Is Your Snack Bar Making You Fat?

Are you feeling frustrated that you're still not losing weight even though you're trying to eat healthier? It might be that some of the so-called "health food" you're eating is not exactly what it seems. Snack bars, cereal bars, and granola bars may be part of the problem. They can be loaded with unhealthy fat and sugar; not much different than a candy bar. The calories can add up fast if you're not paying attention. When choosing a bar, it's important to examine the Nutrition Facts Label and Ingredient List.

Here's what to look for:

Whole grains: Any bar you choose should have whole grains (such as oats) as the first ingredient - not sugar or anything else. Studies show the people who choose whole grains more often have an easier time losing weight.

Fiber: Whole grain bars should automatically have at least 3 grams of fiber. Fiber helps to keep your blood sugar stable and limit cravings so look for bars with as much as possible.

Protein: Look for a bar that has at least 5 grams of protein preferably from a natural source like nuts. Protein keeps you feeling fuller and satisfied longer.

Sugar: Every 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar! Look for a bar with no more than 8g of sugar; less is better. Sugar from a natural source like fruit is preferable to an added source like evaporated cane juice or syrup.

Trans fats: Be wary of these unhealthy fats. Companies do not have to report trans fats in their products if there is less than 0.5g. So be sure to always read the ingredient list and avoid bars with "partially hydrogenated oils" as this means trans fat.

Ingredients: When it comes to the number of ingredients, less is better. Always look for ingredients that are recognizable. If you've never heard of it, chances are you don't want to eat it.

Bottom line: The next time you take a trip to grocery store, bring along these guidelines to help you choose wisely. And to make it easier for you, I came up with a list of some of the smarter choices.

Kashi Chewy Granola Bar - Honey Almond Flax

  • 140 calories, 5g Sugar, 4g Fiber, 7g Protein, 5g fat
  • Contains 7 whole grains.
  • Crunchy, chewy and not too sweet. Good as a between meal snack or a quick breakfast if paired with milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit.

Kashi Soft 'n Chewy Bars - Apple Cobbler 

  • 130 calories, 10g Sugar, 4g Fiber, 3g Protein, 3 g fat
  • Contains 7 whole grains; contains some added sugar not from a natural source such as fruit
  • Quick option to get you started before work or the gym but likely isn't enough calories to sustain you until lunch. Better as a between meal snack.

Kind Bar - Fruit and Nut Delight 

  • 200 calories, 9g sugar, 3g Fiber, 6g Protein, 13g fat
  • All natural, whole nuts and fruits, non GMO, very low sodium
  • Good option for a quick breakfast on-the-go. Substantial enough in calories and protein to keep you satisfied longer. This is a personal favorite.

LaraBar - Peanut Butter Cookie
  • 220 calories, 18g sugar, 4g Fiber, 7g Protein, 12 g fat
  • All natural, no added sugar and only three ingredients (dates, peanuts and salt)
  • Good natural bar choice that has adequate calories and protein to keep you feeling full longer. Higher in sugar but from a natural source (the dates).

Kashi TLC Fruit & Grain Bar - Dark Chocolate Coconut

  • 120 calories, 7g sugar, 4g Fiber, 4g Protein, 3.5g fat
  • Contains some added sugar and saturated fat not from natural sources such as fruit and nuts.
  • More like a cookie. Good option if you are craving something sweet and chocolate.

If you have the time and desire to make your own, here's a favorite recipe:

Granola Bites (makes 12 or 24)

½ cup peanut butter or other nut butter
2 bananas, mashed
½ cup whole nuts (choose your favorite)
1 ½ cup total of dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, apricots, raisins, coconut, etc.)
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. vanilla (optional)
Pinch cinnamon (optional)
1/4 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, coarsely chop nuts and dried fruits. Mix nut butter and bananas until a paste forms. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Spoon into lightly greased muffin cups and bake for 15 minutes. Can be stored in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Nutrition Facts: 1 granola bite (12 in recipe) = 190 calories, 8.4g fat, 26.7g carbohydrates, 5.4 g protein, 3.1g fiber, 52 mg sodium

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