Yes, There's an app…. I mean... There's a Bar for That!
Written by Gayle
We all have busy lives. And sometimes we don't have time to stop for a real, healthy meal. And from my experience, I eat much better (and don't overeat later when I'm famished!) if I plan ahead and have healthy snacks available for in between meals.
There are so many bars available for just such occasions. But how to choose?
|This is the energy bar aisle in our Ventura Store. Yes, you have many choices!|
Know What You Want...
Are you looking for a meal replacement? To boost your protein or fiber intake? Maybe you need something pre- or post-workout. Here are some rules of thumb:
- Higher carbohydrate grams with a little protein will help boost energy for workouts, so bars with that balance are great pre-workout. You can go with a bar as high as 40 grams of carbohydrate (and 3-5 grams of protein) if you are going to have an epic workout. You won't want too much fiber in a pre-workout bar. B-vitamins will help boost energy as well.
- Women may need a bar that has higher iron, especially the female athlete.
- Post-workout, look for higher protein numbers--from 6-20 grams. This will help move the carbohydrates back into your muscles, as well as provide amino acids, which are essential for muscle building. The protein will help you recover from your workout. Unless you are a very large, very active person, 30 grams of protein per bar is probably excessive.
- If you want a meal-replacement bar, you can go for a little higher calorie count (more than 200) but make sure the bar has protein, fiber, carbohydrates and fats. About 40% of the calories from carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fats is ideal. To make your bar even better, pair it with a piece of fruit or some vegetables, or a natural smoothie to balance your nutrients.
- Between meal bars should be under 200 calories and provide fiber and protein to stave off the growling stomach. You may want to look at the kid's version (like Clif Z-Bars) or a bar specifically for women, which have smaller portions and still pack nutrition.
- If you are looking for a bar to curb in-between meal cravings, high fiber may be the answer. But don't overdo it (or start small and build up) because high fiber can cause intestinal distress. Bars with nuts and fruits are a great choice. Make sure to drink some water to help the fiber do its job!
Look at the Numbers
You've got to read the labels. Sorry.
- Avoid sugar alcohols, which are hard to digest, especially pre-workout.
- The proteins should be high quality whey, soy or milk.
- Keep away from trans-fat and saturated fats. But you already knew that. Healthy fats are our friends! They help us to feel satisfied, and they work with other nutrients to provide a balanced diet.
- Don't just look at the nutritional chart. Read the ingredients as well. You'll be able to tell from the ingredient list if the nutrition comes from great sources (such as organic nuts butters or nuts and seeds) or not. Remember that the largest portion ingredient is listed first, down to the smallest portion. Sugar should not be the first ingredient.
- Energy bars can pack a lot of calories. Check the label to see if the bar you are considering has more calories than would be healthy for you.
- Look for all-natural ingredients, especially if you are using a bar as a meal-replacement. Nature will bring you better nutritional balance than the chemistry lab. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and sweeteners should be the main ingredients in your bar.
- Check for sodium. Try to keep the count under 100 mg.
- If you want fiber, look for a bar that has six or more grams.
- Don't try to find a bar that tastes like candy. Nutrition, not empty calories should be your goal.
Try a Variety of Bars
Lassen's has a huge variety of bars, and there are many that will suits your needs. But it's got to have an appealing taste, too. Here are three new bar brands that we recently started to carry at Lassen's.
Gnu Foods has a selection of bars that are high fiber. Of course I had to try to chocolate brownie flavor first! It had a nice texture and flavor, is non-gmo certified, and has only 140 calories (the cinnamon raisin has 130 calories.) I liked the other flavors as well.
I really like the Skout Organic Trail bars. They have nuts and seeds and dried fruits, with a nice texture. The calorie counts were a little higher--170-200, but I would totally keep some of these in my car or pack to have when I'm getting hungry between meals. (And there is no law against eating part of it today and the rest tomorrow!)
The Epic Bar is the most unusual energy bar I've ever seen. It doesn't fit into the general categories of bars, because it is meat-based. They have Beef Habanero and Cherry, Bison Bacon and Cranberry, and Turkey Almond and Cranberry bars. I've never been a huge fan of jerky (mostly a texture thing) but I really liked the Bison Bacon Cranberry Bar. It had the substance of meat with a touch of sweetness with the cranberries. This is a bar that I would take on a backpacking trip or a long hike. The calorie counts are between 150 and 200 calories.
Give a bunch of bars a try and see what suits your needs and tastes! With the huge variety that is available, there is no reason that you won't be able to find some that are perfect for you. Energy bars can really help with our health and fitness goals. Great for the New Year!