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If you’ve ever reached for an energy bar as a quick snack or post-workout refuel, you’re not alone. These convenient, seemingly healthy bars are a go-to for many. However, not all energy bars are created equal. Behind the shiny wrappers and health-promoting claims, some hide a less wholesome reality. The key to discerning the good from the bad lies in understanding energy bar labels.

List of things to avoid in energy bars - sugars, fats, bad proteins, misleading claims, with an image of an energy bar behind

Hidden Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners in Energy Bars

bottle containing high fructose corn syrupWhen it comes to energy bars, sugar is often the main source of calories. Sometimes these fast carbohydrates are a key selling point. Maurten Solid is one such sugar-rich bar meant to give you a boost for endurance performance. In fact, there are a lot of respected energy bars that are rich in sugar – check out this summary from the Atlanta Journal of energy bars that have more sugar than a snickers. If you’re looking to avoid sugar in your energy bars than you might want to avoid them. 

 

It’s worth noting that not all sugars are created equal. Look out for hidden sugars in the form of highly processed corn syrup. Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like sucralose or maltitol may also be used as low-calorie substitutes, but can cause digestive discomfort in some individuals. In a nutshell, an energy bar with high sugar content can result in a quick energy boost followed by a crash, counteracting the very purpose of these bars.

Unhealthy Fats and Low-Quality Proteins in Energy Bars

Just as with sugars, not all fats and proteins are equal. Some energy bars might contain trans fats or highly processed oils. Similarly, protein bars might be packed with protein, but this protein could be a low-quality concentrate, filled with additives. Always look for bars that contain high-quality protein sources, such as whey protein isolate or pea protein, and those that utilize healthier fats derived from nuts and seeds.

lard on a spoon

While protein bars do serve a purpose as a quick protein boost when no other sources of quality protein are available, you should not make them a main part of your diet. At Runivore, we’re big fans of eating high quality real foods – that’s the key to staying healthy and strong. 

Artificial Additives and Misleading Health Claims in Energy Bars

Many energy bars on the market contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors, none of which add any nutritional value. Moreover, some health claims on energy bar wrappers can be misleading. Phrases like “natural,” “sugar-free,” or “low-fat” may sound appealing, but they don’t always equate to healthier. For instance, a “natural” energy bar could still be loaded with sugar or unhealthy fats, while a “low-fat” bar could compensate with excessive sugar.

Lady looking at energy bar label in supermarket

Choosing Healthier Energy Bars

So, with all these potential pitfalls, how do we choose a healthier energy bar? It depends on what purpose the energy bar is meant to fulfill. For example if you’re looking for a meal replacement energy bar – look for bars that are high in fiber, have a reasonable amount of protein from a high-quality source, and contain healthy fats.

Check for a low sugar content and ensure that the sugars used are from natural sources, such as dried fruit. Be cautious of sodium content, as some bars can contain a surprising amount. Finally, a shorter ingredient list with recognizable items is generally a good sign. Many brands market themselves as filled with whole food ingredients, making them a healthier choice.

Remember – while energy bars can be a convenient source of quick nutrition, it’s essential to know what to avoid when selecting the perfect bar for you. With this guide, you’re equipped to make informed choices and find the energy bar that’s right for you. Always remember, when in doubt, consult a healthcare provider or dietitian. Happy snacking!