Finding your way around the snack bar aisle

Posted on Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Written by Lindzie O'Reilly

Snack bars can serve as a portable and quick snack between classes. Some brands offer really great nutrient-dense options that will give you lasting energy and other brands are more like candy bars. How can you tell the difference? How do you know which brand is right for you?

It’s a good idea to include a snack between meals if your meals are more than three or four hours apart. Snacks help prevent hunger and a lull in energy between meals.

An ideal snack will include a balance of protein and carbohydrates. Protein fills us up and can help prevent cravings. Carbohydrates digest to sugar in our body and provide fuel for our muscles and our brain. When searching for a snack bar, it should meet three main criteria. (NOTE: these criteria are based on choosing a snack that will provide energy between meals for the average student. Your lifestyle might mean that you have different needs. Some days you might also feel like a sweet treat, and that’s okay too!)

Snack bar criteria

A balance of carbohydrates and protein

  • A good goal is to find a snack bar with 15-30g of carbohydrate and 6-10g of protein.
  • Bars that are very high in protein but low in carbohydrates (i.e. Simply Protein Bars), can fill you up, but are prone to leaving you feeling unsatisfied. They can also increase your risk of cravings later on.
  • Bars that are very high in carbohydrates but lack protein (i.e. regular chewy granola bar, nutrigrain, sweet and salty) will give you a quick burst of energy, but it won’t last long. You can improve these options by adding a source of protein – such as a small handful of nuts or a yogurt – on the side.

It should be built using slow-release carbohydrates

  • Whole grains, white flour, fruit, sugar and honey are all types of carbohydrates and they all turn to sugar in our body eventually. Unrefined carbohydrates like whole grains and fruit, however, take longer to digest and therefore keep us feeling full for longer.
  • Read the ingredients list on your bars and look for fruit, dried fruit, oats, and whole grains at the top of the list rather than enriched or unbleached white flour, sugar, honey or syrup.

Bars made with real food ingredients tend to be best

  • A nutrient-dense bar will be chock full of whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Bars stuffed with protein powder and artificial sweeteners are more processed and often lack nutrients
The Bar The Verdict?
Clif bar The first ingredient is sugar
Kashi Pretty good. It does have a lengthy ingredient list, but the first ingredient is whole grain and it's relatively low in sugar.
KIND bars A good choice if you go for flavours with at least 6g of protein.
Kellogg's NutriGrain While they are made with whole grains, they are pretty high in sugar. Pass.
Larabar Made from nuts and dates, it doesn't get much simpler than that! The peanut butter flavour is a good snack option as it has 7g of protein.
Luna bar Not the worst. It has a good balance of carbs and protein, but it is built from protein powder rather than whole food sources of protein.
Nature Valley Sweet and Salty Not bad, but low in protein. Combine with another source of protein like a small handful of nuts or yogurt.
Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch Not bad!
Simply Protein Expensive! More protein than you need for a snack and built from processed foods.
Quest Dito.

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