Are health bars healthy?

When I hop into my trusty Toyota Corolla to zip off to work, there are four items I absolutely cannot leave home without: my phone, purse, water bottle, and a morning nutrition bar. By the time I arrive to work, I’ve consumed a yummy health bar (not to be confused with “Heath” bar 😉 while listening to yummy NPR updates on the radio.  My choice of health and nutrition bars includes a mix of brands, but I ALWAYS insist that  “yummy” is one of the central “ingredients.”  Which begs the question, is it possible for a yummy health bar to be a healthy health bar? And more generally, are health bars healthy?

Names for health bars

Some call them health bars, while others call them nutrition or energy bars. Whatever you call them, these nutrition-packed rectangles are a necessity for wellness gurus like me. Be careful, though, just like Lucky Charms masquerades as a healthy cereal, there are “energy” bars out masquerading as nutrtion or health bars. Most of the time, these imposters fake an “energy” rush because they’re so loaded with sugar. 

I recently came across a news article with the headline: “These 23 ‘healthy’ energy bars actually have more sugar than a Snickers.” Some of the bars listed in the article were ones that I love, so I was a little surprised when they showed up in the expose’ piece.  With that said, a little sugar isn’t bad, so long as moderation is employed. Besides, Snickers is one of the “healthiest” candy bars on the market. Imagine my surprise if the headlines had instead read, “These 23 ‘healthy’ energy bars actually have more sugar than a Butterfinger”?!!  

Folks, it is entirely possible to have a health bar that is healthy AND that tastes yummy! And no, Snickers doesn’t qualify. 

It’s important to remember that health bars, energy bars, nutrition bars, whatever-you-want-to-call-it bars, are NOT intended to be the backbone of a diet.  They are merely supplements, which is an important paradigm to have when choosing what bars to eat.  Choose health bars according to their INGREDIENT LIST

Ingredients in health bars

Health bars are the perfect supplement to support an already-healthy diet because they do an excellent job “fillingin the nutritional gaps.”  Be aware of the following 3 points of ingredient guidance when choosing a health bar:

Try to find a health bar that has at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per bar.

Some people buy bars strictly based on the amount of protein it packs. That’s why some bars are commonly called “protein bars.”  Regarding protein, sports dietitians advise no more than 15 grams per bar. 

9 grams per bar should be the max.  Watch for added sugars, too, such as molasses and honey.

What’s in my cupboard?

Pure Organic Ancient Grains Bars

I order these beauties by the box-full (15 ct.) from Sam’s Club.  I rotate through three delicious, sweet, and satisfying flavors: Chocolate Chunk Nut, Triple Berry Nut, and Peanut Butter Chocolate. These are my go-to bars. They are priced right, taste lovely, and pass my health-standard with flying colors.

Raw Crunch Bars

I don’t eat a ton of these, but when I do, I’m always glad I did. These are typically an impulse-buy when I go through the check-out line at the Whole Foods Market.  These bars come in a variety of flavors, but my absolute favorite is Organic Blueberry Lemon.  I’m shocked at how sweet these bars are, considering they only have 5 grams of sugar.

GoMacro Bars

My first experience with a GoMacro Bar was at an airport when a travel buddy gave me one while we waited for a flight. From bite #1 I was instantly hooked! As a “periodic vegan” I like having an option that is completely dairy free AND delicious.  They have a few flavors, including one with coconut.  I’m not a fan of coconut, but I AM a fan of their Cashew Butter bar. It’s heaven on earth.

So there you have it, friends. It really is possible to have a health bar that is healthy AND yummy J.