As you probably have already discovered I am a fan of cooking and eating whole, healthy foods. I think that good nutrition and a base of clean eating is the most important first step you can make on your journey to health and fitness.
I am also realist. A very busy on the go realist. Very busy and on the go like many of you. So I know sometimes we have to find things that we can grab quickly to have for a snack or make shift meal when we are on the go.
There are lots of good food options available that fit the bill. Things like apples, bananas, almonds, tuna packets, baby carrots or puffed wheat with dried fruit are all fantastic on the go options. One other option that I do use, and I think many others do as well, is the snack/protein/energy bar. Bars can have a place in a healthy and fit life, as long as they are not your go to source of nutrition. When you are on the go and really need some food they can indeed be a lifesaver.
The market for bars is huge. You will see rows of them in every supermarket, health food store and even convenience stores. But how do you choose? How do you know what is really good for you or right for your needs? Reading labels is a great first place to start. Look for bars made with good ingredients that you can identify, have a nice balance of protein/ fat/carbs and that don’t have high levels of sugar.
So let’s talk about some bars. Here are some bars that I have tried and used; some old favorites and a couple that are new to me.
First up are Luna Bars by Clif. I am a fan from way back and I have to admit Luna is my personal favorite. When I started my journey I worked in a bank where I got a lunch hour but no real breaks. To snack in the afternoon I had to eat something small I could hide in my desk between customers. Luna fit the bill. Back then they had maybe 4 varieties. Today I can’t count how many they have and I’m always seeing new ones. My new treat is the Luna Protein Bar. Now while I think calling it a protein bar is a bit of a stretch (only 12 grams per bar) I think it has more than many comparable bars. Plus they are amazingly tasty. At 180 calories they can keep you going during a crazy afternoon. The “traditional” Luna bars have a huge variety of flavors and have a decent amount of fiber, which is another plus. For some they can be high in sugar, although the traditional varieties use brown rice syrup, which does not cause as much of a sudden spike in blood sugar levels as cane sugar.
Another bar I really enjoy is Purefit. I find them mainly at my favorite health food store, but I think their market reach is growing a bit. They are vegan and gluten free, a plus for the growing number of people with gluten allergies. They have a great balance of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat, a ratio I find highly favorable. They taste really good (Almond Crunch is my personal favorite) and come in at about 230 calories. Another extra benefit is they don’t have anything like a chocolate coating that melts all over you on a warm day hiking or cycling. Very much a back pack ready snack. With a nice, almost cakey consistency, I think most people will enjoy them as much as I do.
Due to some offers from a couple of companies (the following two companies sent me sample packs), I have branched out lately and tried 2 new bars.
The first one, a relative new comer, is Kardea Nutrition Bars. One of the things I really like about this bar is the 7 grams of fiber. We all need our fiber and a tasty boost can’t hurt. It also contains natural plant sterols, which can be useful for those trying to manage cholesterol. It is a little low on protein (only 7 grams) but at 150 calories you could pair it with some almonds to get some additional protein and good fat. I really enjoyed the Banana Nut. Kind of tasted like I was eating a Banana Nut Muffin without the guilt. They also have a nice consistency, similar to that of Purefit. This would be another great choice for being outdoors, no worries about melting.
Another bar that I have recently tried is the ThinkThin bar. These bars are high in protein (some varieties have as many as 20 grams) and are also gluten free. Two pluses, but then comes the big minus. They list maltitol as an ingredient. Anyone familiar with maltitol? It is a sugar alcohol which has enjoyed a resurgences as a sweetener as part of the low carb craze. The problem with maltitol is it can cause, how can I put this delicately, digestive issues. Many people experience a laxative effect from consuming it. Eat too much of it and you could be in for a big surprise. Also, they fell a little flat on taste. They weren’t bad, but they had that spongy/chewy consistency that a lot of protein bars have that I don’t like. I wanted to like them, but I can’t say I would go out and buy them on my own.
I have to admit these days I actually try to eat mostly bars that I make myself. I discovered a great recipe submitted from a reader to Oxygen magazine for no bake protein bars. They are very, very, very good. Simple list of ingredients (oats, flax meal, natural peanut butter, whey protein and water) and are done in 30 minutes. If you want to see the recipe, I have it posted over at our Face Book Fan Page. While you are there be sure to become a fan if you aren’t already!
Now a special offer! The folks at Kardea Nutrition have offered to give sample packs (4 bars-Banana Nut, Cranberry, Lemon Ginger, Chai Spice) to the first 10 people who email them at email@example.com and mention the heard about their bars on my blog.
So what do you think about bars? Do they have a place in your daily life? If so, what’s your favorite?