Tags: Obesity | snack | bars | best | worst

5 Best, Worst Fitness and Snack Bars

By    |   Thursday, 09 July 2015 09:20 AM

The ads for snack and fitness bars promise between-meal nutrition for athletes and anyone else on the go who doesn’t want to give in to cravings for fast food, candy bars, or sugary processed chow.

But what’s really in all those protein, cereal, and granola bars and are they really all they’re cracked up to be?

Consumer Reports experts recently put dozens of snack bars to the test to identify the best, and worst of the lot. What they found is that some products have as much sugar and calories as junk food or candy, while others are loaded with artificial fillers and offer little in the way of protein, vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients.

The upshot: Big differences in flavor, nutrition and price make it essential for consumers to read labels of any snack products you buy.

“Snack bars might seem like a healthy choice for those munchie moments, with images of wholesome berries and nuts on the wrapper and claims such as ‘superfoods in every bite,’ “ Consumer Reports’ experts noted. “But the truth is that not all bars are a healthy snack — some have about the same calories, fat, and sugar in every bite as a candy bar."

Some of the snack bars that Consumer Reports tested had as many as 280 calories — more than a Snickers bar. Total fat ranged from 4 to 14 grams, sugars ranged from 1 to 22 grams, and sodium went from 0 to 270 milligrams.  The best way to figure out whether a bar is a healthy snack is to check the ingredients list for four things you should avoid:

Highly processed ingredients. Better products list real foods high on the list of ingredients, such as oats, raisins, blueberries, nuts, dates, and dried cranberries.

Sugars. Watch out for bars with multiple listings of sugars — including honey or fruit concentrate — as well as artificial sweeteners and processed sugars like high-fructose corn syrup.

Added protein and fiber. This might seem like a plus, but in fact products that have soy protein or chicory root listed as the first ingredient are those the manufacturer has enhanced with these less-than-wholesome ingredients.

Lots of trans fat. And avoid bars with partially hydrogenated oil, which signals it contains trans fat, which is linked to heart disease and was recently banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

Consumer Reports singled out the Special K Protein Cranberry Walnut snack bar, which rated among the lowest products tested. The bar contains 10 grams of protein, but soy protein isolate is listed as the first ingredient. It also contained partially hydrogenated oil and artificial fruit flavors that gave it an odd taste.

What follows are Consumer Reports findings on the best and the worst of the bars tested for nutritional value and taste.

Best berry/nut bars:
  • Kind Plus Cranberry Almond: This fruit and nut bar was praised for being made with whole almonds and macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, rice crisps and other “high quality ingredients” giving it a “crunchy, chewy texture” and a sweet taste.
  • Abound Pomegranate & Cranberry (CVS): This chewy granola-style bar is “sweet, with cranberries, blueberries, roasted almonds, and raw oats… Great price and very good nutrition help make this a CR Best Buy.”
  • Larabar Blueberry Muffin: This fruit-based bar is “soft, dense, moist, and slightly astringent...with date flavor leading the way followed by blueberry.”
  • Raw Revolution Cranberry Almond & Coconut: Coconut and nuts flavor this “sticky, dense, moist and slightly chewy” bar. “The components all have distinct ID but still blend well together.”
  • Pure Organic Wild Blueberry: This fruit-based bar with nuts is “dense, moist, and slightly astringent. Date flavor leads the way followed by blueberry and walnuts.”
Worst berry/nut bars:
  • Balance Bare Mixed Berry Nut: This fruit and nut bar “is slightly salty and sour ..... You can see the oats but you can't really taste them.”
  • Odwalla Berries GoMega: This soft multi-grain style bar was dinged for having a “slightly sour and a lingering bitter” taste that left a “non-food chemical impression.”
  • Clif Mojo Cranberry Almond: This fruit and nut bar is “hard, tough, and very sticky …. [and] the cranberries were quite sour and had a slightly fishy aftertaste.”
  • Zone Perfect Perfectly Simple Cranberry Almond: This fruit-based bar is “astringent and slightly chewy …. [with] a gritty, soy powder impression.”
  • Special K Protein Cranberry Walnut: This crispy cereal bar is “chalky, gritty and astringent” with a “commercial sweetness and artificial fruit flavor.”
Consumer Reports also singled out a handful of chocolate snack bars for low nutritional values. They included Atkins Advantage Chocolate Peanut Butter, LUNA Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter, Odwalla Chocolate Peanut Buttter, Special K Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Clif Builder’s Chocolate Peanut Butter bars.

Consumer Reports notes weight-conscious consumers are often drawn to snack bars, whose packaging suggests that they promote health and fitness.

But Robert Newman, a certified nutritionist and wellness expert from East Northport, N.Y., notes that you’re better off choosing fresh fruit, nuts, Greek yogurt, and other whole, unprocessed foods that are equally convenient, portable, and satisfying.

“Most food bars if not all are processed junk, usually too high in carbohydrates, causing a high glycemic load effect,” Newman tells Newsmax Health. “The proteins are all-too-often soy isolates. These ingredients have an estrogenic effect on the individual consuming them.

“The whole food approach is always the best approach. I prefer organic walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds. To be decadent I add dark chocolate flakes or chips. A handful of the above will satisfy most appetites and provide healthy fats, carbohydrates and a small amount of protein.”

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Sales of sack and fitness bars are on the rise as time-pressed, health-conscious Americans look for alternatives to sugary, processed between-meal chow. But some bars offer little more nutrition than a candy bar, so it’s important to choose wisely.
snack, bars, best, worst
Thursday, 09 July 2015 09:20 AM
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