Snack bars can have a place in a balanced, healthy diet as long as you choose them wisely. Here’s what you need to know:
Nix any bar that lists sugar high on its ingredients list. Buzz words like agave, brown sugar, honey, and brown rice syrup may sound healthy, but they are all simple sugar that pile on calories. Aim for a bar that has no more than 10 grams of sugar per bar, and look for those that get their sweetness from natural sources liked fresh or dried fruit.
Try this: GNU Fiber Love - With flavors like Banana Walnut and Carrot Cake you’ll feel like you are having dessert. Guess again, because these bars have just 140 calories along with12 grams of satisfying, good-for-you fiber.
Keep saturated fat low – 2 grams or less per serving. Ingredients like tropical oils often used in the coating or drizzle on bars, add a lot of fat and little nutritional benefit. Look for bars that get their chewy texture from healthy ingredients such as chia seeds, or oils that you can actually pronounce, like heart-healthy canola oil.
Try this: Oatmega bars - Not only do these bars boast 7 grams of fiber, they also contain heart and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil. Another plus: They contain grass-fed whey protein, which is an excellent source of lean protein.
For a convenient snack that’s nutritious and filling, you can’t beat a high-quality protein bar. Many bars are downright skimpy on protein though, so look for brands that have a minimum of 6 grams of protein. There are a number of delicious bars on the market that pack upwards of 10 grams of protein, so it pays to compare.
Try this: ThinkThin High Protein & Fiber Bars - All of the varieties in this line keep your snack at 150 calories tops, while also providing a healthy mix of protein and fiber. These bars are low in sugar too, which lets you avoid blood glucose spikes that can leave you feeling tired and craving another sweet treat.
Most of us don’t get nearly enough fiber in our diet, so grabbing a high-fiber snack bar can be a smart choice – especially if you are watching your weight. Fiber has zero calories, so bars that are high in fiber (defined as 5g of fiber or more per serving) tend to be lower in calories. Also, fiber digests slowly, so a high fiber bar satisfies hunger and boosts energy longer than bars that don’t have much fiber.
Try This: Quest - In flavors like Cinnamon Roll, White Chocolate Raspberry and Lemon Cream Pie, Quest bars taste decadent, when in truth each is waist-friendly snack with about 170 calories, 24 grams of carbs, and upwards of 15 grams of fiber.
Whole Food Ingredients
An ingredient list that’s hard to pronounce is a red flag that a bar may be loaded with artificial flavors and preservatives that you are best to avoid, or at least limit. Be choosy and go for bars that contain whole food ingredients such as whole grains, real fruit, seeds and nuts.
Try these: KIND or LARABAR - The ingredients in these bars are familiar and easy to pronounce, indicating they’ve been minimally processed so they retain more of the ingredients’ micronutrients.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.