Nutrition bars, energy bars, cereal bars, meals to go, snack bars… The names vary and the list could keep going on but when you’re staring at a wall of labels, how are you supposed to choose? Which bars are the best snacks as far as taste? If it isn’t palatable, and dare I say enjoyable, will you even eat it or will it eventually just fall to the bottom of the snack bin? What about nutrition? What ingredients need to stand out as little red flags so you can make a quicker decision in the sea of pre-packaged convenient sustenance?
I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to openly admit that I excitedly peruse each and every isle of my local Sprouts Farmer’s Market just to check out all the products. I love going to the grocery store and sometimes I’m really in the mood to read food labels purely out of curiosity. Occasionally, I even buy stuff. I am fully aware that this is not normal behavior. I thought I’d put my weird little hobby to good use when one of my clients asked me what nutrition bars I most highly recommended. She, like my other clients and young athletes, sometimes has trouble deciphering the labels, decoding the ingredient list and navigating the endless options. Here are some tips, tidbits and my personal picks; I hope it helps.
Michael Pollan, author of the popular nutrition book Food Rules, said it best when he advised to “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” This rule applies when looking for healthy, nutrient dense food bars.
What to look for:
What to avoid:
Keep in mind that when looking for a nutrition bar in lieu of a snack or meal, a high caloric count with good fats, sugars, minerals and vitamins is essential to properly fuel your body. Whenever possible however, eat real, fresh food over nutrition bars.
If the bar you seek is for post workout fuel, look at the protein source (remember, avoid protein isolates), protein percentage, and carbohydrate percentage. It is optimal to consume something with a 3:1 ratio for carbohydrates : protein.
Bars to Try
Bars to Avoid
Pub Med: US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7884536
Dr. Andrew Weil
Dr. Chris Mohr and Dr. Kara Mohr