Bars come in handy because they're convenient and if you're lucky, fairly healthful, but that doesn't mean they're your go-to meal of choice (sorry, fresh fruits and vegetables aren't off the hook!). The right bar can be a great, satisfying and energizing snack or an occasional quick breakfast or lunch when you're traveling or seriously strapped for time.
So what you should ideally be looking for in the "perfect bar"...and hopefully this isn't as taxing as trying to find the "perfect mate".
- Skip chocolate-coated bars -- they make encourage you to crave more sweets; when you're dying for real-deal chocolate, have a small amount and make it REALLY freakin good!
- Check the nutrition label -- the calories in some heavy duty energy bars can rack up to a small meal rather than a light, nutrient-rich snack. Stick with bars that boast an average of 150-225 calories.
- The fewer the ingredients the better -- keep it simple and look for bars with ingredients you actually recognize. I've found some of the most-satisfying bars only have 3 or 4 ingredients...and they're all-natural!
So what are my top 5 favorite granola/energy bars you ask? Drum roll....(these are listed in random order.
- Kashi TLC Bars - your basic, no-nonsense granola bar in flavors like Cherry Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Roasted Almond Crunch (140 calories, 5 grams fat, 7 grams protein)
- Larabar -- simple unsweetened fruit and nut ingredients keeping it real. I love the Ginger Snap, Pecan Pie and Coconut Cream Pie flavors. (220 calories, 14 grams fat *healthy fat from the nuts!, 5 grams protein) *Bonus, they're gluten-free.
- Clif Nectar -- another unsweetened (this one's organic) fruit and nut bar with some amazingly delicious chocolate/cacao flavors -- just the way I like it (no worries, they're not coated in chocolate). Cranberry, Apricot, Almond or Dark Chocolate Mocha flavors...among others. (150 calories, 5 grams fat, 3 grams protein) *Bonus, they're gluten-free.
- GNU Flavor & Fiber Bars - LOADED with fiber (12 grams - ie. half your day's worth!), this bar is crazy filling and will keep your digestive system feeling just fine. Banana Walnut, Orange Cranberry, Peanut Butter flavors and more. (130 calories, 3 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 12 grams dietary fiber!)
- Clif Bar - while they're made with 70% organic ingredients and have some added soy protein thrown into the mix, these bars are a bit more on the hefty side, read: more calories and a little more protein, but they can come in handy when traveling or a for more satisfying breakfast on-the-run. And the guys seem to really dig them. The one downfall I must point out, it's my professional duty -- the first ingredient is 'organic brown rice syrup' (ie. a natural sweetener -- even if it's organic, it's still a sweetener). Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Cranbery Apple Cherry, Peanut Toffee Buzz, Oatmeal Raisin Walnut to name just a few. (240 calories, 5 grams fat, 10 grams protein).
There's a number of other good bars out there (Weil Pure Fruit & Nut, Odwalla, KIND Bar, to name a few). You can even custom-build your own energy or granola bar that meet your dietary specifications and taste preferences -- check out http://www.youbars.com/. Stick to basics and you can't go wrong. What's your favorite bar?thanks for the sample T.H.!