In this current fast-paced society, where sitting down to eat a meal can be seen as a luxury, the appearance of nutrition bars is deemed as a blessing by many. These pocket-sized bars are once primarily consumed by serious athletes searching for ways to keep an advantage. Now, anyone who requires a nutritional boost keeps a few bars with them, stashed in a briefcase or a purse.
As they quickly became popular, you can find at least a hundred types of prewrapped and compact products competing for a space on the shelves of supermarkets, gyms, and health-food stores. They have various names from Oatmega Bars and 88 Acres Bars to RX Bars and Health Warrior Chia Bars. However, nutritionists admit that not all nutrition bars are created alike. There are breakfast bars, protein bars, brain-boosting bars, diet bars, carbohydrate bars, women-only bars, energy bars, and meal-replacement bars. With so many options to choose from, consumers— whether they’re overcommitted mothers with no time to spare, recreational athletes, or workaholics fixed on their desks— craving for a quick healthy solution may feel befuddled from all the products and exaggerated claims.
It is, without a doubt, that these grab-and-go nutrition bars are perfect for those who work themselves to exhaustion. They’re a much healthier choice for someone who would, alternatively, take snacks from a vending machine or get a fast-food take-out. However, there’s nothing too magical about these nutrition bars. Most of them are fine, yes, but some have too much fat content.
These bars are especially convenient for physically active people. For example, when you go on a bike ride, you wouldn’t be able to put a sandwich in your pocket without ruining it, but you can effortlessly bring a couple of nutrition bars with you. However, you can only eat them in moderation as some of these bars have high saturated fat and sugar content— as much as a candy bar.
Whole Foods vs. Nutrition Bars
A lot of nutritionists insist that even when you’re devouring nutrition bars, they shouldn’t serve as a substitute for whole foods in your diet. If you want a quick snack, you’re better off with eating a banana or an apple; for athletes, eating graham crackers or a bagel before a competition can produce a similar response in blood glucose levels to some energy bars. They even cost a lot less.
The portability of nutrition bars can cause you to rely on them overly. You might think that consuming boxes of energy bars is better than whole foods, but these bars are missing that you can only find in foods. Just as you wouldn’t allow yourself to live only on turkey sandwiches or apples, you need to include a bunch more in your diet than just nutrition bars.
Rather than a nutrition bar, you can opt for alternative snacks such as a fiber-rich bagel topped with a small, melted slice of low-fat Swiss cheese and tomato or a box of low-fat yogurt topped with high-fiber cereal.
Guidelines in Choosing the Right Nutrition Bar
If you’re searching for and trying out effective nutrition bars, here are some factors to take into careful consideration:
- Look for a nutrition bar with low-fat content (less than 5 grams).
- Try bars with 3 to 5 grams of fiber when assessing their fiber content.
- If you’re watching your weight, check the label for the listed calorie content.
- If you’re looking for the appropriate meal-replacement bar, opt for one with around 15 or more grams of protein, together with some fiber, and enriched with around 35% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamins and minerals. These bars tend to be bigger than the other types of bars. They also have higher levels of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
- It’s important to consume real food along with the nutrition bar, such as a piece of fruit or a vegetable.
- When consuming numerous bars per day, it’s best to ensure you’re not consuming more vitamins and minerals than you should be. A fortified bar can contribute 50% of the RDA for zinc. If you like eating quite a few bars each day in addition to a bowl of fortified cereal and a multimineral/multivitamin pill, you could be getting a higher amount of zinc than your body requires. This could intervene with the absorption of other minerals and might even impair your immune system.
To make things harder, you might not have the ability to judge each nutrition bar based on the wrapper. A laboratory test done by ConsumerLab.com in October 2001 found that out of the 30 nutrition bars the undergone testing, 18 of them didn’t meet their claims of the level of ingredients listed on the label. Also, close to one-half of the bars exceeded the levels of carbohydrates declared on the wrapper.