By Heather Bauer, R.D., nu-train
Though in an ideal world we would all eat balanced meals and snacks with whole grains, lean protein, and lots of fruits and vegetables, realistically it is often too time consuming and impractical.
However, we can't just starve until we have time to grab a decent meal. That's where bars come in.
Bars are quick, and if you choose the "right" ones, they can be balanced and filling. They are great to keep in your purse or briefcase if a meeting runs late and lunch seems far away, in the glove compartment of your car if you get stuck in traffic, or by the front door if there's no time for breakfast so you can grab one and go.
The tricky part when it comes to bars is figuring out which ones are best or the most balanced. To help you, we've outlined a few nutrients/ingredients to watch for when choosing a bar. The major question to ask yourself, however, is will this bar help me eat less later or will it simply set off a sugar craving and leave me wanting more.
As a snack, ideally it should have less than 200 calories. If you're replacing a meal, it can be higher than this, but beware that the very high calorie bars usually contain loads of sugar and/or saturated fat.
Fiber helps by slowing digestion and allowing you to feel fuller longer. Finding high fiber bars can be tough, but aim for at least 3 grams of fiber per bar.
There are loads of high protein bars out there, but the main idea of protein is to balance out the carbohydrates and satiate us longer. There is no need to go overboard with protein (keep in mind, this is just a snack), but aim to get at least 7 grams in your bar.
You do want to have some fat in your bar to keep your snack balanced, to allow for a more satisfying snack, and to improve the taste and texture of the bar. However, try to keep the fat below 5 grams, with as little as possible coming from saturated fat. Also, avoid any bars with trans fats.
This is definitely the hardest ingredient to assess. Most of the bars contain lots of sugar to improve taste. We decided to judge sugar based on its relation to fiber in the bar. Aim for bars that have at most a 6 to 1 ratio of sugars to fiber. For instance, if a bar has 3 grams of fiber, it should have no more than 18 grams of sugar.
To be honest, it was almost impossible to find a bar that fit all of our requirements. The bottom line is that you have to choose which ingredients are most important to you, and which bars help you most in staving off hunger (and which you like the taste of!). We've chosen some of our favorites to give you some ideas. The bars in bold fit every requirement.
|BellybarTM (for pregnant women)|
|KashiTM GOLEAN® Roll!|
|Pria® Complete Nutrition|
|Slim Fast® OptimaTM Meal On-The-Go Bar|
*Not every bar in this brand fits all of the requirements.
Take this guide with you as you navigate the supermarket aisles. By keeping balanced, healthy bars on hand, you will never have an excuse for going hungry!