There are as many choices of bars as there are fish in the sea. Convenience stores have whole sections filled with bars which completely takes the convenience right out of it as you stand there for 15 minutes looking for the perfect bar for you. The word protein is plastered on the wrapper, or energy, or low calorie. Beware of bars because most are not much better than a candy bar. Let's look at four different bars and show what to look for in your next nutrition bar choice.
I went to my pantry and pulled out 4 bars that happened to be there. I have kids which means there are kid things in the house which I don't eat. I'll let you guess which bar is mine. :)
We are going to look at nutrition labels and briefly at the ingredients list for examples of easy ways to discard options. I'll give you quick ways to choose when you're eating on the run.
Let's take the top two bars in the picture. The Nugo Fiber d'Lish and the Kellogg's Nutri Grain bars. These bars fall into more of a breakfast bar category so they'll make a good comparison opposed to the other two which are chocolate covered. (did I hear someone say, what's wrong with chocolate for breakfast)?
Fiber 12 grams
Sugar 11 grams
Protein 3 grams
Fiber 1 grams
Sugar 12 grams
Protein 2 grams
In calories the breakfast bars are exactly the same at 130 cal but that is where the likeness ends. Fiber the Nugo bar has 12g versus 1g in the Kellogg's bar. Sugar is 11g versus 12g. Next look where the sugar comes from. The Nugo bar's sugar is partially from natural fruits where the Kellogg bar has all 12 grams of sugar listed as added sugar. Plus the Kellogg ingredients list fructose*. If you ever see fructose listed put that bar back on the shelf. The Nugo bar has more sugar than I would like but lists ingredients like apples, plums, raisins, fruit juices which I would rather see than added sugars. Also it contain more fiber than sugar (that's two thumbs up anywhere you can find it) so that a win for the Nugo bar.
I think the main deciding factor (besides fructose) in these two bars comes when you read the ingredients. The Kellogg's bar does list whole grain oats as the first ingredient which is good but the second is enriched flour*. That makes it a no go. This bar also has a long list of hard to pronounce ingredients which equals not good for your body. Rule: if you can't pronounce it your body doesn't know what to do with it.
On to the next two bars.
Fiber 1 grams
Sugar 13 grams
Protein 6 grams
Fiber 6 grams
Sugar 7 grams
Protein 10 grams
The Tiger's Milk bar is smart in their marketing but that's all the credit it gets from me. At 150 calories, 1 gram of fiber and 13 g of sugar, it tastes good but with high fructose corn syrup* listed as it's second ingredient it's a don't buy for sure. Protein is 6 grams for this bar which we will compare with the next bar choice.
The Nature Valley Protein bar. At 190 calories, 6g fiber, 7g sugar and 10g of protein, I almost like it. Protein is important to keep you feeling full and many bars boast their protein content these days. Just remember to look at how much sugar it has and total number of calories. I've seen some very high calorie bars! This protein bar has a pretty good balance with low sugar and higher fiber plus good protein. I like it until you read the ingredients. Fructose.
Fructose is found naturally in fruits, fruit juices and honey. Those are OK for your body because of the fiber in the fruit and they came from the earth or bees with no human modifying it's makeup. Fructose in packaged foods is manufactured and added to our food as an added sweetener. It is added in much higher quantities than you would get from eating a piece of fruit and it's hidden in so many packaged foods than we don't even realize we are eating it. Fructose may be the most problematic type of sugar for our health. It's been linked to obesity, diabetes and cancers. Fructose can only be broken down by the liver ,like alcohol, so our body treats it in the same way, as a toxin.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is found in sodas and many packaged foods. It is more sweet and more addicting than the other added sweeteners. The fructose/glucose ratio has been manufactured to 55%/45% making it sweeter and harder on your body. It's why there's that instant sugar high after drinking soda. The spike in insulin levels is hard on the body. Drinking a soda (HFCS) is different from eating 4 oranges (about the same amount of fructose) which contain some fiber and slows the rate which the sugars are digested. Start looking through your cupboards and you may be surprised how often high fructose corn syrup shows up.
Enriched Flour gives you a sugar spike and crash without any nutritional value. Basically enriched flour means nutrients are stripped from the bread, cracker, whatever the packaged item is.
Yes, we are talking about bars here and they all have a shelf life which means they all have preservatives and chemicals and crappy things for your body. I've eaten all of these bars before but if I have a choice I pick the least harmful, most nutritious one. Life is lived on the fly sometimes and you do your best with what you've got.
Do you have any bars you want to see in another bar comparison? Email us at [email protected] to give your suggestions.
Until next time
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