A granola bar packs a nutritious punch of energy and can hold your hunger at bay in between meals. But some bars can also be high in sugars and saturated fats, so before you stock up, make sure you’ve made the healthiest choice possible.
Always check that oatmeal, and not sugar, is the first listed ingredient, advises Anne Marie Armstrong, a dietitian in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Oatmeal in any form, meaning instant and steel cut, is always a whole grain, which provides benefits in regards to decreasing risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Yogurt-covered bars, she cautions, are often deceiving. “It’s not really yogurt – it’s usually just colouring, flavouring or palm oil, which is a saturated fat.” There should be less than two grams of saturated fat in your granola bars of choice, and the sugar count should be a single digit – ideally, less than eight grams – says Armstrong, adding that some granola bars on the market still contain trans fats, which should be avoided.
One of the most important ingredients in a granola bar is fibre; look for about five grams. “Fibre acts like a sponge,” says Natalie Brown, a dietitian in White Rock, B.C. “It will slowly release the sugars into your blood stream so you get a slow constant trickle of energy instead of a massive high at once.” Protein acts similarly as a blood-sugar stabilizer, but it’s protein bars, and not granola bars, that are typically loaded with it. “Protein bars are a good choice in the afternoon,” Brown says. “Not only does protein repair muscle after exercising, stabilize our blood sugar and make us full longer, it’s also been linked to bone strength,” she says.
But protein bars can be very high in calories and fat – so for the ideal pick-me-up, choose one that has about 200 calories and 10 to 15 grams of protein. Or pair a granola bar with a protein source, like a yogurt or a piece of cheese. But never use either as a meal replacement. “There are a lot of bars out there that claim to be a meal replacement,” says Brown, “but I don’t believe a shake or a bar can replace a good, balanced meal.”
Our five faves:
1. Kashi Granola Bars
Kashi’s granola bars are low in sugar and high in fibre, which makes them a good snack between breakfast and lunch.
2. Nature Valley Fibre Source
Fibre benefits our bowel health and, like protein, it’ll regulate your blood sugars, which makes it ideal for a pre-lunch pick-me-up.
3. Kellogg’s All-Bran Bite Size Bars
This controlled-calorie portion is a tasty snack for the afternoon, and its four grams of fibre hold you over until dinnertime.
For active women:
4. Vector bars
These 200-calorie bars contain about 15 grams of protein, making them an ultimate pre-workout snack.
5. Detour Protein Bar
Rich in protein (yet in the 200-calorie range) Detour should help repair some lost muscle after exercise.