Energy bars offer a delicious, convenient way of keeping your body fueled during hectic days and challenging workouts. But some energy bars are loaded with sugar and are essentially candy bars in disguise. Learn what to look for in an energy bar, so you can choose one that offers the nutrition and energy boost you need.
DO: Choose bars with these ingredients:
- Whole Grains: Whole grains are a healthy source of carbohydrates and fiber to help keep you feeling full. But be aware some ingredient descriptions may sound like a whole grain, but isn’t truly a whole grain. For example, oats are always considered whole grains. Whole wheat flour is fine, but if the packaging just says wheat flour then it is not a whole grain.
- Nuts and seeds: Get your “good fats” from the protein and fiber they provide.
- Dried Fruits: Provide a natural sweetener and are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
DON’T: Choose bars with these ingredients:
- Too Much Sugar: Avoid any bar that has more than 18 grams of sugar. If sugar is near the top of the ingredients list, then you know it’s not for you.
- Partially-Hydrogenated Oils: Otherwise known as trans-fats, these are man-made fats and have been associated with numerous health issues.
- Artificial Ingredients: Look out for artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners. Basically avoid anything that you don’t recognize as a real food in the ingredient list.
DO: Look for a bar with a carb-to-protein ratio of 3-to-1 or 4-to-1. The protein allows the carbs to be digested and absorbed more slowly, and you’ll get longer-lasting energy. Just divide the grams of carbohydrate by four and then by three to get a range. For example: If a bar has 42 grams of carbohydrates, look for roughly 10 to 14 grams of protein.
DON’T: Use them to replace regular meals. Energy bars are not a substitute for real food. Continue to eat a balanced, healthy diet.
DO: Look for at least 3, but no more than 5 grams of fiber. Fiber aids digestion and helps you feel fuller. However, too much fiber may cause digestion problems, so avoid bars with more than five grams.
DON’T: Over-supplement with fortified bars. Many energy bars are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and if you eat these bars regularly while taking daily vitamin supplements, you could oversupplement. This can create health problems, so keep track of the daily allowances and stay within range.
DO: Count calories. Energy bars can have just as many calories as candy bars, so pay attention. If you don’t burn them off, those calories will turn into extra weight.