By Jeni Tackett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Nutrition Blogger
From granola to protein to fiber to meal replacement, bars are popular. No wonder. It’s super easy to grab one as you run out the door, whether for breakfast or snack.
But are they as healthy as you think?
Most do not meet nutrition recommendations for low sugar, high fiber, low saturated fat or protein. In fact, some are no better than candy.
And if your goal is weight loss, take a look at the calorie content!
But if you are in a pinch for time and need to pick one up, stick to these recommendations.
Bar Nutrition Guidelines
1. At least 5 grams of protein. Protein gives you a sense of fullness and is an important part of meals and snacks. Whether you use a bar for breakfast or for a snack, look for at least 5 grams of protein.
2. At least 3 grams of fiber. Fiber is important for intestinal health and feelings of fullness. Some bars include chicory root which is high in fiber but can cause bloating and gas. If you cannot tolerate chicory root, look for bars without chicory root but with fiber from whole grain, nuts, seeds, and fruit.
3. Less than 35% of calories from added sugar. This is the hard one. Most bars contain way too many grams of added sugar. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Calculation: If you take the grams of added sugar x 4 = calories from sugar. Then divide that number by the total calories you will get the % sugar.
For example: A bar with 100 calories with 10 grams from sugar = 10 x 4 = 40/100 = 40% sugar (too high). Added sugar is an issue because it results in sugar crashes and increased hunger. Having a high sugar bar for breakfast can result in increased hunger throughout the day.
4. Less saturated fat. Look at the grams of saturated fat, and less is better. For a day, saturated fat should be 12-16 grams or less. Avoid bars with high saturated fat content.
Healthiest Bar Options
Kind Bars: Kind bars are 180-220 calories on average and include natural ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and fruit. Some kind bars have added sugar from chocolate. The fruit and nut bars are 200 calories with 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat and only 4 grams (1 teaspoon, 8%) added sugar.
Kashi Go Lean Bars: Kashi Go Lean Bars contain plant protein powder and natural ingredients such as nuts and seeds. The Peanut Hemp Plus bar contains 200 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat and 8 grams (2 teaspoons, 16%) added sugar.
Larabars: Larabars are made with a small number of natural ingredients. Dates are used for sweetness. The banana bread bar has 200 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, 1 gram of saturated fat and 0 grams of added sugar.
Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch Bars: Nature Valley nut bars have fiber due to nuts and seeds and are low in sugar. The almond crunch bar is 190 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 1.5 gram of saturated fat and 7 grams of sugar (1 ¾ teaspoon, 15%).
Quaker Oatmeal Breakfast Squares: Quaker breakfast squares are high in fiber and low in added sugar. The peanut butter bar has 250 calories, 6 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, 2 grams of saturated fat and 11 grams of sugar (nearly 3 teaspoons, 17%).
With a little planning, you can focus on whole foods instead of relying on bars. Keep items like these on hand, and you’ll always be ready to grab something as you rush out the door!
An apple with 100 calorie pack of almonds and walnuts
Low fat Greek yogurt
1 sliced of whole wheat bread with 1 Tablespoon of natural peanut butter or 1 whole wheat sandwich thin with 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
¼ cup Hummus with raw veggies: snap peas, carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower
Low fat string cheese or slice of cheese with 5-6 Triscuits
Pear with wedge of light laughing cow cheese
3 cups air popped or low fat microwave popcorn (snack bags are nice)
¼ cup low fat cottage cheese with 1 cup melon or berries
|Meet Jeni Tackett, Let’s Move Quad Cities Nutrition Blogger. Jeni is a registered and licensed dietitian for Rock Valley Health. Jeni counsels her clients on weight loss and nutrition. You can read Jeni’s bio and other blog posts by clicking here.|