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Myth: Granola bars are a quick and healthy snack

TRUTH:  When working out or just in passing I see a lot of people eating energy bars and drinking fortified waters.  To me, these are (usually) the nutritional equivalent of candy bars and sugar water.

Energy bars are not what they seem – but the name is very telling.  They provide energy (aka calories), and lots of ‘em.  Often, energy bars are packed with added sugar, fat, and salt – all things that you want to aim to have less of.  And believe you me, some “healthy” bars aren’t much better.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s play a game.  Guess which label is the candy bar:

a.    b.


Nearly impossible, right?!  They’re all kind of similar.  Here are the things that jump out at me:

  • Option A is high in total fat and absurdly high in saturated fat.  Though it doesn’t have a lot of fiber, it is the highest in protein so you’ll feel full for a longer period than the other bars.
  • Option B is obviously higher in total fat than the other bars but it’s also 20 grams less (in total size)! So if you were going to have 60 grams of each bar, it would actually be the highest in fat by leaps and bounds.  On the plus side, it does have the most fiber.
  • Option C is the lowest in protein and is highest in sugars.  As compared to the other bars, the fat seems moderate (even though it is very high in fat).

Well, for those who are wondering, option A is a popular energy bar, option B is a fruit and nut granola bar and option C is a candy bar.  The giveaway was the sugar, not the fat!  Did you expect the granola bar to have the highest fat content?!

You may say “ok, Kate, I see your point as far as snacks are concerned but I want a post-workout recovery bar so wouldn’t an energy bar be a good choice?”  No. It wouldn’t.  The main nutrients you need after a workout are protein and carbs.  As you see above, the energy bar has insane amounts of fat so choosing a turkey sandwich, yogurt and banana or fruit/nuts are better choices.

BOTTOM LINE:  Use nutrition fact labels! Check the amount of calories, sugar, fat, fiber and sodium in packaged products.  For a snack, choose bars that are between 100-200 calories and contain 5% or less of the Daily Value for fat and sodium.  Foods that contain protein and fiber will keep you feeling full for a while.

FYI – my personal go-to granola bar is the Oat and Honey Nature Valley bar.  One package (2 bars) is 190 calories, 54 calories from fat, 6 g of fat but only .5 g saturated fat, 29 g carbs, 2 g of fiber, and 4 g protein.


*Please note that I do not promote any brands in particular. As usual, the healthiest option will be one you make at home!



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