Blog, Health

Snacks That Raise the Bar

You may be familiar with health professionals suggesting that you eat snacks throughout the day, and ‘snack bars’ seem like an obvious choice. But walk into that aisle of the grocery store and you are bombarded with bright colors, health claims, and messages on each and every box. Which ones are better choices and which ones are more like camouflaged candy bars?

In addition to a good amount of fiber, you also want a snack bar to have several grams of protein and fat to balance out the carbohydrates from the grains and not to have too many grams of sugar (aim for 10 grams or less).

Quaker makes an easy lesson for us with its “Breakfast Cookies.” At least they are not hiding anything with this product – with 220 calories and 19 grams of sugar, this breakfast item surely is just a cookie fortified with a handful of vitamins. You will find that other bars are often little more than vitamin-fortified Rice Krispies Treats.

The new Oats and Chocolate Fiber One Bar touts 35% of the daily value of fiber in huge print on the front of the box. I give this product an honorable mention. With drizzled chocolate on top and chocolate chips inside, this bar is a sweet and tasty treat. The nutritional information is 140 calories and 9 grams of fiber, but it also has 10 grams of sugar and only 2 grams of protein. In addition, these bars contain high fructose corn syrup, as well as hydrogenated coconut oil. On the other hand, I highly recommend Fiber One cereal as a breakfast food or snack (mix with nuts and dried fruit for a fantastic homemade trail mix). One-half cup has only 60 calories and 15 grams of fiber.

All-Bran also has a bar that I will give an honorable mention. It advertises 20% of your daily fiber needs on the package. Each bar has about 130 calories, 5 grams of fiber, only half a gram of saturated fat, and no refined grains. It has moderately high sugar at 11 grams, but at least it comes with a decent dose of fiber. In contrast, Post Raisin Bran Cereal Bars have only 3 grams of fiber and some refined “wheat flakes” mixed in with their whole grains. Even lower on the continuum would be Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch bars – they have more white rice than any whole grain, leaving each bar with only one gram of fiber. Why even use bran in the name of that bar?

Kashi is a current favorite brand of mine. They now have hot and cold cereals, granola bars, snack bars, and yes, you heard it here, cookies!, all made with their signature seven-grain blend. A cookie with 3-4 grams of fiber may be a nutritionists dream come true. Their TLC crunchy and chewy granola bars, as well as their GoLean snack bars are great choices for snacks on the run. The granola bars have 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein, and 5-7 grams of sugar. The snack bars have 6 grams of fiber and 9-12 grams of protein. (Numbers vary depending on the flavor). In addition, all of the ingredients are natural – no manufactured sugars or hydrogenated oils.

As you can see, it is all relative. Kashi remains my top choice of brand. However, keep in mind these guidelines when checking food labels: Look for at least 4 or 5 grams of fiber and protein and less than 10 grams of sugar. Read over the ingredient list. Is it nice and short? Can you pronounce all of the words? Going with the old adage that “we are what we eat,” it is nice to at least be able to pronounce what we are putting inside our bodies.

Snack on! Without constant sources of energy throughout the day, your mental clarity and mood are sure to suffer. If you don’t believe it – ask your coworkers or family. They may hint at a few mood swings, depending on the last time you have eaten that day.

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