Bar raising

Your new client complains of being hungry mid-morning at work. He doesn’t want to eat too much and spoil his lunch, but also doesn’t want to be ravenous during his meeting. He’s been packing various bars and wants your opinion on which to choose. With so many bars and packaged goodies to choose from, how do you know which ones are best to give you more than just a sugar rush? This week’s blog will focus on snack time. It’s not just for kids.

Let’s start with grain bars. Most will run you between 100-150 calories and many of them claim to be “made with real fruit”. While that may be true, it can hardly be counted as a fruit serving once all is said and done. A closer look at Nutrigrain bars shows a snack with 130 calories, 1 gram of fiber and 12 grams of added sugar. Where’s the fruit?  While, the bar provides 10% of the Daily Value for a handful of vitamins and minerals, with only 2 grams of protein, your client won’t be very satisfied.

Poptarts are another convenience item people often pack in their lunch or grab for a snack. “Baked with real fruit” is proudly displayed on the front package. But a closer look at the ingredient label reveals a combo platter of sweeteners including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose and sugar added. Keep reading and you’ll see dried apples and pears listed on the ingredient label. This one will give you a whopping 16 grams (4 tsp.) of added sugar, 2 grams protein and less than 1 measly gram of fiber. According to the American Heart Association, men should aim for 9 teaspoons of sugar or less per day and women should eat less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar. 1 Eat one of these and you’re well on your way.

Granola bars seem pretty innocuous, right? A peak at the front label indicates the bars are made with 100% whole grains. If this is true, why is there only 1 gram of dietary fiber per bar? The fiber likely comes from the itty-bitty amount of rolled oats drizzled on top. The lower sugar options give you 7 grams of sugar compared to 12 in the original. This still accounts for 28% of the total calories in the product. Look for bars that contain at least 3 grams of dietary fiber to provide some satiety as well as other health benefits. 2

If granola isn’t the answer, how about a protein bar? Clif bars offer a high protein version, but unless your client is really active, it will add an extra 270 calories to his daily total. One of their builder bars provides 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of saturated fat and 21 grams of added sugar. You may as well have an ice cream sundae with chopped nuts, cause that’s pretty much what you’re eating from a nutritional standpoint.

There are a handful of bars that may be worth your money. Look for those with 5 grams or less added sugar and 3 grams or less saturated fat. RX Maple bars offer 12 grams of protein, 1.5 grams saturated fat and no added sugar. While there are sugars listed on the label, these come from dates (maple water is added for flavor). KIND Nuts and Spices line have a few bars with 5 grams of sugar or less including maple pecan sea salt and caramel almond and sea salt. Lemon Luna bars by Clif are a wee bit high in sugar (9 grams/serving), but provide 9 grams of protein and 3 grams of dietary fiber.

Perhaps it’s just best to skip the bars and Eat. Real. Food. Here are some simple snack ideas to suggest:

  • A mini box of raisins and handful of almonds
  • Light string cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Apple or banana with peanut butter
  • Raw veggies and hummus
  • Greek yogurt and berries
  • 100 calorie bag of popcorn
  • Low-fat cottage cheese and tomatoes

These foods are likely less expensive, less processed, more nutritious, and easy to pack. The bar never even needs to be raised.

References:

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/dietaryfiber.html

Submitted by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

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