Friday, April 5, 2019

Nutrition Bars

Thank you all for playing along in my bar challenge! It was, however, a bit of a trick question because comparing some of these to others wasn’t fair (protein bar to snack bar) and it’s true that I am definitely missing some other good options in the mix, such as RX bars and others like EPIC.

However, the point of this project was to create a lesson for my clients regarding reading labels and being keenly aware of choices we make when it comes to anything processed (i.e. other than whole foods).

I am a realist, and I too rely somewhat on convenience items like bars. And when a couple of my clients recently asked for my opinions on a bar they were eating, I told them what I liked about it, and what I didn’t. Then, it was up to them to decide if they wanted to include space for it in their diet.

The main takeaway here is that a lot of these bars are high in sugar, full of processed food by-products such as vegetable glycerin and manufactured “fibers” and also some not so great oils. It’s also important to consider other factors like the number of ingredients in each bar, the ORDER of ingredients, as well as how much fiber and protein they contain.

Are they all terrible? No. Are some better than others? For sure.

We need to remember that there is often a good purpose for these bars. If it’s a choice between using a bar to help you quell your “hanger” before you raid your pantry when you walk in the door after work, it’s a positive thing. If you choose a Larabar instead of a giant piece of cake, it’s a positive thing. If you’re out running errands and it’s a choice between going through the McDonalds drive-thru or having a bar, then I’d also say that was generally positive.

I am not going to demonize one over another because the truth is that most of them fall into a middle range of ok once in a while. There are so many personal preferences given the types of proteins available (vegan, whey, soy), individual taste and even cost.

Here are some guidelines when choosing bars (GENERALLY speaking):

Stay away from bars that list sugar as one of the first two or three ingredients; have more than 10 or so ingredients; have lots of ingredients that are unknown to you.

More often choose bars that: contain whole food ingredients; contain fiber; contain at least 10g of protein (for satiation); aren’t full of fake sweeteners.

Even better options: Your own nut/seed/dried fruit mixes; a handful of nuts and portable fruit (such as an apple or banana); air-popped popcorn; beef/turkey jerky; veggies and hummus; crackers and cheese; hard-boiled eggs.

So, having said all that, in my opinion, my own personal choice from all of these would have been the Meatbar, as unappetizing as it sounds. The reason I chose the Meatbar was because it is overall the least processed, contains an excellent source of protein (grass-fed beef) and the other ingredients are basically spices. It offers 12g of protein for a small amount of calories, and that would likely keep me satiated for a while. 

To be fair, I haven’t actually tried this bar, but I have tried an EPIC bar and another similar bar and really liked them. The Meatbar is apparently the first meat snack in the Canadian market in “bar” format, and it contains pasture raised, grass-fed beef. (NOTE: I did send the parent company, Greenspace Brands) an email to confirm where the beef is sourced, but haven't heard back yet). 

I wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t mention that if you do choose a “meat” bar (or jerky), it’s ideal to ensure that the animals used in the making of these bars were ethically raised (on pasture) without the use of added hormones or antibiotics.  

So at the end of the day, you need to ask yourself what the goal is with the bar, if it makes sense to include it in your diet, and if you actually enjoy it (because in some cases, you’re just better off having a damned candy bar). Do your homework, read the labels, and if it works, include it in your diet – just don’t rely on bars to provide too much of your nutrition needs. Your body prefers what it knows: WHOLE foods ;)

Follow-Up Articles: 

Soluble Corn Fiber (Maltodextrin)

Soy Protein Issues

Curious to know what vegetable glycerin is?

What’s the deal with inulin?

Oligosaccharides (another sweetener)

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