Nutrition bars: the new fast food

Doctors To YouDWC feature, health, WellnessLeave a Comment

Fast food doesn’t always come by way of a drive-thru window with a combination of over-fried mystery meat and potatoes scorched by trans fats.

With all of various types of diets and eating styles today, it’s evident that Americans are becoming more health conscious; however, that doesn’t mean that we have any additional time to spend on finding or preparing meals to compliment these sustainable lifestyles.

Sure, smoothies and shakes are great, but even those take time that we don’t always have. Fortunately, we don’t always have to cook, blend, or shake our nutrition, especially while on go.

From Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, to Costco and vitamin stores, expect to be overwhelmed by choices of bars.

The market for nutrition bars is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is rising every year.  “Millennials and Gen X are the most likely consumersThe low barrier of entry means new entrants keep coming in.”

This means that there’s an overabundance of choices--some good, some not-so-good--which means you might need a little help in deciding the ones you want to spend your time and money on.

They can go by many names: snack bars, nutrition bars, energy bars, protein bars, cereal bars, granola bars, wellness bars… But no matter what they call it, you want to make sure you’re getting best bang for your nutritional buck.


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Fast food doesn’t always come by way of a drive-thru window with a combination of over-fried mystery meat and potatoes scorched by trans fats.

With all of various types of diets and eating styles today, it’s evident that Americans are becoming more health conscious; however, that doesn’t mean that we have any additional time to spend on finding or preparing meals to compliment these sustainable lifestyles.

Sure, smoothies and shakes are great, but even those take time that we don’t always have. Fortunately, we don’t always have to cook, blend, or shake our nutrition, especially while on go.

From Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, to Costco and vitamin stores, expect to be overwhelmed by choices of bars.

The market for nutrition bars is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is rising every year.  “Millennials and Gen X are the most likely consumersThe low barrier of entry means new entrants keep coming in.”

This means that there’s an overabundance of choices--some good, some not-so-good--which means you might need a little help in deciding the ones you want to spend your time and money on.

They can go by many names: snack bars, nutrition bars, energy bars, protein bars, cereal bars, granola bars, wellness bars… But no matter what they call it, you want to make sure you’re getting best bang for your nutritional buck.


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Consider your nutrition first

With hundreds of options to choose from, it’s easy to get confused about what’s good--both in taste and in health.

For a quick snack or meal substitute and you’re not overly concerned about sticking to a specific diet types that insists on macronutrient requirements--like high protein or high fat--you want to look for bars with whole ingredients. Basically, if there are just a handful of whole ingredients, and you can read them and know exactly what they are, then it’s likely the safest.


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The Best (healthiest):

  1. When it comes to healthy, you want to keep it simple, and LARABAR does just that. Dubbed “the original fruit and nut bar,” that’s all they use to make these delicious, whole food snacks.

Their variety of flavors include three to eight ingredients, all of which you can pronounce, and the best part is that the company is plant-based, meaning the bars are vegan, as well as soy and gluten free!

  1. EPIC falls on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They’re a grass-fed meat-based fruit and nut bar, inspired by the way our ancestors ate--what we now call “Paleo,” which emphasizes healthy animal fats, grass fed protein, and leafy vegetables.

They do have fruit and nut bars, but their popular meat bars have options from boar to bison, and just about every animal in between.

  1. If you’re looking for another snack with simple ingredients, RX BAR has made quite the name for itself. In fact, they literally have the phrase, “No B.S.” written on the packaging along with its minimal list of whole ingredients.

Not a vegan option because they do contain egg whites, which serves as a protein source; however, this calorie dense bar can double as a snack or energy booster considering the carbs from the dates and protein.


    Image

    Consider your nutrition first

    With hundreds of options to choose from, it’s easy to get confused about what’s good--both in taste and in health.

    For a quick snack or meal substitute and you’re not overly concerned about sticking to a specific diet types that insists on macronutrient requirements--like high protein or high fat--you want to look for bars with whole ingredients. Basically, if there are just a handful of whole ingredients, and you can read them and know exactly what they are, then it’s likely the safest.


    Image

    The Best (healthiest):

    1. When it comes to healthy, you want to keep it simple, and LARABAR does just that. Dubbed “the original fruit and nut bar,” that’s all they use to make these delicious, whole food snacks.

    Their variety of flavors include three to eight ingredients, all of which you can pronounce, and the best part is that the company is plant-based, meaning the bars are vegan, as well as soy and gluten free!

    1. EPIC falls on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They’re a grass-fed meat-based fruit and nut bar, inspired by the way our ancestors ate--what we now call “Paleo,” which emphasizes healthy animal fats, grass fed protein, and leafy vegetables.

    They do have fruit and nut bars, but their popular meat bars have options from boar to bison, and just about every animal in between.

    1. If you’re looking for another snack with simple ingredients, RX BAR has made quite the name for itself. In fact, they literally have the phrase, “No B.S.” written on the packaging along with its minimal list of whole ingredients.

    Not a vegan option because they do contain egg whites, which serves as a protein source; however, this calorie dense bar can double as a snack or energy booster considering the carbs from the dates and protein.


      Image

      Maybe eat this (if you’re in a pinch)

      If you’re in a bind and need something to as close to healthy as possible, KIND is one of the most popular bar brands on the market. You can find them anywhere, from the grocery store to the coffee shop.

      They have a variety of flavors, and sure, some of them are more indulgent than others. The good thing is that they do use a fruits and nuts; the problem is the amount of added sugars (by many names).

      Because of this, we can’t in good conscience tell you these are among the healthiest options on the market, but because they can be found so conveniently, they're listed as a possible choice if you’re desperate for something that’s fast but not “fast food.” Choose wisely, though.





      The unhealthiest (stay away from this!)

      Again, watch out for sugar. Traditional granola bars typically use brown sugar, or some type of syrup for flavor and to help hold it together. It’s tastes great, but the high sugar content will likely lead to extra lbs around your waste.

      Too many ingredients. If you look at the back of the package and there’s a literal paragraph, chances are you should avoid it. Again, these are likely not whole meals, they’re just snacks, so there’s just no need for 20 ingredients in a snack.


      Image

      Maybe eat this (if you’re in a pinch)

      If you’re in a bind and need something to as close to healthy as possible, KIND is one of the most popular bar brands on the market. You can find them anywhere, from the grocery store to the coffee shop.

      They have a variety of flavors, and sure, some of them are more indulgent than others. The good thing is that they do use a fruits and nuts; the problem is the amount of added sugars (by many names).

      Because of this, we can’t in good conscience tell you these are among the healthiest options on the market, but because they can be found so conveniently, they're listed as a possible choice if you’re desperate for something that’s fast but not “fast food.” Choose wisely, though.





      The unhealthiest (stay away from this!)

      Again, watch out for sugar. Traditional granola bars typically use brown sugar, or some type of syrup for flavor and to help hold it together. It’s tastes great, but the high sugar content will likely lead to extra lbs around your waste.

      Too many ingredients. If you look at the back of the package and there’s a literal paragraph, chances are you should avoid it. Again, these are likely not whole meals, they’re just snacks, so there’s just no need for 20 ingredients in a snack.


      Image

      High protein

      Brands that market to the protein-conscience crowd might be the trickiest to analyze with regard to pure health benefits and whole foods.

      A high protein bars might have 20 grams or more of protein and 200 calories. However, the ingredients list can often be so robust--including non-whole foods--that it makes it difficult for us to recommend it as a “healthy” option.

      When it comes to protein bars that keep it simple, RISE BAR might be clear frontrunner. They use only a handful of healthy ingredients and are still able to get you 15 - 20 grams of protein per bar!

      QUEST has long been a leader in the protein space and they have a great variety of flavors, from birthday cake to cookies and cream. This list of ingredients isn’t very long and they try to use sweeteners that make have less of a negative impact.


      Image

      Specialty (high fat)

      BULLETPROOF was at the forefront of fat-based eating, or what we now know as Keto. So that have a great collection of products, including bars, that are low carb/high fat, and that tastes incredible.

      Targeting the Keto crowd with higher fat and lower carb ingredients is DANG. They have a growing list of products but their bars currently comes in three flavors and has pretty straightforward ingredients


      Image

      The takeaway

      There’s no way we could cover all of the bars on the market. Actually, several new ones have probably hit the shelves between this story being started and finished!

      Whatever bar you chose, just consider the takeaways from this story:

      1. Always choose whole food ingredients: nuts, fruits, maybe some protein, and meat. That’s it.

      2. Look out for the ingredients we don’t love:

      -- Sugar. Avoid sugar in all of its many forms: brown rice syrup, glucose syrup, cane sugar, etc.

      -- Soy. Avoid soy of any kind, including soy protein and soy lecithin. Soy is one of the most common and most easily genetically modified food sources in the world, so although it’s not completely avoidable, we generally choose to limit it, especially its by-products, i.e. lecithin. If you must consume it, make sure it’s organic.

      -- Certain oils. Avoid certain oils. Vegetable oil such as, soybean oil, corn oil, rice bran oil, and peanut oil should be avoided.

      Among oils that are good to consume that we’ve seen in bars are: olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, and Bulletbroof’s XCT oil.

      3. And if you’re in a pinch, at least look at what’s listed first or high on the ingredients list.

      They list ingredients by most prevalent to least. So sugar of some kind should not be the first ingredient in your food.

      If all else fails, just make your own bars.





      High protein

      Brands that market to the protein-conscience crowd might be the trickiest to analyze with regard to pure health benefits and whole foods.

      A high protein bars might have 20 grams or more of protein and 200 calories. However, the ingredients list can often be so robust--including non-whole foods--that it makes it difficult for us to recommend it as a “healthy” option.

      When it comes to protein bars that keep it simple, RISE BAR might be clear frontrunner. They use only a handful of healthy ingredients and are still able to get you 15 - 20 grams of protein per bar!

      QUEST has long been a leader in the protein space and they have a great variety of flavors, from birthday cake to cookies and cream. This list of ingredients isn’t very long and they try to use sweeteners that make have less of a negative impact.


      Image

      Specialty (high fat)

      BULLETPROOF was at the forefront of fat-based eating, or what we now know as Keto. So that have a great collection of products, including bars, that are low carb/high fat, and that tastes incredible.

      Targeting the Keto crowd with higher fat and lower carb ingredients is DANG. They have a growing list of products but their bars currently comes in three flavors and has pretty straightforward ingredients


      Image

      The takeaway

      There’s no way we could cover all of the bars on the market. Actually, several new ones have probably hit the shelves between this story being started and finished!

      Whatever bar you chose, just consider the takeaways from this story:

      1. Always choose whole food ingredients: nuts, fruits, maybe some protein, and meat. That’s it.

      2. Look out for the ingredients we don’t love:

      -- Sugar. Avoid sugar in all of its many forms: brown rice syrup, glucose syrup, cane sugar, etc.

      -- Soy. Avoid soy of any kind, including soy protein and soy lecithin. Soy is one of the most common and most easily genetically modified food sources in the world, so although it’s not completely avoidable, we generally choose to limit it, especially its by-products, i.e. lecithin. If you must consume it, make sure it’s organic.

      -- Certain oils. Avoid certain oils. Vegetable oil such as, soybean oil, corn oil, rice bran oil, and peanut oil should be avoided.

      Among oils that are good to consume that we’ve seen in bars are: olive oil, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, and Bulletbroof’s XCT oil.

      3. And if you’re in a pinch, at least look at what’s listed first or high on the ingredients list.

      They list ingredients by most prevalent to least. So sugar of some kind should not be the first ingredient in your food.

      If all else fails, just make your own bars.




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