When I was in elementary school and high school, my mother would come home from Costco stocked with a variety of snacks for my brother and I to bring to school. It was heaven! We would open the bags to find boxes of goldfish, trail mix, fruit gummies, crackers and popcorn. They were all delicious treats but there was one item we knew would consistently make its way back into our cabinet: granola bars.
We didn’t get the same flavor or even the same brand of granola bar each time. My mother always wanted to try out some new bar that claimed it contained “a good source of protein” or “more fiber.” However, companies often trick shoppers into buying their products by labeling packages with vague, coercive language. Some foods already have a “healthy” stereotype in the snack world, so these companies only need to convince you to buy their bar over their competitors. If you are a granola bar (or protein bar) consumer, there a few things you should know…
Granola bars are not as nutritional as the American public seems to think. Alexandra Sifferlin from TIME Health wrote that, “while more than 70% of Americans described granola bars as “healthy,” less than a third of nutritional experts agree.” People think bars with fiber-rich grains, nuts and dried fruit make it a smart snack choice. However, this may only be true for a minority of bars on the market. Sifferlin explains that, “many granola bars are full of added sugar, coated in chocolate and dressed up with a little protein powder--making them nothing more than a glorified candy bar.”
It’s also important to understand that children and teens aren’t the only targeted crowd in the bar market. Young adults here at UCSB are surrounded by protein bars and granola bars. When students go to buy an occasional snack, they are bombarded with Quaker chewy bars, Quest bars, Kind bars, Clif bars, Nature Valley bars, Pure Protein bars, Luna bars and even more choices. If a student only has a few minutes in between classes, where do they start?
Read the label. Ignore the brightly-colored logos on the front of the bar and flip it over for the nitty-gritty details often hidden under a flap of packaging. Nutrition facts are your new best friend. Of course, there are lots of different things to analyze but try starting with the ingredient list. Simpler foods that can be easily pronounced are a good sign that you’ve found a bar with “a good ratio of fiber, protein and healthy fats.”
Trade this for that:
Artificial sweeteners and table sugar for natural sweetness from whole foods such as coconut and dates
Refined grains for whole grains will keep you full longer
Saturated fats for plant-based sources like nuts and seeds (A label with “more than 20% Daily Value of saturated fat” should be treated like caution tape.)
Try Erin Palinski-Wade’s “rule of 5.” Look for bars with 5 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of unsaturated fats. The following bars fit this requirement: RXBaRs, LÄRABARs, KIND, CORE Foods bars, This Bar Saves Lives.
Today's blog post comes from Nutrition Intern Solee Meidus!