I still remember my very first bar I had as a kid. It was a Nature Valley Honey and Oat bar. At that time, it was way out of my comfort zone. My family leaned more to candy bars and sodas. However, as I have gotten older my pallet has changed immensely and bars have continued to be a regular part of my food rotation. And it seems that I am not alone. The majority of my nutrition clients eventually ask about recommendations for bars. There are plenty of amazing choices and the market seems to expand on a regular basis. Instead of giving recommendations for specific bars, I think it is more helpful to give some ideas of what to look for when shopping. Next time you are in the market for a quick, portable snack, keep these recommendations in mind.
- Keep sugar to a minimum. Search for bars with less than 8 grams of sugar, including natural sugars like brown rice syrup, maple syrup and honey.
- Look for protein. You want a bar with a minimum of 5 grams of protein. It helps keep you full for longer, reducing hunger and cravings. Protein makes sticking to your diet much easier and protein is also important for recovery after exercise and for building muscle.
- Fiber is important. Look for at least a ratio of 10:1 carbs to fiber. This is the ratio that occurs naturally in whole grains. Fiber helps you feel full and will help keep you regular.
- Make sure you recognize all the ingredients on the label. If you see a bar is loaded with ingredients that you can’t pronounce and have no idea what they are then put it back on the shelf. There are plenty of other options made with ingredients you will recognize.
- Check the fat content. You want a bar free from trans fat (like hydrogenated vegetable oil ) but bars with omega three fats and monounsaturated fats provide a dose of these healthy fats.
Photo from flickr.