Are Nutrition Bars Good for You?
Nutrition bars come in different types and sizes and give the impression of being very healthy for you. They are really convenient and easy to carry as a quick snack during your day. But not all bars are created equal. Here is what we have found as general trends in the industry.
Nutrition bars are sold in almost every supermarket and gas station as they are popular in our current culture. Society is focussed on healthy eating and have created five types of nutrition bars:
– protein bars
– meal-replacement bars
– snack bars
– whole food bars
Sugar in Nutrition Bars
The main ingredient to look for first regardless of the type of bar is sugar. We live in a culture where high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucrose, glucose and other sugars are added to almost everything. We have a serious sweet tooth and companies know it. The average American now eats over 100 pounds of sugar per year. Bland nutrition bars are out sold by their sweeter alternatives. Unfortunately, they are glorified candy bars in the process.
Eliminating all sugar is not reasonable or healthy. It is a simple carbohydrate that is easily digested by the body is used as quick energy which is important for athletes. Sports drinks contain 6-8% sugar for this reason. These drinks are used to increase performance during athletic competition. Nutrition bars are used in the same way and will not fill you up as their true purpose is to fuel athletes for competition or training. Much like Gatorade or Powerade, if you are not an active person, eating a nutrition bar is simply adding unneeded calories.
Some Clif Bars contain more than 25 grams of sugar which is as much as eight Oreo cookies. It will cause a blood sugar spike and the inevitable crash which leaves you feeling worse. The added sugar also puts you at risk of developing high blood pressure or becoming obese. High protein (5-6 grams) is labelled on the wrapper but the added sugars, including dipped in chocolate, makes them a poor choice.
Nutrition Bars with Fibre
Fibre is important for good bowel health, to lower cholesterol levels, breaking down food for digestion and you will feel full longer which stops overeating. Eating a diet higher in fibre can reduce the risk heart disease and diabetes.
Fibre helps to slow down the absorption of sugar which gives the liver time to metabolize it. This helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. The rapid rise and fall of blood sugar makes the pancreas work harder which can increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Many nutrition bars claim to contain simple, healthy ingredients. Checking the nutrition label will verify if they do or not. The best bars contain a healthy mix of fruits, grains and nuts. All of these are whole foods and not fillers so they will contain the nutrients you need. Avoid the nutrition bars that contain additives and preservatives that you can’t even pronounce. as they tend to also contain more sugar to mask the bad chemical taste. The simpler the ingredient list the better as it tends to mean it contains less chemicals and more nutrients.
Nutrition bars are good but you can’t beat whole foods. With the athletes that I mentor, I help them to make their own energy and protein bars to save on cost and to get them eating better foods. This is one of the recipes I have suggested:
Trail Mix Bars (Makes 20-24 bars)
- 5 cups crispy rice cereal
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup oat bran
- ½ cup toasted wheat germ
- ½ tsp salt
- 2/3 cup chopped dates
- ½ cup chopped dried apricots
- ½ cup raisins
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or blueberries
- ½ cup raw sesame seeds
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1 cup honey
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- 1 ½ cups natural unsalted peanut butter
- 1 cup soymilk powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Grease one 9” x 13” casserole dish with dairy-free soy margarine or oil and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the crispy rice cereal, rolled oats, oat bran, toasted wheat germ and salt. Mix in the dates, apricots, raisins, cranberries, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds until evenly distributed. Set aside.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the honey, maple syrup, sugar and peanut butter, stirring well with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mixture reaches a low boil and begins to bubble, about three minutes. Stir in the soy milk powder and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients, mixing well until the mixture is consistent throughout. Press into the prepared pans and using a sharp knife, cut into bars, but leave the mixture in the pans. Place the pans on wire cooling racks to cool completely before removing from the pans and serving.
Or try this recipe!
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