Have you wandered through the expanding energy bar aisle in your local health food store lately? I tend to covet this section on the regular, and splurging on these bars can wreak havoc on our wallets (and sometimes our GI tracts) as the weekly investment adds up. And wow, does it add up fast!
The cost of fuel in energy bar form is surging, like $5 for a whole food bar? Is there a golden ticket stashed in there or what? However, sometimes fuel in bar form is the only quick fix we can mow down in minutes to keep up the work/play balance. When it comes to snacking or replacing a small meal, a variety of protein bars now jam in a daily serving of greens along with vitamins and minerals. We can even find vegan, organic nutrition bars coated in dark chocolatey indulgence, albeit for a small fortune.
To get optimal nutrition out of a plant-based food bar, along with the healthiest bang for our hard-earned bucks, here are a few questions I like to ask myself when skimming through the vibrant sea of pretty “pick me!” labels…
1) Will this taste anything like cardboard? This usually involves some tactile experimentation without compromising the package…cause let’s face it, sometimes it’s hard to believe there’s actually broccoli and kale mashed in there.
2) Is it certified organic, gluten-free, and/or vegan? There’s usually a premium for these brand labels, and sometimes I am okay forking out the extra dollar or two to get an awesome high quality product. For example, Vega One bars offer 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, 25 grams of carbs, antioxidants, gluten freedom AND a green veggie blend – totally undetectable to the taste bud.
3) Does this brand ever go on sale?! Best to scour a Whole Foods flyer and coupon deals ahead of time, or visit a brand/store’s social media channels and website for special promos.
4) Is it minimally processed and does it contain any yucky hydrogenated fats or oils? Nobody wants a greasy food bar that’s been processed within an inch of its rectangle, and luckily lots of brands contain healthy nut fats. Soy protein is known to be super processed and inflammatory, so always check the protein source (and watch out for bars dipped in milk chocolate).
5) How many carbohydrates and naturally occurring fruit sugars will I be consuming? As a type 1 diabetic, unless I’m fueling up for some fitness or restoring blood sugar balance, I like to stay on the lower end of the glycemic index. I try to avoid bars that contain dried fruit or even “organic evaporated cane juice”, since our bodies treat all incoming sugars (whether from dried fruit or raw cane) relatively the same. With or without diabetes, this causes a spike and crash effect on our bodies. Not worth our precious energy!
6) Am I getting any fiber and protein out of this package, or will I be hangry (hungry/angry) in half an hour? We all know fiber helps keep us full, and combining protein with carbs doesn’t skyrocket blood sugars so we stay satiated longer. Some bars are densely packed, while others are waif-like and devoured in less than 60 seconds (depending on our hunger level and whether we’ve just finished up a sweaty cardio kickboxing class). Check out the 5 Best & Worst Nutrition Bars from NYC’s Well + Good, it might come as a slight surprise!
Do you have any fave plant-based power bar brands? Or do you make your own? I’d love to hear ’em.