Power bars can be a convenient way to eat on the go or fuel your workouts. However, if you look closely, you will find that many of these “healthy” options are nothing more than glorified candy bars!
The first thing you need to identify is what you are going to use the bar for? Is it a snack, a pre-workout meal or a full meal replacement? Once you have that determined you can follow these quick tips to help select the healthiest option:
Snack Bar – If you are using a power bar as an afternoon snack to keep you fueled during the day, shoot for something between 150-200 calories. Protein and fiber should be your main focus for this option because they will keep you full and energized much longer than the high sugar alternative. Try to find a bar with 8-15g of protein and make sure the grams of sugars and fiber are about equal.
Pre-/Post-workout Bars – These bars are designed to fuel you pre-workout or help start the recovery post-workout. Again, I recommend around the 200 calorie range for the average 45 min-1hr workout. Carbohydrates are going to be the most important thing to look for, however, that doesn’t mean you should go sugar crazy! Choose a bar that has a majority of the carbohydrates in the “other carbohydrate” category rather than sugar.
Meal Replacement – The biggest mistake that I see people make is using a snack bar as a replacement for a full meal. If you only eat 200 calories as a meal, I promise that you will be pulling over at 7-11 or raiding the vending machine within the hour! Choose a bar that has between 350-450 calories. As with the snack bars, protein is going to be important so make sure it has between 10-20g of protein.
Finally, remember that these bars are meant to SUPPLEMENT a healthy diet, not replace one. There are some great options out there but make sure that the majority of the food that you eat every day comes from a farm not a factory!
Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist in San Diego, CA. She blogs twice a month with “Tara’s Friday Bite.” Leave us your comments with ideas for future topics or email Tara directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.