It's so secret we are big fans of snacking. Having snacks between meals can be an important part of healthy eating habits. Snacks can be an opportunity to add more nutrition to your day—think fruit, plain yogurt, nut and nut butters, or vegetables and hummus. Balanced snacks can stave off hunger pains and prevent you from overeating later in the day.
Most of the time, it’s best to snack on real, whole foods like those listed above—something with a combination of good quality carbohydrates (think fiber), protein and good fat. But sometimes, you need a quick, easy and convenient snack to tide you over when you don’t have access to a kitchen or refrigerator. And that’s where snack bars come in.
So, what should you look for in a snack bar?
- 225 calories or less per bar. Any more than this, and the bar actually becomes a meal. If you have weight loss goals, you may want to choose a snack bar that has around 150 calories.
- Bars made from whole food ingredients, like nuts, dried fruit and whole grains. Bars with ingredients you don’t understand or can’t pronounce should be a last resort.
- The first ingredient should not be a form of sugar—sugar, honey, dextrose, sucrose, agave, maple syrup, etc. Even better, the first three ingredients should not be a form of sugar.
- Ideally, the bar should not have any added sugar. The sweetness should just come from dried fruit. However, these bars are not always easy to find.
- At least 5 grams of protein.
- At least 3 grams of fiber. Ideally, the fiber should come from whole food sources, not fiber additives (like inulin).
- No hydrogenated oils (trans fats).
Be sure to read labels and not be deceived by marketing. Even within the same brand, different flavors can have varying ingredients and nutrition information. Many snack bars are actually just candy bars in disguise. However, they can be a part of a healthy diet, when eaten as a snack or treat, not as a meal replacement.