How and When To Choose An Energy Bar

By definition, an energy bar is any food that contains calories. Calories — in the form of carbohydrate, protein and fat — are what provide energy, not special ingredients or vitamins.

Energy bars can be healthy, but they can also be a fancy version of a typical candy bar. They are convenient because they’re easy to carry, store or eat and may make the perfect choice at some definitive times. However, they can be high in calories and fat, but low in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

There are many different kinds of energy bars, but some general categories include high carbohydrate, 40/30/30, high protein and supplement:

  • High carbohydrate bars typically target athletes and are generally low in fat.
  • 40/30/30 bars are targeted to dieters and developed after “The Zone Diet.”
  • High protein bars tend to target athletes or “people looking for sustained energy.” They have not been proven effective at this point in time.
  • Supplement bars are aimed at people who worry about missing out on a particular healthy food component like soy, fiber or calcium. They target busy moms, people who frequently skip lunch and children.

It may be best time to choose an energy bar when:

  • You want to eat a bag of cookies, but an energy bar will satisfy you instead.
  • You have a light lunch and a bar might help tide you over until dinner.
  • You took an early lunch and are going to have a late dinner.

Here are some basic guidelines for you when choosing an energy bar:

  • Look for whole ingredients.
  • Choose a bar with no more than 2g of saturated fat.
  • Choose a bar with 0g trans fats.
  • Choose a bar with at least 2g of fiber.
  • Choose a bar that does not have added stimulants, herbs or sugar.

It may or may not be a good idea to keep energy bars on hand: If you find they are helpful with your eating habits and you feel comfortable with the price and the level of fullness you have after eating one, then it make a good choice.

If energy bars just add extra calories to your typical day, they may not be the best choice for you.

– Christine Eagle M.S., Registered Dietitian, Clinical Nutrition Manager, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak

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