What to look for in a snack bar

The following information is from a handout I created for patients at a diabetes clinic during my internship, but the principles apply for people without the diagnosis as well: blood sugar spikes and crashes aren’t good for anybody! Use these tips to choose a snack that will keep you full. But before we get into that, let’s think about a couple things:

What is granola made of anyway? While whole grains and nuts are ALWAYS a great idea and contain tons of fiber and healthy fats, granola and granola bars have been the lucky recipients of an undeserved health halo for quite some time. The extra super delicious varieties of granola that we have all fallen in love with are delicious and crunchy because the oats and nuts are stuck together with sugar. Even if your fancy schmancy granola bar has honey, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice…it’s all just sugar. And often it’s not a little bit: one Nature Valley bar has 12g, compared to 5g of sugar in an Oreo. So even if you’ve got a low-fat granola or granola bar, that was never the issue. Sugar is just carbohydrate, it contains no fat. Of course the granola bar is low-fat.

Why are you choosing a snack bar? Are you hungry and looking to tie yourself over to your next meal while on the go? If yes, then we’re cool. Snack bars can be a great option if you’ve got limited access to food and especially when you’re trying to get something in your stomach before exercise. They’re (most often) mainly carbohydrate, which is a perfect fuel for exercise, they are portable, and they sit well for most people. If you’re just lounging at home, however, you probably have better snack options available to you. Say, fruit paired with nuts or string cheese for example. Any opportunity you have to snack on produce versus a packaged food is one that you should take. Or is it that you want something sweet and a snack bar seems like a better option than a candy bar? Well, you’re right, but the function of a snack is not to satisfy a craving – it’s to curb your appetite. If you are eating something sweet just to eat something sweet, we’ve gotta look closer at why you’re having those cravings and try to mitigate them rather than feeding them with a healthier option.

OK, now to the good stuff:

Protein bars and snack bars can be a great way to hold off hunger until your next meal, but many are full of added sugars and aren’t good food choices.  Use the following criteria to choose the best bar for you:

label

Saturated fat is the kind that clogs arteries.  Try to keep it under 3 grams.

Carbohydrates look for a bar with 20 grams or less, with under 12 grams of sugar

Fiber will help keep you full, look for 2-4 grams of fiber, preferably from whole grains. Beware of “chicory root” and “inulin” in ingredients lists, as these are isolated fibers that can cause digestion issues

Protein choose options with 8 or more grams to help keep you full for longer and prevent blood sugar spikes.

Ingredients Try to find bars made from real ingredients.  Can’t identify the mystery substance you’re munching on?  Keep looking.

My favorites:

Strong + Kind (the best)

Kind Plus

Oskri Protein

Clif Mojo Sweet and Salty

Luna Protein

Simply Protein

Why not SUPER PROTEIN +++? There are tons of bars out there today that are PACKED with TONS of protein. Honestly, it’s just unnecessary. Also, the whole thing about being able to pronounce ingredients? You may not be able to with these guys. Even if you can, I’d much rather chow down on a snack bar made of oats and nuts than one made of whey protein isolate, but that’s just me…

Happy eating!

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