Because of their portability and convenience, nutrition bars are often a go-to product for dieters and the health-conscious. With so many types of bars taking over the shelves, it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Manufacturers often make exaggerated health claims and promises to get you to choose their brand, but choosing the healthiest nutrition bar requires investigation of the label.
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Pay Attention to Ingredients
Some nutrition bars are loaded with chemicals and artificial ingredients that may make the bar taste good but prevent it from being good for you. Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding nutrition bars with ingredients that you don't recognize or know how to pronounce; instead, choose nutrition bars that are made from natural ingredients like nuts and dried fruits. As a general rule, the fewer ingredients a bar has, the better.
Count Your Calories
The calorie count of nutrition bars varies widely. Some bars are meant for a meal replacement, while others are intended to be a snack. If you’re using the bar to replace a meal, look for one that contains at least 300 calories and 10 grams of protein. If you want the bar to hold you over between meals, look for one that has between 100 and 200 calories.
Figure Out Fiber Content
One of the many benefits of fiber is that it helps keep you full. Fiber absorbs water, so it literally expands in your digestive tract to fill your stomach. Fiber also takes longer to digest than other nutrients, so it stays in your system longer. Choose a bar that contains at least 2 to 3 grams of fiber.
Focus on Fat and Sugar
Bars can serve as a quick source of protein and fiber, but they can easily pack a wallop of fat and sugar if you’re not careful. Avoid bars that contain added sugars like evaporated cane juice, honey, molasses or corn syrup. These added sugars not only increase calories, but they contribute to systemic inflammation -- a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. For a meal replacement, choose a bar with no more than 4 grams of added sugar and 4 grams of saturated fat. If your bar is a snack, opt for one that contains less than 2 grams of added sugar and 2 grams of saturated fat.