Years ago the protein bar made its debut with the Balance Bar. Stores could not keep them on the shelves. I even subscribed to them due to ease, portability and providing some nutrition on the run.
15 years later my philosophy has changed. Now when clients ask me about a healthy bar I have reservations. What are my criteria for bars and which ones fit the bill?
1. How many ingredients? If you just scan the ingredient list of 99% of bars you’ll notice they contain multiple ingredients. My usual cut-off for how many ingredients a product can have is 5-6. I have to give a little leeway with bars since so few fit the criteria and many contain multiple sources of nuts so I had to expand it to less than 13.
2. What ARE the ingredients? Is it composed of mostly nuts/seeds, fruit, a little dried fruit? Or does it contain multiple types of sugars, oils, sweeteners (maltitol, agave, xylitol, etc.) and preservatives? If it has a little cane sugar, juice, or honey those are natural sweeteners and acceptable if in small amounts. If a bar contains multiple ingredients with oils, many types of sugars or fake sweeteners I don’t recommend it. In addition, look for ingredients you can recognize and pronounce.
3. Does it have at least 5-6 grams of protein and less than 20 grams of carbohydrate? A balanced snack contains between 7-14 grams of protein with 10-20 grams of carbohydrate. An example of this type of non processed snack would be an apple with a handful of nuts.
4. Taste? This may seem obvious but some bars have a less than desirable flavor, tasting like medicine or vitamins. A balanced bar has some sort of crunch, sweetness, and density to bring you through to the next meal.
Bars are made for convenience but like other packaged foods make sure to eat in moderation behind real whole foods. The best healthy foods don’t have labels. Banana please!