – As noted above, dried fruits can be high in sugar, but it is a natural sugar. What you want to avoid are bars with lots of added sugars – those that list sugar or high fructose corn syrup near the top of the ingredient list.
  • Artificial Ingredients – If you don’t know what something is on the ingredient list, chances are you don’t want it in your body. Stick with wholesome, natural ingredients that you’re familiar with and try to avoid artificial colors, sweeteners, and additives.
  • Partially-Hydrogenated Oils – These trans fats are particularly detrimental to our health as they raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.  Avoid bars that list these oils in the ingredients, as they can raise a person’s risk for heart and blood vessel disease.

In the end, if you do decide to rely on bars for some of your nutrition intake, make sure it’s a bar that is worthy of the calories.  Choose a wholesome bar that is not highly processed, is easily digestible, and tastes good. Make sure to examine not just the nutrition facts label, but even more importantly, the list of actual ingredients.  A good rule of thumb is, the fewer the ingredients the better. Trial and error will lead you to find the “right” bars for you!

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