One of the fastest growing food categories of the last decade has been the “bar”. Add your own prefix:
- snack bar
- energy bar
- protein bar
- breakfast bar
- meal replacement bar
- ___________ bar
There are many reasons for the success of bars:
- Bars are very convenient foods. Individually wrapped, they can be throw into your bag, in the glove compartment, in the office desk drawer, etc.
- They taste good. That usually has to do with their high sugar content, which we’ll get to in a minute.
- It’s relatively easy to manufacture bars. The ingredients mix well together, and the machinery required to produce rectangular shaped glop is fairly standard.
The problem with most bars is that they more closely resemble a Snickers candy bar than they do a healthy fruit or nut combo. Here are some helpful suggestions.
What should I look for in a snack bar?
- A short ingredient list. It can be as short as: Almonds, dates, bananas. But some products list over 40 ingredients. Stay away from those.
- Sugars from fruit. Many bars add 3 or more teaspoons worth of sugars in the form of evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, and honey. A little bit of added sugar is not the end of the world, but you need to be watchful.
- Nuts and seeds. They are a great source of protein and healthy fats.
- Whole grains. Bars made with oats, for example.
What about protein?
Americans get more than enough protein in their diet, so buying a bar that has been pumped up with soy and whey protein isolates makes no sense.
Is a bar with 200 calories too much?
Many dieters are enamored with the concept of 100 calorie snacks. Bar manufacturers have catered to this notion in several ways:
- shrinking the bar size
- using artificial sweeteners
- limiting the use of healthy nuts and seeds because of their fat content
While a bar with 200 calories may seem excessive for a snack, what you should consider is the ingredient list. If the bar contains a mix of nuts and fruit, chances are it will keep you satiated for a longer period of time and help you avoid noshing again after 45 minutes.
What bars does Fooducate recommend?
A good bar is really a trail mix that has been pulverized to some degree. Making your own trail mix is really easy and saves money. So if you have some time on your hand, we recommend buying bulk quantities of your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and mixing them up. Pack them into individual Ziploc bags and you’re set!
OK, but when I’m in a rush, what bar should I buy?