Is It an Energy Bar or Just Sweets?
Grocery stores usually offer a plethora of energy bars, granola bars, nutrition bars, health bars – they go by many names. They are all wrapped in catchy marketing and nice pictures and it is no wonder it is very difficult to know what you are buying and how to choose the best energy bar for you. It might as well be an ordinary candy bar claiming to be healthy. We give you some tips on how to distinguish energy bars from simple sweets.
Read the ingredients
Don’t be blinded by the packaging, do your homework and read the ingredients. Know your needs: why are you buying the energy bar – for additional protein, because you want a handy snack or because it is a mini-meal replacement following a workout. Make sure your body tolerates all of them well – some might contain nuts that are common allergens for example. Check out the following to determine the type and quality of the bar.
Watch out for sugars
Common candy bars will have sugar listed in the ingredients: it simply is in lots of products as it is cheap and provides good taste. It may also be listed as high fructose corn syrup. If one of these is high up in the list, it is an unhealthy choice. Healthier choices would be brown rice syrup or agave, but still not healthy. Healthy energy bars will use natural ingredients for sweeteners, such as dried fruits – most commonly raisins, dates and others. They contain vitamins and minerals whereas white sugar and corn syrup don’t. The nutrition facts panel will not say where the sugars come from, only the amounts, so be sure to read the ingredients list.
Know the fats
f the bar has any partially-hydrogenated oil, also known as trans fats, these are to be avoided. They have been associated with many health issues. The manufacturers have been pressed to remove them from their products and replace them with palm oil and palm kernel oil. These are also associated with increased risk of heart disease so be careful with those. SALATRIM is a lower-calorie fat replacer in many products now so energy bars containing this are healthier. Educate yourself about these, Amino Z holds a lot of decent articles about these.
How much protein and carbs?
In order for a bar to be called a protein bar, it should have between 15 and 30 grams of protein per bar. There are bars with different protein – carb ratios, but generally, if you want to lose weight, you should go for high protein, low carb bars. On the other hand, if you need to make up for lost energy after an intense aerobic exercise that is longer than one hour, a high carb – low protein bar will be more useful for you. You should also check what the sources of protein and carbs are. Whole grains like oats will be found in healthy energy bars, whereas simple wheat flour will be found in low quality ones and in candy bars. Protein sources should be high quality too, like whey or soy, but watch out for gelatin.
Bear in mind that too much of anything can be harmful for your health and that energy bars and especially candy bars are not a replacement for a real meal. Avoid anything with artificial ingredients – anything you don’t recognize as real food basically!