Energy bars are a popular and growing category of snack foods that are a natural evolution of breakfast cereals. Sixty years ago we had time to sit down for a hearty breakfast with the family. By the early seventies, families couldn’t bother with the hassle and settled for a bowl of cereal with milk. Nowadays, many people don’t have time for even this, so they grab a cereal bar / energy bar / snack bar and a spill proof cup of coffee and hop into the car for the morning commute.
With so many bars to choose from, you may find yourself confused. All these bars tout health benefits from here to the 2012 London Olympics. However, there are some companies that try to maintain a higher standard than others, and today we’ll take a look at products from 2 such bars:
Kashi Go Lean Caramel Peanut:
Larabar Peanut Butter Cookie:
What you need to know:
Here is the ingredient list for Kashi (all 36 ingredients):
Brown Rice Syrup, Crystalline Fructose, Soy Protein Isolate, Kashi Seven Whole Grains and Sesame® Blend (Whole: Hard Red Winter Wheat, Oats, Rye, Barley, Triticale, Long Grain Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Sesame Seeds), Whey Protein Isolate, Peanut Flour, Chicory Root Fiber, Peanuts, Oat Fiber, Evaporated Cane Juice, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Rice Starch, Mechanically Fractionated Palm Kernel Oil, Skim Milk, Vegetable Glycerin, Salt, Calcium Carbonate, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Magnesium Oxide, Carrageenan, Mixed Tocopherols (For Freshness), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Acetate, Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Fumarate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid, Vitamin B12.
And for Larabar:
Peanuts, Dates, Salt.
here is a side by side nutrition comparison:
Calorically, both bars are similar, with Kashi getting more from protein and Larabar from fat. Both bars contain a similar amount of sugars, but Larabar’s are all natural, vs the mostly added sugar for Kashi (Brown Rice Syrup, Crystalline Fructose,Evaporated Cane Juice). Naturally occurring sugar is always better because you’re also getting the added nutrients naturally.
Although the Larabar contains 13 grams of fat, 10.5 are unsaturated, which means they work for your body, not like saturated fats.
The fiber in the Larabar occurs naturally in the dates and peanuts. Kashi, on top of the fiber from the grains, adds chicory root fiber and oat fiber to get 50% more fiber in its bar.
If we’d have been looking solely at the nutrition panel, Kashi seems to be a bit better. However, it is an overly processed product, in stark contradiction to Larabar’s simplicity. Heck, you can make your own Larabar at home. But where in the world will you buy fractionated palm kernel oil?
(BTW, fractionating is a way to make oil solid at room temperature, but without creating trans fat as in partially hydrogenated oils.)
What to do at the supermarket:
Larabar gets our vote due to its short ingredient list and simplicity. Kashi, a good product nonetheless, is still far better than many breakfast bars out there. Watch out for bars that are mostly sugar with no additional benefits such as fiber and real fruits and nuts.
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