Its midafternoon and your stomach rumbles, "Feed me." Do you make that well-travelled trip to the unhealthy baking left in the office lunchroom, or do you open your desk drawer for a healthy energy bar or nut mixture?
It’s midafternoon and your stomach rumbles, “Feed me.” Do you make that well-travelled trip to the unhealthy baking left in the office lunchroom, or do you open your desk drawer for a healthy energy bar or nut mixture?
The answer may seem pretty clear, but within the bar and nut world the choices are perplexing. Every week there is a new energy bar or trail mix stocked on the grocery shelf. As we look at this wall of chewable treats, it’s overwhelming to determine which ones our bodies will appreciate and which ones are just chemical concoctions.
The purpose of an energy bar is to give you an immediate energy fix or snack. Some bars are tailored around athletics, where the protein and energy content varies for the needs of the athlete. However, the big news is what many advertisements do not tell you—this so-called snack truly acts more like a dessert or a bag of chips.
Then there are meal replacement bars, which are higher in protein and energy. According to Health Canada, they must provide 25 percent of the recommended nutritional intake of 12 vitamins and 10 minerals per serving.
Trail mixes, or a combination of nuts and seeds, are similar in nutritional value to snack bars, with the exception of fat. Nuts mainly contain healthy fat and some protein. Remember: one gram of fat is equal to nine calories.
So be aware of the amount you eat. A handful is okay, but if you eat two or three handfuls, you’re consuming hundreds of calories.
Check out our healthy tip sidebars and you’ll have no trouble choosing the right snack for your midday munchies. Just make room in your desk drawer or in your car’s glove compartment for your new favourite snack. Happy nibbles!
Trail mix blazers
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dry roasted almonds
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Preferably unsalted ingredients
Better bagged choices
- Eden Organic Wild Berry Mix
With no added salt, this blend provides a great source of fibre and protein.
- Sahale Snacks Nut Blends
Made with only natural ingredients and unique herbs to bring out unique flavours.
- Skeet & Ikes Organic Fruit & Nut Mix
Packed with a variety of good-for-you ingredients, this certified organic mix of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit is hard to resist.
Trail mix duds
- Sulphured dried fruit
This fruit contains sulphur dioxide, used to prevent oxidation and lessen fruit browning. This ingredient does not improve the flavour or quality of the fruit. Choose unsulphured dried fruit.
- Salt overload
Many seed and nut mixtures have a great deal of added salt. Look for less than 200 mg of sodium per serving.
- Ingredients you can’t pronounce
The common sense approach is to buy what you know. Be aware of words such as sorbitol, glucose, and sulphites; you will probably recognize these ingredients, but they are not likely found in a nut mixture. Healthy trail mix mainly consists of nuts, seeds, and possibly some unsulphured dried fruit.
What to shop for in a bar
Aim for 5 to 10 g of protein in the bar. Protein helps control hunger and supports the lean muscle mass that you want. Good quality protein sources are soy, whey, casein, and egg.
Look for bars containing 170 to 270 calories. This provides enough energy to get you through until your next meal, while supporting a healthy metabolism.
This is a tricky one. You definitely want your bar to have fat, but it is important you look at what type of fat is present, as we know nuts are a healthy fat. Less than 5 g is usually ideal.
This bowel friend is already missing in most of our diets, and a snack time is a perfect time to add some fibre. Look for bars containing at least 3 to 5 g of fibre.
What to steer clear of in a bar
- Saturated or trans fat
Both of these types of fat raise LDL, or bad cholesterol. Watch out for and avoid hydrogenated oil.
No form of sugar should be listed in the first three ingredients. One sugar you must avoid is high-fructose corn syrup.
- Sugar alcohols
Some bars have taken out the sugar and replaced it with a sugar alcohol or polyol such as mannitol or sorbitol. These sugar alcohols contain calories and have been shown to cause diarrhea and to increase blood sugar when consumed in large quantities.
This comes from the sugar alcohol glycerol, which is often used as a filler to help bulk up the size of the bar.
Better bar pickings
- Source Salba’s Real Whole Food Bars
Certified 100 percent organic, these gluten-free, vegan, and kosher bars provide over 700 mg of omega-3 and 3 g of fibre.
- Vega Whole Food Vibrance Bar
These organic, raw bars are a celebration of organic, plant-based superfoods. They contain sprouted buckwheat, hempseed, sprouted almonds, Salba, acai, and Vega’s own antioxidant EFA oil blend.
Blended from 100 percent whole food, they are gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free with no added sugar. One bar counts as one serving of fruit.