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Sunday, August 24, 2014

How to Choose Healthy Snack/Nutrition Bars.



I enjoy having a “power” bar or nutrition bar as a snack.   If dinner is going to be late, I often snack on a nutrition bar to tide me over until I can eat a full meal.  What should you look for in a nutrition bar to make a healthier choice?
What to look for: 

  • Fruit – many bars have fruit as an ingredient – raisins, other dried fruit are healthy ingredients.
  • Nuts – nuts are very healthy so any nutrition bar having nuts as an ingredient is good.
  • Protein – many people eat nutrition bars for protein.  Many offer quite a few grams of protein per serving.  Protein also gives the bar “staying power” as protein is digested after carbs so you will fill fuller longer.  If you are choosing a bar for protein, look for at least 5 grams of protein.
  • Whole grains – man Americans are sorely lacking in whole grains so choosing a snack/nutrition bar with some whole grains is a good choice.  Look for Oats, Whole Grain Wheat, Wheat Bran, Brown Rice.
  • Fiber – look at the fiber content.  Not only is fiber healthy it also gives you a feeling of fullness so will satisfy your hunger for a longer period.  Look for at least 3 grams of fiber.
  • Calories – if you are choosing a bar as a pre- or –post workout bar, then one with 200 calories might be just fine.  If you are choosing a bar to replace a meal, then more calories like 300-400 would be more appropriate.  If the bar is replacing a meal, try to add fruit, yogurt, cheese stick, carton of milk, other food groups to round out your “meal”.  
What to avoid:
  • Sugar – many nutrition/snack bars are loaded with added sugar.  Look at the label for grams of sugar.   Four grams of sugar is the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar.  Thus, a bar with 24 grams of sugar has the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar.  But natural sugars, like the fructose in the raisins would be included in this total so take time to read the ingredients to see what sugars have been added.  Look for sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, brown rice sugar.  If sugars are the first ingredient, it is a snack bar to be avoided. 
  • Saturated Fat – fat can make the bar taste better and help you fill full.  However, saturated fat is a fat to avoid so read the label for saturated fat content and choose bars with less saturated fat.
Environmental Nutrition newsletter listed some of the nutrition bars they recommend in their Sept. newsletter.  I like Fiber One bars as they taste good.  Some other brands to look for:  Fiber One, KIND, Gnu, Lunar, Think Thin, Clif, Odwalla, Nature Valley. 

  • Clif bars – usually good choice for fiber and protein.
  • Odwalla Bars – focus on grains and whole fruit.
  • Luna Bars – Good for protein, low in sugar, not usually the best for fiber.
  • Nature Valley – the Oatmeal Breakfast Squares can be a good breakfast replacement. 


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