Energy bars, protein bars, nutrition bars, health bars, granola bars, snack bars… They go by many different names, but all serve a similar purpose: To provide your body with fuel.
Regardless of what you call them, it’s wise to look at the ingredients to determine whether they’re a nutritious choice or merely empty calories. They can be wholesome or they can be artificial or highly-processed. Don’t make judgments based on the marketing words on the wrapper or box. Turn the product over and read what it’s made of!
Three healthy ingredients in energy bars
#1: Whole grains
Oats are common to find in energy bars. All oats are considered whole grains. There are various stages of processing but are no refined oats to watch out for. Whole grains are a healthy source of fibre and carbohydrates to help keep you full.
#2: Nuts and seeds
These are both “good fats” as well as a brilliant source of fibre and protein. Any kind of nut or seed is a nutritious addition to your diet. Don’t be alarmed if the fat grams seem high on a bar if the source is from nuts or seeds. Many people still associate fat from nuts and seeds with fat on their body – this is an inaccurate belief. Eating more calories than you need is what leads your body to store fat.
#3: Dried fruit
The most natural sweetener you can get! Full of vitamins and minerals, which white sugar and high fructose corn syrup lack, dried fruit options like dates and raisins are common energy bar ingredients.
Three ingredients to watch out for in energy bars
This is number one. Because it’s cheap and makes things taste great, you’ll find sugar in most energy bars. You’ll also see it listed as high fructose corn syrup. Higher quality bars use dates, raisins or dried fruit to sweeten instead.
#2: Partially-hydrogenated oils
These are also known as trans-fats. Most people know by now that these are the most dangerous type of fat out there. They’re manmade and have been associated with numerous health issues.
#3: Artificial ingredients
This covers a wide range of ingredients. Look out for artificial flavours, colours, sweeteners and preservatives. Basically, avoid anything that you don’t recognise as a “real” or natural food on the ingredient list!