We’ve all started to become label readers but so often we still fall for the marketing of ‘healthy’ brands and omit to read the small print. The so-called marketing ‘health halo’ is here to stay so if you’re looking for an energy bar that truly provides energy, instead of zapping it, you better start looking at the ingredient labels.
No two bars are equal! The key is trying to choose a bar that adds value to your diet and contributes a balance of protein, fibre, whole grains, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. If you get it right your snacks will keep blood-sugar levels, and thus your mood, stable, and can even help you stay focused. I advocate snacking throughout the day if you need it but snacking on healthy wholefoods which fill you up and satisfy your mind and mouth are what it’s all about. When your body is hungry what it’s asking for is nutrient not calories so make some good choices and feed your soul.
Where to start when you’re navigating the biscuit or cereal aisle is crucial:
1. Look for a bar that contains a minimum of 5-7 grams of protein.
Protein helps you to feel full for longer giving you a feeling of satiety. Try to drink a glass of water before a bar too as we often think we are hungry when we are in fact dehydrated. Drinking alongside a protein bar will also help to hydrate your body enabling fibre to pass through your digestive system more efficiently.
There’s no need to go for a bar with an overwhelming amount of protein as excess protein doesn’t go directly to your muscles but will be eliminated or stored as fat. And be sure to check to see that you’re getting protein from wholefoods – like nuts and seeds, as opposed to highly processed ingredients mostly from isolates.
2. Ensure the main source of sugar comes from fruit.
Avoid bars where the sugar sources are added sugars, sweeteners, or sugar alcohols. Check for sugar in disguise it can appear as maltose, dextrose, organic can juice, rice syrup etc. Look for sugar in the form of real fruit or plant based sugar like stevia. Look for a maximum of 15g per 100g. You’ll be amazed at how many ‘heathy bars’ contain 35+ grammes of sugar - that’s the equivalent of nearly 9 teaspoons of sugar!
3. Choose a bar with healthy carbohydrates.
Look for whole grains on the ingredient list: oats, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth etc. They all make healthy choices. The fibre provided by these grains will help keep your digestive system moving too!
4. Calories count.
Be mindful of the calories you are consuming as a snack. It’s all too easy to snack on high calorie foods without noticing or adding them into your daily total. Ideally you want to keep your snack bar between 150 and 200 calories, especially if you’re trying to maintain your weight.
5. Don’t be fat phobic.
Helpful fats derived from seeds and nuts can be deliciously satisfying, and certain fats (like almonds and walnuts) are known to be good for us. They can help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood-sugar levels so look out for bars where fat is derived from a seed or nut source.
6. Make sure it looks like the pack.
Ok you’re not lapping up Ronseal (remember those ‘does what it says on the tin’ ads) but you want your bar to look like the ingredients displayed on the pack! You want to be able to see the ingredients - the nuts, grains, and fruit that appear on its ingredient list.
I’ve long relied on flapjack, granola and energy bars as a snack of choice but some are far better than others so become a label reader and get educated on what to look for. Raise the bar and make some healthy choices today - your body will thank you. Here’s a bar I love.
Here are my favourite healthy bar recipes if want to make your own:
Magical Matcha Energy Protein balls – ok they’re not bars they’re balls but you can squish them into bars and they’re one of my favourites!