In this day and age, the amount of snack bars available to the average consumer is almost limitless. There are so many variations on the theme, too: cereal bars, breakfast bars, protein bars (see some of the benefits of protein bars), vegan energy bars; and depending on the bar, they’re marketed for different purposes. It’s not just the marketing, though – not all energy bars are the same, and some are much better for you than others.
They also have different ingredients depending on what the consumer is supposed to gain from them. For example, breakfast bars have more protein than snack bars, which helps you kickstart your morning.
Although as consumers we’re fortunate to have a slew of options from which to choose, it can be difficult to know if what we’re putting in our bodies is actually good for us. Beyond the savvy marketing and the allure of the convenient, individually wrapped bar, there are many factors to consider.
Four Keys to a Better Energy Bar
In order to determine what makes a healthy energy bar, we referred to registered dietitian Elaine Magee’s “four keys to a better bar”. These four tenets serve as her personal guide when she shops for energy bars.
First off, make sure your bar contains fiber – three grams of fiber is a good amount to look for, especially if you’re replacing breakfast with an energy bar. Fiber puts the “energy” into “energy bar”, as it keeps you full and regulates your blood sugar levels. If your bar contains a substantial amount of fiber, you’ll maintain a higher energy level for a longer period of time. Not only does fiber keep you satiated, it also promotes healthy digestion and regulates bowel movements. Other long-term health benefits of eating fiber include lower cholesterol levels, potential weight loss, and living a longer life.
But, before you check the fiber level of a bar and call it a day, make sure you know where the fiber is coming from. Fiber from whole foods like fruit and unprocessed grains is much better than from a fiber supplement. Tahoe Trail Bars are made with fiber-rich oats and dried fruit that maintain your energy levels.
Magee’s second “key to a better bar” is that a healthy bar should contain at least five grams of protein, at a minimum. Protein, in addition to fiber, gives you energy, and increases the value of an energy bar. Tahoe Trail Bars contain up to ten grams of protein, making them a hearty meal replacement or a substantial, on-the-go snack.
Still not convinced about how important protein is? Besides reducing appetite and hunger levels, protein increases muscle mass, strengthens your bones, boosts metabolism, and lowers your blood pressure.
Low Sugar Levels
The sugar level of an energy bar is essential to differentiating it from a candy bar. Many bars available these days are packed with sugar, and aren’t much better for you than a candy bar. Of course, naturally occurring sugars are fine, but you want to make sure a bar contains no added sugar.
Magee recommends bars that contain less than 35% of calories from sugar. You can calculate this number by multiplying the grams of sugar in a bar and dividing that number by the amount of calories. Tahoe Trail Bars contain no added sugar, averaging at the low amount of 22-23% of calories from sugar content.
Check the Total Fat Content
Before we get into this, let’s clarify one thing – despite all the criticism it gets, some fats are good for you...in moderation, of course. In order for the body to function and absorb nutrients, you need to consume certain fats. You can find healthy fats in nuts and seeds, two main ingredients in our bars. We don’t use trans fats, as those are artificially produced, and we take pride in our all natural energy bars.
Make sure the energy bar you’re about to eat does not contain high levels of saturated fats. According to the National Institute of Health, “protein from plant sources tends to be lower in saturated fat, contains no cholesterol, and provides fiber and other health-promoting nutrients.” Tahoe Trail Bars are 100% vegan, making it easy for you to incorporate plant-based protein (and therefore, lower amounts of fat) into your diet.
Ingredients to Avoid
Now that we have these tools under our belt, we can use those as a guide and add additional guidelines. While a bar might meet the above requirements, it could also contain ingredients that we want to avoid. First off, while fiber is important, we want to stick to naturally occurring fiber found in fruit and grains, and avoid inulin, which is a type of fiber supplement. In large amounts, it can upset your stomach.
Another important ingredient to avoid is high fructose corn syrup, which is a chemically made sweetener – gross! Other “natural” sweeteners, like brown rice syrup and agave, are not actually as healthy as we make them out to be. Agave contains more fructose than high fructose corn syrup! We recommend sticking to energy bars that have no added sugar (only naturally occuring sugars), like Tahoe Trail Bars.
Tahoe Trail Bars are All-Natural, Healthy Energy Bars
With so many options and distracting buzzwords, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you’re looking for a healthy energy bar. Our final word of advice is to avoid eating anything made with things you can’t pronounce, or with an ingredient list that takes up the entire wrapper. If you feel good about all the ingredients, then trust your gut.
At Tahoe, we pride ourselves on making our bars with unprocessed, non-GMO ingredients. It makes us feel better to know exactly what we’re putting into our bodies. As a bonus, our unprocessed, whole grains and dried fruit, seeds, and nuts contain more vitamins and nutrients than processed foods. When you’re on the trail or in the middle of a busy work day, you can count on Tahoe Trail Bars to provide you with a healthy snack or meal replacement.