Is Your Protein Bar, Energy Bar, or Nutrition Bar Actually Healthy, or Are They Just Candy Bars in Disguise?

October 5, 2010

The Truth May Surprise You…

by Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer

There are so many types of “health bars” on the market today, how do you know if you’re actually buying something healthy or junk food in disguise?

Again, just as I’ve talked about grocery store food choices, you really need to know how to read labels if you’re going to stand a chance at finding a truly healthy food bar.

To be quite honest, most of the nutrition bars out there are pure junk food… candy bars disguised through labeling as a health food bar.

Just recently, I was going on a mountain bike ride and needed a quick nutrition bar to make sure I had enough energy for the ride.

Well, I didn’t have any of my usual healthy food bars on me, so my friend gave me an extra Slimfast bar he had.

Keep in mind that this Slimfast bar is marketed as a “health food”, that is supposedly appropriate for someone trying to lose weight.

What a freakin joke these bars are! In my opinion, these Slimfast bars are WORSE for you than a candy bar!

Back to these “worse for you than candy bars” Slimfast bars… not only are they a disaster nutritionally, but the bar tasted horrible… it tasted like chemicals and was way too overly sweet (not a surprise with all of the corn syrup, sugar, sugar alcohols, AND artificial sweeteners). This is a prime example of “over-engineering” of food.

So how do you determine a healthy nutrition bar?

I look for simplicity in a good bar. Many of the healthiest and tastiest bars I’ve found have only a couple basic ingredients such as nuts, seeds, and fruit. I also look for organic ingredients and raw ingredients if possible.

A couple of my favorite truly healthy bars:

1. Organic Food Bars – This is actually the brand name.

Depending on which flavor, these are usually a base of organic almond butter (or cashew butter) with a certain type of fruit, organic seeds, organic biosprouts (quinoa, etc), and some organic rice protein. Some flavors include an organic dark chocolate as well. They also have a line of bars that use exclusively raw ingredients.

Not only are these food bars extremely nutritious, but I think they are delicious as well and have a lot of flavors to choose from such as blueberry, cranberry, chocolate chip, high protein, and more.

You won’t find these bars at your local grocery store, but I have found them at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and several health food markets.

2. Lara-bars – These are even simpler in ingredients than organic food bars. Usually larabars are just 2 or 3 ingredients, and mostly raw… a blend of crushed nuts along with a type of fruit is the usual combination, but they have a lot of different flavors so it can vary.

These are also delicious and you will NEVER see a list of chemicals a mile long in their ingredient list… usually just nuts and fruit, and that’s it! Simple IS better. I don’t know who this Lara is, but she made a great product.

Again, I’ve found these bars at various health food markets.

3. Prograde Cravers – These are made by Prograde Nutrition. I know the founders of this company personally and am good friends with them, so I have a high level of trust in their nutritional products.

These are definitely some of the tastiest nutrition bars I’ve ever had (especially the peanut butter flavor!)… and they are also made with all organic ingredients using nut butters, rice protein, organic dark chocolate, etc.

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