Finding the Right Energy Bars

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, March 31, 2009

Energy Bar
When it comes to food bars, there are countless brands and varieties out there, and they’re certainly not one size fits all. Here’s how to choose the best bar for your lifestyle.

Energy Bar vs. Granola Bars
Stroll down the grocery aisles or check out the shelves at the gas station — you’ll likely find both energy bars and granola — or snack — bars (Read more about snack bars here). In some stores, energy bars are in a separate “diet and nutrition” section along with the diet pills and meal replacement shakes (don’t get me started on those!).

Energy bars are typically protein-packed, higher in calories, and full of carbohydrates to give active individuals and athletes a boost of energy. Granola bars are typically a lighter mix of nuts, grains and dried fruit. While many granola bars make a great snack in between meals, energy bars are often higher in protein and calories and better for a post-workout refuel — or in some cases, a small meal.

After exercise, the body needs a combination of carbs to replace energy stores and protein to feed fatigued muscles. That’s what energy bars are designed to do. You can also get this protein and carbs from a turkey sandwich or a glass of chocolate milk. Energy bars may be more convenient, but they’re often highly sweetened and will never replace the nutrients in whole foods. Ergo, our advice: eat them in moderation.

What To Look For
If you’re an athlete or someone who exercises regularly, an energy bar can be a good choice post-workout. Look for one with ingredients that you recognize and can pronounce. Choose one that is 200 to 400 calories (200 for women and closer to 400 for men). And yes, there is such a thing as protein overkill. Pick a bar that has 15 to 20 grams of protein (or less) per serving. You also want to stay away from the low-carb bars — energy bars are designed to give you energy and energy comes from carbs!

When my clients ask, I usually recommend the following: Clif Bar, Luna Bar and PowerBar. These brands offer many different varieties, so check nutrition facts and ingredients to find the right one for you.

Make Your Own
Unlike store-bought bars, homemade energy bars are lower in calories and protein and made from more wholesome ingredients. Plus, you can adjust the size of your bars for a smaller snack or a more substantial one for after a workout.

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Comments (42)

  1. stephanie says:

    if you’re looking for a great Granola Bar, try Laura Bars! they’re moist and taste great, are filling, and aren’t filled with a bunch of chemicals like most other types. The only ingredients are dried fruits and nuts…that’s it! They have great flavors like cherry pie, apple pie, and banana bread!

  2. Krikri says:

    Yes, not one size fits all. Making your own bars guarantee that you have wholesome ingredients and that you can control your calories. Most importantly, you can take your previous recipes and make ingredient substitution for a unique bar.

  3. Mom says:

    where do you find Laura bars?

  4. Kristine Brabson says:

    Looks like that’s a typo and the commenter means LARABAR, which Toby actually mentions in her post about snack bars (not to be confused with energy bars).

  5. Jeremy says:

    I love Larabars. I’ve found that apple pie and pecan pie are my favorites. They have many to choose from so anyone should find a flavor that works for them. And like Stephanie said, they’re good for you. I know for a fact you can get them at Central Market and Whole Foods… I haven’t looked at HEB. I’ll have to do that next time.

  6. me says:

    I highly recommend Lara Bars..my fav is pistacio and cashew, although they are all very good!

  7. Laura K. says:

    I found Larabars at CVS pharmacy the other day. Most health food stores have them. I read somewhere that their Cherry Pie flavor was highly rated. My daughter enjoyed the Peanut Butter Cookie and the Apple Pie bars. They are made from finely ground nuts and dry fruit and taste like a candy bar. A nice treat for the a healthly diet.

  8. Mindy Malon says:

    Kashi bars are great. They have enough protein & the fat & calories are low. They keep you full until lunch time. Are easy to eat at work & taste great. The PURE protein bars & Zone bars are eccelent as well.

  9. Jacqui says:

    LOVING the Lara Bars!! So great to see so many comments on some of my fave flavours…Cherry Pie and Pistachio…YUM! I also really like Odwalla Bar Berries GoMega….great flavour, but a bit higher in calories so make it a meal if you’re eating it all at once :)

  10. Ann Marie says:

    It seems like every energy bar has a ton of sugar. I love Clif Bars, but the second ingredient is cane juice, and they are loaded with sugar. I wish I could find a bar with less…

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