Smart Shopping for Nutrition Bars

Are you seeking the perfect nutrition bar? This is not an easy pursuit. The tremendous allotment of nutritional bars available on most grocery store shelves coupled with the great variance of ingredients and nutrients can create a frustrating shopping and eating experience. Such bars can serve as a fairly healthy meal, a snack on-the-go or a healthy way to feed a sweet tooth craving, but the purchase and partaking should be done so with education and mindful intent.

What to Look for

A healthy nutrition bar will contain vitamins and a balance of healthy carbohydrate (preferably from whole grains) and fiber, lean protein and a bit of healthy fat. Read nutrition labels carefully. In general, the few ingredients, the healthier and more natural the bar. Naturally sweetened bars (sweetened with fructose, honey, Stevia or a sucralose sweetener) is preferred over those containing corn syrup or other hidden sugars. Look for bars that are low or void of saturated fats and modest in amounts of fat overall. Optimally, the bar will contain 30 percent of your daily nutrient needs (if it is to replace a meal), no trans-fats and less than 3 grams of saturated fat. Bars at health food stores tend to be better choices in general. Or, make your own nutrition bars from whole grain cereal and natural sweeteners can be a fun and healthy option, and an enjoyable dessert alternative for adults and kids alike. They keep well in the refrigerator or freezer and are far less expensive!

Common Pitfalls

Viewing a nutritional bar as a meal or snack that equates the nutrition in actual foods is a mistake. Do not think that eating a protein or energy bar makes you healthy. The packaging and labels can be deceptive, while many are not far removed from eating an actual candy bar (though generally with a dose of vitamins). Some bars actually have excessive nutrients, so check labels carefully and when in doubt, seek a dietary professional’s opinion on the bar’s ingredients. Many low-carbohydrate bars contain sugar alcohols, which, in larger doses may result in gas, cramping and/or a laxative effect. Lastly, we do not have long-term scientific data regarding the effects of many bars. So, as with most foods, enjoy in moderation but do not feel the bars are a necessary addition or substitute for food in a healthy person’s diet.

About this Author

August Johnson is a certified nutritionist and dietary expert with a background in wellness, athletics, healthy cooking, eating disorders and special diets. She is a professional speaker, nutritional therapist/culinary teacher and the author of “The Feed Your Starving Artist Cookbook.”