As it turns out, many snack bars are really not that healthy. In some cases you would be better off eating a candy bar. For a presentation that I did recently, I researched snack bars, and was surprised to find that some bars (even ones advertised with health claims) have more than 5 teaspoons of sugar per bar!
This might not seem like a lot of sugar but when you consider that the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year it really makes you think about where all of this sugar is coming from. Why would we want to waste calories on snack bars that, at best, taste like cardboard with a glaze? Why not save them up for something a whole lot tastier…like a piece of cake?
Don’t get me wrong, snacks are important and should be eaten throughout the day. I just happen to believe that snacks don’t always need to come from a package. A healthy snack should include a fruit or vegetable, some protein, and/or a whole grain. If a snack is advertised as having only 100 calories, you need to consider where those 100 calories are coming from. Chances are, 100 calories of carbohydrate is not going to satisfy you for very long. That is why 100-calorie packs and snack bars are not always your best bet.
Here are a few healthy snack examples:
- Half a sandwich on whole wheat bread with baby carrots
- Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
- Bowl of high fiber cereal with an orange
- Peanut butter and crackers
- Veggies and hummus
- Cheese and fruit
- Small bowl of soup with whole grain crackers
If you do eat snack bars, here is what to look for…
Choose bars with:
- 150-200 calories for a snack
- Heart healthy unsaturated fats from nuts and seeds.
- Fiber (at least 3 grams per serving and preferably from natural sources not synthetic fiber which can cause gas, cramping… you see where I’m going with this?)
- Protein (close to one serving of protein = 7 grams)
- Sugar from natural sources like dried fruits. Avoid bars where the first ingredient is sugar in disguise like these code words…brown rice syrup, honey, agave nectar, molasses, evaporated cane juice, organic brown sugar, turbinado, fructose/glucose syrup, etc. Bottom line: aim for 12 grams or less, which is about 3 teaspoons – regardless of whether or not it is natural or organic. Sugar is still sugar.
Some of the better snack bars:
- Kashi TLC (i.e. cherry dark chocolate, 120 calories, 2 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 5 grams protein)
- Kind Bars (i.e. dark chocolate cinnamon pecan, 200 calories, 16 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 5 grams protein)
- Luna Bars (i.e. vanilla almond, 190 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar, 9 grams protein)
Some of the worst snack bars:
- Cliff bar (i.e. chocolate chip, 230 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 23 grams sugar, 10 grams protein)
- Balance Bar (i.e. honey yogurt peanut, 200 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams sugar, 15 grams protein)
- Odwalla Bar (i.e. banana nut, 220 calories, 5 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, 17 grams sugar, 4 grams protein)
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