Here’s some information that was requested from Barbara on Energy and nutrition bars: Are they a good value for the money?  What should we know?

With such busy lives, many people – including, young athletes – feel that a quick energy bar can provide them with the ‘boost’ we need to get through the day.  Others use energy bars as a meal replacement.   So it’s not surprising that nutrition, protein, and energy drinks and food bars have grown in size in the marketplace. In fact many grocery stores have whole sections devoted to offering the convenience of “energy on the go”.

For today’s blog, let’s focus on the energy bars and discuss the energy drinks next time.  Energy and nutrition bars often make claims that may be too good to be true. Some say they’ll increase energy, others offer extra nutrition, and some even claim to boost your athletic performance.  So how can you cut through the hype and past the flashy packaging on these energy products, to find out if they are offering us much more than a big dose of sugar?

Here are some facts to keep in mind when it comes to food bars

üEnergy bars can contain excessive sugar and calories. An occasional energy bar may be okay for athletes who burn lots of calories in high-intensity activities, like competitive cycling or running.  But for many adults or teens the extra sugar and calories just contribute to weight gain, and possible tooth decay.

üEnergy bars don’t make good meal replacements.  Skipping meals is not a healthy habit.  You don’t typically see someone eat an energy bar for lunch or dinner and then have that satisfied feeling. Nothing beats a real well balanced meal for both that full feeling and the nutritional satisfaction your body needs.

üRead the label to be sure that the energy bars will meet your needs for a snack or energy boost.   Lisa Drayeer, a dietitian from Cyperdiet.com has a nice summary of the different energy bars and possible uses at http://www.freediettips.com/diet_energy_bar_review.htm

Here is the summary of her Energy Bar Guidelines:

Watch calories and fat – up to 300 calories and 10 grams of fat is reasonable for a meal replacement, but cut that in half for a snack.

Choose a bar with at least 30 grams of carbohydrates if you plan to engage in long periods of exercise. (Same for protein, if you’re working those muscles)

Look for vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t get from foods (like calcium and iron)

Limit saturated fat to 3 grams or less per bar.

Go for bars with 3 grams of fiber, for weight control.

üEnergy bars are expensive. Though energy bars are readily available, they don’t come cheap. At about $1.50 (or more!) a bar, you can get a better snack energy boost by eating a half a whole-wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese.  Other on-the-go foods that provide plenty of nutritional bang for the buck include trail mix, fresh or dried fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals. 

I enjoy the convenience of a high fiber energy bar but prefer to make my own. Here is my favorite recipe for making an energy bar that will keep you satisfied at half the cost.  http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/apricot_cereal_bar.html.    You can vary the dried fruit ingredients to suit your taste.  I have used the dried fruits bits that are only a dollar a box at the drug stores in the area.  That’s a real cost savings.

Try the bars and let me know what you think.

 

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