Whether you eat them to replace a meal, add nutrients, boost your energy, or for an easy low-cal snack, diet bars have become one of the most popular on-the-go foods in America.
But with all the flashy diet bars out there, it can be hard to distinguish the good from the bad, and navigating through the packaged promises isn’t easy. We went to Registered Dietitians Nicolette M. Pace and Marlene Carneiro for advice on how to read the nutrition labels and find healthy bars that don't wrap up unwanted calories.
1. Meal Replacement Bar: On-the-go lifestyles demand attention, so the next time you run out of steam and reach for an artery clogging “not-so-happy” meal, try a meal replacement bar. Look for ones that are heavy in weight (2-3 oz) and provide about 1/3 of the daily value of key nutrients like protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals.
- Carneiro Recommends: Slim-Fast Fruit & Yogurt Trail Mix Meal Bar
With a blend of rolled oats, almonds and cranberries, this bar packs enough fiber and protein to keep you full. Not only does it cut calories (it clocks in at only 200 of them), but it also provides a great source of calcium and vitamins D and B.
2. Breakfast Bar: When you’re pressed for time, take along a high fiber (5 grams), whole-grain bar with added protein. These breakfast bars will give you delicious flavor and proper nutrition to start your day. Stick to bars with healthy add-ins like nuts, oats, flax, millet, triticale and dried fruit, and avoid bars with sweets that will lead to sugar crashes and calorie overloads.
- Carneiro Recommends: Special K Honey Almond Protein Bar
This bar provides you with 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. At just 180 calories, it will keep your body energized and your waistline trim.
3. Snack Bar: Opting for a low-cal snack bar that satisfies your taste without stretching your waistline can save you from a snacking catastrophe. Look for a psychologically satisfying 100-calorie bar in a flavor that suits your own personal preference.
- Carneiro Recommends: Special K 90 Calorie Cereal Bar
These bars can be a tasty treat and with 3 grams of fiber each, they will help keep you full until your next meal.
4. Nutrient Bar: These types of bars can contain any variety of ingredients including omega-3 fats, probiotic bacteria for gastrointestinal health, high quality proteins for tissue repair and soluble fiber to help stabilize blood sugar numbers. Be sure to discuss the use of these bars with your health provider to get the most value out of using them properly.
- Carneiro Recommends: Kashi TLC Chewy Granola Bars, Honey Almond Flax
With roasted almonds and flax seeds, this bar provides 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and 300 milligrams of omega-3s. At just 140 calories, this bar is a nutrient-rich, low-calorie, healthy choice.
5. Energy Bar: Not to be confused with energy drinks or supplements that claim to pick up a sluggish metabolism, energy bars are dense, concentrated sources of calories that are meant to sustain your body during peak energy need — think times of vigorous activities like hiking, climbing, biking, skiing, running and competitive sports. Healthy energy bars will have recognizable whole-food ingredients such as nut butters, high quality proteins, natural sugars and minimal added chemicals.
- Carneiro Recommends: Clif Builder's
This bar is a great choice when you need sustained energy. With 20 grams of protein as well as vitamins, minerals, balanced carbohydrates and fiber, this 280-calorie bar will give you the energy you need to keep pushing through your toughest climb.
Nutritional advice was provided by Nicolette M. Pace MS, RD, CDE, CDN, CFCS. To visit her blog, click here.Diet bar recommendations were provided by Registered Dietitian Marlene Carneiro. Carneiro works at the Outpatient Nutrition Program at Lawrence Hospital Center. For more from Carneiro, click here.