The Nutrition Bars You Should Be Eating

nutrition bars

Although actual bars on the go would make for a fantastic post, today I am talking nutrition bars: my go-to for when there’s no time to sit and eat a proper meal.
On occasion I prepare lunch to take along with me but on other mornings, my time management pretty much sucks.
I remember my first so-called “nutrition bar” that I toted along to my weekly tennis games in the late 90’s, called the Power Bar. It was chewy, tasty and probably contained more calories than I’d care to imagine. Fast forward to 2018, the market is literally flooded with nutrition bars and I’ve had more than my share of tastings – Luna Bar, Cliff Bar, Kind Bar, RX Bar, Quest Bar, Lara Bar, NuGo Bars, and Biogenesis Bars – you get the picture.
Not all bars are created equal and luckily, my dear friend and nutritionist, Tanya Zuckerbrot, educated me on the importance of reading labels carefully. She said when choosing a bar, focus on high fiber, high protein and low sugar content. Tanya cut to the chase by creating the ideal nutritional bar that supports her philosophy on healthy eating. While they are soon to be released, I had the good fortune of a taste test and while I am obsessed with the apple cinnamon flavor and chocolate mint, I can’t wait to taste her peanut butter bars.

Currently, I’ve been eating Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Lara Bars but I decided to reach out to four nutritionists whose opinion I respect, to weigh in on their favorite nutrition bars along with a few tips for picking out the perfect bar for you!

nutrition bars

nutrition bars

Shop the look here:

Laurie Lloyd of Liv Light

  1. Which bar do you recommend as a snack and/or meal replacement when on the go?
    I always encourage people to choose real, whole foods first, but bars can definitely be a convenient option. They are most certainly better than grabbing actual fast food when on-the-run or when traveling.
    I like No Cow Bars and Dale’s Raw Food  for vegan options and F-Factor Bars and Primal Kitchen for non-vegan!
    For my kids I like a homemade bar  or one made with real ingredients like Lara Bars, which are just nuts and dates!
  2. What should one look for when reading nutrition labels on bars?
    There is really no one perfect bar, but I try to look for high protein, high fiber, and low sugar.
  3. If you were to replace a meal with a bar, would you do so for breakfast or lunch? Can you please explain your choice?
    Sometimes if I’m in a big rush I will have my matcha and a bar for breakfast! I find that to be plenty to get me through until lunch. For lunch I prefer something more nutrient dense like a large salad with tons of veggies and lean protein.
  4. I’ve heard nutritionists recommend  drinking an entire bottle of water when eating a bar to help fill you up? Does this really work and if so, for how long should it keep you satisfied?
    Yes, it helps the fiber expand to keep you full longer. I always recommend three liters of water per day. I try to have one liter by 10am, another by 1pm, and a third by 3pm. This gives you lots of extra time in the day if you can’t get it in early and won’t have you up all night going to the bathroom. I like to remind people not to have more than one liter per hour though, this can be hard on your kidneys. Always check with your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.
  5. What are some ingredients that one should avoid when looking for bars?
    I used to LOVE a bar made with Soy Protein Isolate and then was told my a nutritionist friend that she thinks this is the number one worst ingredient you can eat, so I stay away from that.

Shop Liv Light’s recommendations here:

nutrition bars

Lara Metz of Lara Metz Nutrition

  1. Which bar do you recommend as a snack and/or meal replacement when on the go?
    I recommend Elemental Raw, Jones Bar, Purely Elizabeth, RX or Lara Bars ( not only because they share my name!). If a client needs a nut-free bar, I recommend 88 Acres.  I don’t recommend bars as a regular meal replacement unless necessary based on schedule such as travel, limited access to fresh food or a time crunch.
  2. What should one look for when reading nutrition labels on bars?
    If the bar is meant to be a snack aim for a bar under 250 calories with adequate protein and fiber. Sugar shouldn’t be from added sugar such as cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup or brown rice syrup to name a few. I recommend avoiding all artificial sweeteners such as Sucralose. Some bars like Lara Bars use dates as a sweetener. I prefer natural sugar to artificial sweetener.
    A quick glance at an ingredient label is very informative. If the list is lengthy and you don’t recognize the ingredients I would steer clear. So many bars are made with “fake” food. Choose a bar with the simplest ingredient list and those that contain real food such as nuts, seeds, oats, fruit etc.
  3. If you were to replace a meal with a bar, would you do so for breakfast or lunch? Can you please explain your choice?
    This is very specific to the person. I treat each client as an individual and educate them how to make the best choices for their body, lifestyle etc. We aren’t robots and everyday may be different. Some days I may choose a bar for breakfast if I’m not prepared, and on other days I may have a bar as part of my lunch if I’m back to back with clients.
  4. I’ve heard nutritionists recommend  drinking an entire bottle of water when eating a bar to help fill you up? Does this really work and if so, for how long should it keep you satisfied?
    I recommend staying hydrated throughout the day and drinking a glass of water with lemon first thing in the morning as well as consistently throughout the day using each meal and snack as an anchor. This doesn’t mean you have to drink a large bottle specifically with a bar.
  5. What are some ingredients that one should avoid when looking for bars?
    If you can’t recognize ingredients, it’s not a good choice.
    • Processed protein, such as soy protein isolate.
    • First few ingredients should not be added sugars, such as cane syrup, dextrose or brown rice    syrup (different than naturally-occurring sugars, like dates)
    • Sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, sorbitol and maltitol
    • Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose
    • Preservatives such as TBHQ

Shop Lara Metz’s recommendations here:

Neda Varbanova of Healthy with Nedi

  1. Which bar do you recommend as a snack and/or meal replacement when on the go?
    I love Raw Rev Glo Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Bars. It tastes like a delicious candy bar and it has only 3g of sugar. It’s vegan, high in fiber, high in protein and keeps me full for a long time. I always have one in my bag.
  2. What should one look for when reading nutrition labels on bars?
    Ingredients are key. I always tell my clients if a packaged product has more than 10 ingredients then it’s best to skip it, especially if it contains ingredients with words you can’t even pronounce. You’re better off grabbing an apple than a bar filled with additives that will do more damage than good.
  3. If you were to replace a meal with a bar, would you do so for breakfast or lunch?
    I wouldn’t recommend replacing a meal with a bar but if you don’t have a choice then it’s most likely breakfast. Many of my clients don’t have time to prepare breakfast before work and it is easier for them to grab a bar on the go. Tanya Zuckerbrot came out with a high fiber, high protein bar that is very low in net carbs and it would be a good option for a meal replacement.
  4. I’ve heard nutritionists recommend  drinking an entire bottle of water when eating a bar to help fill you up?Does this really work and if so, for how long should it keep you satisfied?
    Water is essential for good health. It aids digestion and will help break down food so the body can absorb the nutrients. The water will help to move things smoothly through the digestive system which can prevent bloating and constipation.
  5. What are some ingredients that one should avoid when looking for bars?
    This list can go on and on but here are a few major ones: artificial sweeteners (actually increases appetite and stimulates cravings for sweet foods), high fructose corn syrup (boosts fat-storing hormones), carageenan (induces inflammation), and BHA (major hormone disruptor). Studies have shown that these ingredients are linked to autoimmune diseases and potentially may cause cancer.

Shop Neda Varbanova’s favorite bar here:

nutrition bars

Tanya Zuckerbrot of the FFactor Diet

1. Which bar do you recommend as a snack and/or meal replacement when on the go?
When on the go, I recommend looking for a bar for a meal replacement or snack that fits the following criteria:
• Less than 200 calories
• 15-20 grams protein
• 14+ grams fiber
• Less than 5 grams fat
• Less than 10 grams net carbs
• Less than 5 grams sugar

2. What should one look for when reading nutrition labels on bars?
In addition to the criteria above, when looking at nutrition labels, consumers should:
Pay special attention to the amount of fiber, protein, fat, sugar and net carb (the amount of total carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber)
The amount of protein and fiber should be high
The amount of fat, sugar, and net carbs low
• Note:Bars that combine fiber (14+g) and protein (15-20g) make perfect meal/snack replacement because it will keep you feeling full for longer, and provide you with sustained energy because fiber and protein are the two nutrients that take the longest to digest.
Generally speaking, the best protein bars won’t be laden with sugar, fat, and processed ingredients. They have simple ingredients that you can identify. Often, the fewer ingredients listed, the better.

3. If you were to replace a meal with a bar, would you do so for breakfast or lunch? Can you please explain your choice?
I don’t recommend my clients replace breakfast or lunch with a snack, but if it’s a matter of skipping a meal or eating a bar than I would have them eat the bar. With that being said,
• I prefer my client have the bar for lunch rather than breakfast.
• This is because breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A high fiber, high protein breakfast prevents you from being hungry later in the day and snacking.
Eating a filling breakfast of fiber and protein every morning within the first hour of waking is an important way to jump-start your metabolism, and energy levels steady through the day.
• A classic F-Factor breakfast is 4 high fiber crackers with an egg white vegetable omelet and side of berries or a smoothie with F-Factor 20/20 Fiber Protein powder that will provide 20 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein per serving, more than most bars can provide.
• If my client has a bar at lunch. I would recommend they eat non-starchy vegetables and lean protein for their afternoon snack.

4. I’ve heard nutritionists recommend drinking an entire bottle of water when eating a bar to help fill you up? Does this really work and if so, for how long should it keep you satisfied?
Yes, drinking water when eating a bar or any food for that matter, is recommended, and especially important with high-fiber bars. Bars are also small in volume- think about eating a large salad versus having a small bar. Feeling like you’ve eaten less food might cause your brain to think you’re still hungry- we’re all visual eaters! By consuming a bottle of water, you’ll quickly experience feelings of fullness, so you’ll know you’ve eaten enough.
• Water plays a key role in nearly every bodily function and it fills you up so you tend to eat less
• Water is important when consuming fiber – fiber needs water to work its magic.
o When fiber combines with water, it forms a soft gel, which leads to firm stools and allows for easy defecation. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of fiber and don’t compensate by drinking more water, it can lead to the opposite effect—constipation.
• Being dehydrated can also mimic hunger. Many times, our hunger is really just thirst in disguise and you can experience symptoms such as feeling weak, cranky and tired. To get rid of these symptoms, we then grab a candy bar when all we really needed was a drink of zero-calorie water.
• A high fiber, high protein bar consumed with adequate water can keep you feeling satisfied anywhere from 3-4 hours.

5. What are some ingredients that one should avoid when looking for bars?
Sugar has many different names and is sometimes hard to detect on the ingredients label. Eating too much sugar at once can rapidly increase your blood sugar than cause it to drop leaving you feeling hungry, moody and tired. Below is a list of alternate names for sugar to watch out for:
• High fructose corn syrup
• Barley malt
• Maltose
• Maltodextrin
• Dextrose
• Palm syrup
• Corn syrup
• Fruit juice concentrate
• Rice syrup
• Agave
• Evaporated cane juice

3 Comments

  1. October 15, 2018 / 12:46 pm

    I’m biased and partial to both Tanya’s and Neda’s recommendations 😉 xo

  2. Amanda
    October 15, 2018 / 4:36 pm

    Is there anything wrong with quest bars? Would you not recommend they be Eaten?

    • October 16, 2018 / 9:13 pm

      Hi,

      I deferred this question to Tanya Zuckerbrot as she is a professional in this department! According to Tanya, Quest Bars contain sugar alcohols, which may cause bloating or cramping when eaten in excess. Aside from that, the nutritional information provided on the package fits the criteria she recommends for people following the F-Factor Diet.

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