Energy bars are a poor choice for dieters. Even those bars that may seem to be a nutritious choice. Let me explain why.
The precise meaning of an energy bar is calories. Calories provide potential energy to sustain activity but we also know too many calories, especially the WRONG KIND of calories can end up as stored fat. Let me show you why it is all too easy to make the wrong choice when picking out a nutrition bar.
I’ll use the Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar as an example. This 250 calorie energy bar is packed with seemingly good nutrition and it tastes good as well! As a substitute for a meal it may seem like a good choice. For active athletes such as the founder of Clif bars, it might be a very good choice but not for the average dieter.
1 Bar: 250 calories
Calories from Fat: 60
Protein: 11 grams
Total Fat: 6 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Dietary Fiber: 4 grams
Looks like a good choice? Not too many calories say as a substitute for lunch? A fair amount of protein. Low fat. Very low saturated fat and no cholesterol. A good source of dietary fiber.
All this would seem good. But take a closer look. This time take a look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed by weight from the ingredient with the greatest weight to least.
1st Ingredient: Organic Brown Rice Syrup
This is simply another name for SUGAR
2nd Ingredient: Clifpro [Soy Rice Crisps (Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract) Soy Flour, Organic Roasted Soybeans) ]
Soy may be a good choice as a whole food such as tofu (if you like it which I don’t!), edamame beans (I do like!), or soy milk (I do like). But many health professionals including me do not recommend getting your protein from an isolate such as soy protein isolate.
One reason for avoiding protein isolates is that you don’t get the “full package” of healthful ingredients as nature intended. But you do when you eat whole foods and whole ingredients. The other reason is that protein isolates often come packaged with a lot of sugar to mask the unpleasant taste.
3rd Ingredient: Organic Rolled Oats
O.k. this may be better BUT it doesn’t say “Whole” rolled oats.
4th Ingredient: Organic Cane Syrup
Another name for more _________? Yes, you guessed it: SUGAR!
5th Ingredient: Organic Peanut Butter
This is a better source of protein than the soy protein isolate. When eating peanut butter you get all the associated nutrients as nature intended.
The rest of the ingredients listed on the package includes trace amounts of nutrients (mostly added vitamins and minerals).
In addition to the revealing information in the ingredients label, there is additional information on the nutrition facts label we may have missed the first time around.
A SECOND LOOK AT THE NUTRITION FACTS LABEL
What we may have missed from looking at the Nutrition Panel is the total carbs of 41 grams and out of that number 21 grams are SUGAR. Because a teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4 grams, this bar has more than 5 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR.
Would you intentionally choose 5 teaspoons of sugar for lunch? Or breakfast? Or a snack?
I wouldn’t choose this bar. But oh wait…I actually have enjoyed one on occasion. They taste good and seemed good for me… at a glance. You see I don’t always read labels as closely as I should. But now I have. I may still enjoy one as a treat or when I’m out on the road and have nothing better to eat. BUT I won’t delude myself into thinking this is good for me.
My recommendation is to leave this kind of nutrition bar and all others like it in on the shelf for the intended consumer: the very active athlete who needs extra energy and will burn off all of those sugar calories. Remember the label? This is indeed an ENERGY BAR. The small print says “Nutrition for Sustained Energy.”
Avoiding sugar and refined carbohydrates is important for most people whether you are counting calories or not. It is especially important if you experience insulin resistance. My recommendation is to avoid most meal and snack bars. Or make your own to have more control over the calories. It’s much easier than you might think.
Wishing you a healthy low calorie week!