Demystifying Snack Bars: Dos and Don’ts
What’s the difference between a granola bar and a protein bar, and are they truly healthy?
Snack bars are a great option to when you are on the go and don’t have time to prepare a snack. But the hundreds of options out there are confusing. What’s the difference between a granola bar and a protein bar? Is it healthy or just a glorified candy bar?
Here’s what to look for:
Protein: Protein bars are typically higher in calories than a snack bar and can be used as a meal replacement. When picking a protein bar, make sure to look at what is used to boost the protein content. A lot of companies use synthetic isolates to achieve a high protein content because these isolates contain more of a certain ingredient whether it is whey, soy, or something else, than you could normally consume through a glass of milk or handful of edamame. This can cause indigestion particularly if your body is sensitive to dairy or soy.
On the flip side, protein bars boosted with natural ingredients can be easier to digest and are better for you, but will have a higher fat content. There is nothing wrong with consuming healthy fats from whole foods, but it is something to keep in mind throughout the day if you are trying to lose weight (i.e. It is maybe not a good idea to also consume an entire avocado).
Protein bars should have ten to twenty grams of protein per serving.
Snack bars and granola bars will likely have five grams of protein per bar.
Sugar: This is a big one as some bars out there can pack in as many grams of sugar as a Snickers bar (eighteen grams, in case you were wondering)! Look at the total amount of grams per bar and make sure the label doesn’t specify for only half the bar. (One bar should be one serving, not divided into two servings.) Even if sugar isn’t on the label, you want to avoid sugar alcohols, corn syrup, etc.
If there are zero grams of sugar, check the label to make sure you aren’t consuming any chemical sweeteners like aspartame—ideally monk fruit or stevia should be the non-calorie sweeteners on the label.
No bar should have more than about ten grams of sugar per serving.
Calories: Everyone has different caloric needs, but as a rule of thumb, a bar that you are using to replace one of your main meals should be about 200 to 300 calories, whereas a snack bar should be less than 200 calories.
It really is quality over quantity so you are better off picking a bar with slightly higher calories that is filled with pure, good-for-you ingredients rather than a totally synthetic bar.
Chemicals: Just say no to chemicals, okay? If there is one thing we have learned it’s that whole foods are the way to go. Don’t pick a bar with a bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce. The top offenders are soy protein isolate, hydrogenated oils, artificial sweeteners, stabilizers like Butylated hydroxytoluene, and natural flavors.
Grains: Grains are so good for you! As long as you aren’t gluten-intolerant of course. Look for nutrient-dense grains like oats, quinoa (technically a seed, but often substituted for grains), brown rice, buckwheat, and amaranth.
Fiber: Try to get fiber from eating lots of legumes, fruits, and vegetables, not from a bar. In fact, fiber that is too concentrated for your body to digest could cause gas and bloating. Bars made with high-quality, whole ingredients tend to have about three to eight grams of fiber.