If your life is anything like mine, you always on the go and even though you planned and packed a healthy lunch, you left it on the kitchen counter. So you stop at your local store for an on the go health bar or protein bar. You are faced with a wall of different bars all claiming wonderful health benefits. With so many “health” bars on the shelf, how do you know which to choose? In this article let me give you a few tips on how to choose the best bar for you.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN CHOOSING THE RIGHT BAR
What do I need the bar for?
Bars are very different, some bars are higher in protein, while others have added ingredients such as antioxidants help increase health benefits. So different bars have different ingredients for different needs. For example you will need a balanced, low GI bar for sustained energy as a meal replacement but will need a bar higher in protein for post exercise. Therefore know what kind of bar you looking for.
Know your ingredients
When looking for a bar, you still want to be aware of overly processed ingredients. Read the ingredients list to know what you planning to put in your body. Pick bars that have fewer ingredients. Preferably the ingredients should be whole foods such as nuts and seeds, grains, fruit and or even vegetables. Stay away from bars where you need a dictionary to decipher the ingredients. Many manufacturers will add ingredients to make the bar more tasty but not more healthy.
Watch out for sugar and fat
The “Chocolate Chip Fudge Sunday” flavour sounds tempting but you could be reaching for a bar that is high in sugar and fat. Sugar content of your bar of choice is very important. Because sugar contains “empty” calories you don’t want to be taking in excessive amounts because that can lead to weight gain.
When considering sugar, you need to look at the GI (Glycaemic Index) of the bar. Glycaemic index is a measure of how fast the sugar is absorbed and used by the body. Low GI will provide you with longer sustained energy and keep you fuller for longer while high GI is fast acting energy for immediate use.
Be protein wise
Protein is a big selling point for bars but you need to be wise when choosing a protein bar. Unless you an elite athlete who requires a larger amount of protein, a bar containing 25g or more ism’t necessarily better. If you having a bar as a meal replacement, then a bar containing 7-21g of protein is more than adequate. Look for bars that provide natural protein sources such as from milk such as whey or soy bean proteins.
Fibre is important too
Roughage or fibre may not be something you think of when looking for a bar and it should be. Many people often don’t get the recommended 25-30g of fibre for adults. On the go bars with grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds are a great way to get in some fibre. Fibre also helps to keep you fuller for longer1.
DIFFERENT BARS FOR DIFFERENT NEEDS
Meal or snack replacements
A bar that is being used for a meal replacement should be able to replace a meal or snack nutritionally. It should ideally have a low GI energy and adequate protein. Read the label and try go for bars that it these requirements a meal bar would contain the below while a snack would be smaller.
- About 800-1200Kilojules
- 10-25 grams of protein
- 4 grams of fibre or more
- About 20-40 grams of carbohydrate
- Fewer than 20 grams of sugar
- 12g or less grams of fat
- No more than 30 percent of your RDA for vitamins and minerals2
Try choose bars with lots of fruit, nuts and seeds to get the benefit of additional nutrients found in these ingredients. The FUTURELIFE® Crunch bar is a great on the go snack while the FUTURELIFE® High Protein SmartBar could fit as a smaller meal replacement.
You need different nutrients for before, during and after sport. There are two most common types of bars for sports. Firstly a bar that has sufficient high quality carbohydrates and higher in protein to help with energy for during and muscle repair and recovery after exercise3. Secondly you sometimes need a high GI bar if you need quick acting energy before or during an activity, here the FUTURELIFE® High Energy SmartBar fits well.
Sometimes even people with diabetes need to rely on a on the go bar. Make sure that the bar you choosing is not too high in fat or energy and contains low GI carbohydrates that won’t spike the sugar levels3. A great choice is the FUTURELIFE® High Protein LITE SmartBar.
Health bars are meant to be helpful to fill the nutrition gap in a busy lifestyle. They should in no way replace all your good old fashioned healthy eating habits. Your body still needs fresh whole foods such as grains, lean protein, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds in their natural form. So remember when choosing a bar read the label to make sure you get all the good things you need and none of the bad things your body doesn’t need.
- Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process, 14e (Krause’s Food & Nutrition Therapy) 14th Edition by L. Kathleen Mahan MS RD CDE (Author), Janice L Raymond MS RD CD (Author)