Power Bars

Granola Bars Can Be Sneaky Candy Bars

If eating healthfully is your primary goal, granola bars might not be the best choice. Most store-bought granola bars and so-called protein snack bars are sugar-loaded candy bars disguised as healthy snacks. Nevertheless, almost all my clients — especially those who are always on the move — will request that I help them choose “healthier” snack bars to stash in their cars or office drawers so they don’t fall prey to the midafternoon sugar slump. If you merely focus on the packaging of these flashy and expensive snack bars, the false advertising might convince you that you’re not straying from your healthy goals, but a closer look at the ingredient list might prove otherwise. If eating for your health is important to you, skip the processed junk wrapped as granola bars and labeled as healthy options.

When you’re pressed for time, look for a snack bar that offers at least 5 to 10 grams of protein, no more than 150 calories per serving and at least 5 grams of fiber. Also, avoid snacks loaded with added sugars — or worse, sugar alcohols such as maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. If the bar is made from fruits, that is an acceptable choice, but be vigilant of ingredients such as fruit juices, brown rice syrup, dextrose, maltose and organic cane juice. These are all different forms of added sugars snuck into the snack bar even though the label might claim the bar is “sugar-free.”


Five bars worth hiding in your drawer

These five snack bars can be found at most grocery stores and gas stations, so if a sugar craving comes on or you’re running late, give one of them a try. Remember, these might be healthier in comparison to a regular granola bar or, worse, a candy bar; nonetheless, consume these in moderation and be mindful that these are processed snacks regardless of how many health claims the packaging might make.

Larabars
One reason these happen to be my personal favorite is the use of limited ingredients. Most of the bars sold by this company are created using simple ingredients that can be easily found on the packaging. Don’t knock these because of the sugar content; in most varieties, the sugar is derived from dates, which is a far better source of sugar than sugar alcohols or added sugars.

Kind Bars
Although there are a variety of flavors, the ones that stand out most are those that claim to have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index is an indication of the response of blood sugars elicited by a certain food item. To prevent blood sugar disorders, diabetes and other forms of chronic diseases including weight gain, it is best to look for foods with low glycemic responses. Much like many “healthier” versions of snack bars, this one also contains a variety of nuts — aka good fats, which help to curb hunger pangs.

One Bars
With flavors like birthday cake and cinnamon roll, it’s hard to imagine that these bars are touted as healthy alternatives. Yet, they boast a protein count of 20-21 grams and are low in sugars. They do contain sugar alcohols, but if you are attempting to find healthy alternatives in the form of packaged foods, these bars are worth a try. The protein content will help curb appetite and the low sugars will keep you coming for more.

RX Bars
If you can overcome the idea of paying significantly more for a snack bar, then look no further than an RX Bar, with a new-age label that lists the main ingredients in large type. RX Bars are mostly known for their protein content, and some varieties claim to be lower in sugars than their competitors.

Fiber One Bars
Try one of these budget bars if attaining a high-fiber lifestyle is on the agenda. Be mindful that some flavors are higher in sugars; however, when an intense sugar craving hits, these might be your best cheat snack choice. The good news they come in a lot of flavors and are among the most affordable bars on this list.


Although it might be tempting to think that packaged foods can replace home-cooked meals, the truth is that fats, sugars, salts and chemicals added to these foods are not just taste enhancers but also help to increase their shelf life. Therefore, no matter the claims, omitting these processed ingredients might not serve these food companies in the long term. However, when consumed in moderation, these snack bars are better choices than a variety of store-bought, sugar-laden snacks to silence that sugar craving.

If eating healthfully is your primary goal, granola bars might not be the best choice. Most store-bought granola bars and so-called protein snack bars are sugar-loaded candy bars disguised as healthy snacks. Nevertheless, almost all my clients — especially those who are always on the move — will request that I help them choose “healthier” snack bars to stash in their cars or office drawers so they don’t fall prey to the midafternoon sugar slump. If you merely focus on the packaging of these flashy and expensive snack bars, the false advertising might convince you that you’re not straying from your healthy goals, but a closer look at the ingredient list might prove otherwise. If eating for your health is important to you, skip the processed junk wrapped as granola bars and labeled as healthy options.

When you’re pressed for time, look for a snack bar that offers at least 5 to 10 grams of protein, no more than 150 calories per serving and at least 5 grams of fiber. Also, avoid snacks loaded with added sugars — or worse, sugar alcohols such as maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. If the bar is made from fruits, that is an acceptable choice, but be vigilant of ingredients such as fruit juices, brown rice syrup, dextrose, maltose and organic cane juice. These are all different forms of added sugars snuck into the snack bar even though the label might claim the bar is “sugar-free.”


Dr. Suman Ahuja completed her education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and at Texas Tech. She has a doctorate in Clinical Nutrition.

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