Snack bars have become huge business, whether they’re called ‘granola’ bars, ‘breakfast’ bars or just snack bars, they are thought of as a healthy snack or replacement meal for busy adults and hungry kids.
There are a multitude of brands and styles to the point that entire grocery store aisles are devoted simply to these types of bars. But the truth is not all snack bars are created equal and many are far from healthy. While they can still be a better option than cookies and chips, it doesn’t change the fact that many are just plain not good for you.
A quick look at the ingredients of many snack bars will reveal the truth and it isn’t pretty. The fact is that many are loaded with so much sugar that they might as well be re-categorized as dessert. The ingredient listing on any product is ordered by largest to smallest so if the first or second ingredient you see on any snack bar contains the words ‘sugar,’ or words like ‘corn syrup,’ high fructose corn syrup,’ ‘fructose,’ etc., then you know it’s loaded with sugar.
If these ingredients show up multiple times in the same product then you might be better off-putting the box down and moving to another to find a healthier option.
But how much sugar is too much? A good rule of thumb is to compare the grams of sugar to the grams of fiber in a bar and aim for a ratio of no more than 3 to 1. For instance, if a bar has 4 grams of fiber, it should have no more than 12 grams of sugar. Another measure is to simply not eat bars that get more than 35% of their total calories from sugar. You’ll be surprised how many bars on the market don’t meet this requirement, so make sure to check that yours does. If not, then maybe it’s time for a change because there are still great tasting bars on the market that meet these requirements and don’t rely on sugar to taste good.
Protein Requirements in Snack Food
Another good requirement for your snack bar is that it should contain a minimum of 5 grams of protein. Protein is one of the best reasons to be snacking on a bar because it will help fill your daily requirement and protein – as a rule – will help keep you feeling fuller and keep your energy up longer. It’s actually not that hard to find bars that fulfill this requirement and many have up to 10 grams (or more). Check the carbohydrate ratio to the protein and try to keep it in as much balance as possible.
If you’re going for granola bars for a snack, it’s also a good idea to get some fiber. Try to find ones that have at least 3-5 grams because like protein, it will help your energy last longer. Finding a bar with as much as 5 grams can be tough, so try to find one that at least has 3 grams. Just remember to be smart about what you’re eating and read the ingredients.
Just because you may find your favorite bar isn’t that ‘healthy’, it doesn’t mean there aren’t options out there that you can switch to that will offer the real benefits these bars should come with.