I am sure that we all, more often than not, get “peckish” at some point of the day and if that is a true stomach hunger (not just head hunger) then a healthy snack is just what we need! Not always do we have time to make a healthy snack at home to bring to work, university or school, and on such occasions, a store-bought snack bar seems inevitable. So today I am sharing my top tips on how to make sure that you choose a healthy one!
1. ALWAYS CHECK THE BACK OF THE LABEL
The ingredient list is the first thing to look at. Remember that ingredients are always listed with the largest ingredient being first. Therefore, try to avoid snack bars where the first, second or even the third ingredient is sugar, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, syrup, honey, etc., because sugary ingredients simply will not do you any good as it’s just extra calories, but nothing beneficial.
5 g of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar
Make it easier to remember! S-U-G-A-R is 5 letters, which stands for 5 grams, easy!
Remember that front of package is here to grab your attention, often making a snack bar sound very promising! What I mean by this is that sometimes you can see that a snack bar is all about almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and berries, but all you can taste are the dates, and when you check the back of the package you see it’s made out of 70% dried fruit, 20% other ingredients and only 10% being nut ingredients that they claimed to have on the front. This simply proves how important it is to actually read the back of the label.
2. CHOOSE SNACK BARS CONTAINING WHOLE FOOD INGREDIENTS
Look for one with a short ingredient list, which can be as short as nuts and dried fruit. When choosing your snack bar opt for the one that is based on whole food ingredients such as fruit, oats, nuts and seeds. Both fruit and oats are a great source of soluble fiber, which we need for digestion! You would be surprised how many snack bars contain barely any “real” foods. For instance, Atkins Advantage Chocolate Brownie Bar, which on the front package claims to be “low sugar, low carb, high protein” is made with many unidentifiable ingredients such as polydextrose, humectant glycerol, hydrolysate, palm fat and many more, which is nothing you would find at home or at the farmer’s market.
One of my favourite ingredient list examples in a balanced snack bar: around 50 % nuts and 50 % dried fruit
3. DON’T BE FOOLED
If a snack bar is “high protein” or “gluten free” it does not mean it’s healthy. Such snack bars are often highly processed. Many energy or snack bars contain protein powders, which may seem like a great boost, but rather than using high-quality powders, snack bars usually contain versions of soy, fillers, bulking agents and sugar in one form or another.
This simply means that sometimes a snack bar is no better than a candy. The difference is that when you eat candy, you know you are treating yourself, but when you eat a snack bar, even though it may claim to be a “healthy” one, that’s not always the case.
If on the front of the snack bar package you see a claim it being low in calorie (i.e. “light”) it is usually due to one thing – less fat. Sadly, when you take fat out of the product it often needs to be substituted by something, and that something most often is SUGAR. Remember that we need healthy fats in our diet. Aim to get most of your dietary fat from unsaturated foods such as olive oil (extra virgin), olives, nuts, seeds, avocados, etc.
4. IT MAY BE HIGH IN PROTEIN, BUT IN OTHER THINGS, TOO
Some brands like to play the trick by pushing forward something that may seem good about their snack bar trying to cover the things that are not. For instance, some snack bars may claim to be high in protein, but when you check the label you will see that it’s also extremely high in sugar (sometimes a 25 g snack bar can reach up to 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar, shocking, right?), which would make that snack bar being higher in carbs than it is in protein and we could blame the sugar, glucose, honey, too much dried fruit, etc.
5. MAKE YOUR OWN
That’s probably the only way to know exactly what is going into your snack bar. On Sunday I do often make a batch of my favorite snack bars and keep it in the freezer throughout the week. They are really easy to make and too fun not to.
Some of my favorite snacks on the blog:
I hope you found this post helpful. Please let me know what are your favorite snack bars in the comment section below. I always look forward to trying something new!