I recently had a client ask me how to choose the "best" energy bar and what factors go into making that decision. Honestly, I was a bit caught off guard by the question! Simple, relevant, yet not something I commonly sit down to think about since I don't buy them too often. Here's a summary of my response and my (personal yet professionally-infused) criteria for picking a healthier energy bar:
- For a snack, choose something that's 100-200 calories. In my book, anything 300+ would be considered more of a meal replacer (but truly depends on your overall calorie requirements and activity level).
- Look for a combination of protein, carbs and fiber: 3-20g protein, less than 15-20g sugar and at least 2g fiber at a minimum. Be wary of bars with greater 20g protein (sorry, that's just not natural) and bars with excessive amounts of added sugars.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. Just don't go there! I don't see them a whole lot in energy bars but some brands (i.e. Special K bars) do use them.
- The shorter the ingredient list, the better! Look for ingredients such as nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, rice. Avoid bars with excessively long ingredient lists, especially if you have trouble recognizing or pronouncing a few of those ingredients.
- Added sugars and syrups of some kind are pretty routine with these bars. Look for those ingredients to be towards the end of the ingredients list, which means that they are in lower percentages that the good stuff.
- Don't be fooled by health claims such as "all-natural" and "healthy." Many bars state these health claims and the criterial for including them are very loose.
I'm not loyal to or a fan of promoting any one brand, but I do think KIND bars are a great example for the many of the reasons I just explained:
There is no perfect "energy bar." Different bars serve different needs, and the only way to truly control what goes into them is to make some at home (which I totally recommend!) If you haven't already tried making these quinoa energy balls, you should give'm a whirl!
There's a lot out there to choose from and try. Aim first to rely on real foods and make educated choices otherwise. As with all things, even if it's "healthy," keep moderation in consideration... if half your diet consist of these energy bars then you may want to reconsider =)
Eat happy, choose healthy!