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How to Choose a Healthy Energy Bar

Energy Bars

Dr. Kristie Leong

Energy bars have become a popular way to start the day or serve as a quick pick me up when energy levels drop in the late afternoon. Unfortunately, these bars are often loaded with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients that make them less wholesome than advertised. If you're savvy about reading nutritional labels, you can sort through the choices and pick one that won't offset your healthy eating plan. Here's how to choose a healthy energy bar:

Check calorie count

Some energy bars can be quite rich in calories which may be appropriate if you're choosing a bar for a meal but if you're using it as a mid-day snack, a high calorie energy bar isn't a wise choice. In general, if your energy bar is to serve as a snack, keep the calorie count at 200 or less. If it will be a meal replacement, you can double the calorie content.

Check the sugar content

Many energy bars are quite high in carbohydrates and sugars. A simple way to determine the approximate amount of sugar in an energy bar is to divide the number of grams of sugar by four. This will give you the approximate teaspoons of sugar in each serving. For example, if an energy bar has 16 grams of sugar, it has about four teaspoons of added sugar. To choose a healthy energy bar, limit sugar as much as possible.

Check the serving size

Often the calorie content listed for an energy bar is for more than one serving. If there are two servings in each bar, you'll need to multiply the calories by two. Many people assume that the calorie content is for the entire bar and end up consuming twice as many calories as they originally intended.

Check for whole grains

To choose a healthy energy bar, check for whole grains as a primary ingredient. The first ingredients listed on the nutritional label are generally the ones present in the highest amounts. If your energy bar is a healthy one, whole grains should be at the beginning of the list.

Check the fibre content

A healthy energy bar should have at least three grams of fibre per serving. A high fibre content helps to promote a sensation of fullness, moderates insulin levels, and can help regulate digestive function and play a role in preventing heart disease.

Check the protein content

A healthy energy bar should have some protein to give you a feeling of fullness and prime your metabolism. A simple formula to determine your recommended daily protein requirement is to divide your weight by 2.2. This will give your weight in kilograms. If you're extremely active, you should get one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. If inactive, 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be sufficient. Take this into consideration when choosing an energy bar.

Avoid trans fats

Be aware that an energy bar can claim zero grams of trans fat if there is less than 0.5 grams per serving. Read the ingredient list and avoid energy bars that mention partially hydrogenated oils or fractionated oils.

If you want to choose a healthy energy bar, practice reading and comparing nutritional labels on the bars sold in your local supermarket. Soon, you'll be able to quickly determine whether you're eating an energy bar that will be beneficial healthwise. 

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2008-2022. First published in July 2008, last revised in August 2022. Dr. Kristie Leong is a family practice physician and medical writer. Published with permission.