Lately, my days have been extra busy and long. I eat breakfast around 7am, break for lunch around 1 or 1:30 pm and I'm usually not heading home until 5:30 or 6pm. If your days are anything like mine then you know how hard it can be to make good food choices amidst the craziness. The day can go one of two ways: you lose track of time/ don't have time to eat, end up ravenous and stuffing yourself; or you find yourself stressed and snacking nonstop throughout the day, never breaking for a real meal. These are scenarios you want to avoid, but I'd bet that most of you experience this at least once a week, if not almost everyday.
The trick to avoiding these common pitfalls is to be prepared, with you guessed it, real food. During long and busy days it is so important to have real food snacks on hand to avoid the poor food choices that often follow an overwhelming day. A few months back I wrote a post all about snacks. Unfortunately, I am not currently in a position where I can go to the fridge to get my snack, let alone sit down and eat it. I have found myself relying on granola bars as my mid-morning snack.
My fat-filled breakfast of egg bake with butter, avocado, kimchi, and some fruit is more than enough to keep me full for about four hours. However, more recently, the six plus hours that separate me from my lunch warrant a snack. A granola bar is a hands-free, no mess option that can go in my pocket. I realize that many people in all different professions and daily routines find themselves in a similar situation. No, I don't recommend eating a granola bar everyday, and in my ideal world I wouldn't. But, I recognize that sometimes you need to do the best you can with the realistic choices you have. So, if a granola bar is your "go-to" easy snack choice, or if you like to keep one on hand for emergency hunger, this post is for you!
When it comes to buying a better granola bar, here are three things to consider:
1. How long is the ingredient list?
This is the most important component of your granola bar selection. Bars like Larabar or KIND Bar fit the bill! My absolute favorite Larabar is Peanut Butter and Jelly flavor. Although Larabars may be a bit higher in sugar (16-25 grams depending on the bar) keep in mind that the sugar comes from a real foods like dates or other dried fruits.
Just like with other real food purchases, you want the ingredient list to contain ingredients that you might find in your kitchen. In fact, Larabars can be made at home. Pinterest has lots of "copy cat" recipes that you can make yourself if you have a good working food processor. KIND Bars come in second place due to their less stellar ingredient list. My favorite flavor is Madagascar Vanilla Almond (mixed nuts, honey, non GMO glucose, chicory root fiber, crisp rice, vanilla, soy lecithin). Regardless, KIND bars have only about 6 ingredients that are all pronounceable, and most flavors only have 5 grams of sugar.
2. What is the sugar to protein ratio?
We want the ratio of sugar to protein to be less than 2 to 1. What does this mean? Look at the nutrition label on your bar. Find where it says sugar and see how many grams it has. Then look at the next row down and see how many grams of protein it has. Divide the numbers. For instance, if a bar has 27 grams of sugar and 3 grams of protein then the ratio of sugar to protein is 27:3, or 9:1- YIKES! You don't want a bar that is loaded with added sugar or it won't get you very far and will leave you with cravings. Keep in mind this ratio is only important to consider when your bar of choice does not quite measure up with our most important factor to consider (minimal ingredients).
Some bars that fit the criteria with tip number two are VegaSport bars, QuestBar protein bars, Luna Protein Bars, Think Thin High Protein bars, and Nature Valley Protein Bars. Everyone has a taste preference and budget and any of these bars can make for a good choice.
[Remember, fat is a good thing, and a bar that is made from raw, real nuts and dried fruit may have more sugar but it will also have a high amount of fat. This is why real food based bars ideal are always ideal.]
3. What health claims are being made?
This should be a given, but companies that make health claims to try and entice you to buy their product are likely fooling you. I encourage you to check out the ingredient list and nutrition profile of a box that "claims" to be healthy. Some claims to look out for include: "90 calories", "100 calories", etc; 100% natural; organic; low-fat (run the other direction because fat keeps you satiated until you can eat your next meal); 35% daily value of fiber; excellent source of whole grains (which also means, lots of carbohydrates and sugar). Don't be fooled by advertising. Stick to what you know: real food and real ingredients are best!
Okay friends, that's all I have for you today. I hope that my tips and suggestions help you make a better purchase. Having a proper snack can help you avoid the blood sugar roller coaster that often ensues when you "starve and stuff" yourself during and after a long day. Plus, I think that everyone would benefit from keeping a few bars in their car or purse. I have my dad keep KIND bars in his car because he often runs out of the house without breakfast or works really late but this way he always has something on hand to eat. Everyone has different tastes and budgets so I hope that some of the bars I mentioned can provide a new, better option for you, whatever your needs may be. Remember, real food first. If you have the ability to make your own granola bars, please do so. If you have a job that is flexible and you can eat a real food snack, such as fruit and nut butter, then please do that. But, I understand that sometimes a bar is all that will work and that is okay if you do it right.
Let me know your favorite bar. Let me know if you have any questions about the quality of the bar you currently buy.
Until next time.