My latest article on Irongirl.com (and on the FREE Iron Girl Newslettter) was probably one of my most favorite articles to write. I want to be open and express that I am one who practices what I preach. I absolutely LOVE foods that are wholesome in natural and contain little to no ingredients. But, I also have off-brand Fiber One bars in my pantry, as well as Wal-mart Toasty-O's cereal, Nabisco Graham Crackers and chocolate Teddy Grahams. I did not get upset at Karel when he bought the Teddy Grahams and I don't feel as if 1/2 sheet Graham Cracker w/ a little PB, alongside a bowl of fruit, is horrible for my body. My fiber one bars are perfect for traveling (although I always pack lunches and other snacks). Also, 1/2 bar on the way home from a long morning workout at the Y helps me from overeating and craving everything in sight before I make my morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal w/ milk. I have to admit, however, that Karel and I go through fruit and veggies (as well as low-fat dairy) so quickly that I have to get to the grocery store at least twice a week. As for the processed food in our tiny pantry (aside from oats), we usually have to put that food in the fridge because we just don't eat it that often.
Everyone is different and we all see food differently. For some people, if you crave it and then see it, you can't stop eating it. For others, you can stop after a little piece/serving of something that is not-so heart-healthy. Always be mindful of what you buy and put in your house and if you are avoiding foods that you are providing to others, ask yourself if there is a "healthier" option so that everyone can enjoy similar foods...just in different portions.
What happened to an Apple and Peanut Butter
We live in a society that is full of convenience foods. Who knew that a squeezable tube of yogurt, containing processed and artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup and sugar, could be a "healthy" snack for children on the go?
Do you have a time-crunched work and exercise schedule, leaving you just enough time to sleep? If so, it is likely that you are one of many people who eat processed foods at least once or twice a day. From Pop-Tarts, cereal bars and Lunchables to energy bars, 100-calorie snack packs and five-minute microwavable dinners, it is easy for our fast-paced society to find convenience in ready-to-eat, pre-packaged meals and snacks.
At one point in our history, a sugary and fattening foods with no nutritional value were recognized as candy. Individually wrapped treats such as Pixy Sticks, MilkyWay, Hershey's or Almond Joy, were once viewed as either a reward or an occasional indulgence. While candy and candy bars are still favorable items for a sweet tooth, the "health" food industry has become rather creative in promoting individually wrapped, sugary or sweet, processed treats.
Whenever you need a quick meal or snack, or want to cure a craving, there is certainly no shortage of bars at your local supermarket. From cereal bars, granola bars, energy bars and sport bars to meal replacement bars, protein bars and supplement bars, it is likely that you can find a bar, and a flavor, for every meal of the week. With 20+ items on the ingredient list of many commercial bars, not limited to: high fructose corn syrup, glycerin, partially hydrogenated oil, coconut oil, sugar, chocolate chunks, cocoa powder, salt, partially defatted peanut flour, artificial flavor, toffee bits, soy crisps, less than 1 percent of vitamins and minerals and a few dried fruits, nuts and seeds added in here and there, it would be wise to assume that your overvalued "healthy" and convenient snack (or meal) bar is nothing more than well-marketed candy bar.
Convenience, taste and portion control may be some of the reasons you favor a Larabar over green peppers and hummus for a snack. However, your athletic mindset may also lead you to believe that a sport bar will provide the nutrients you are lacking, foster performance gains and give an added boost to your day.
If more energy or boosts to your fitness level are in fact what you're looking for, manufactured products, even those made for the physically active, will not provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and satiating factors that your body would receive from real foods. While a meal replacement bar for breakfast is an excellent start for the non-breakfast eater, replacing whole foods for processed items, in an effort to loose weight or control/reduce calories, will only backfire in your quest to live a healthier and balanced life.
Although bars should only be consumed on occasion, there are definitely benefits of choosing a bar over a vending-machine snack. Eating a bar is much better than skipping a meal or snack. Bars are safer and affordable than weight-loss pills, convenient for rushed or delayed-situations (traveling, running errands, meetings, etc.) and require no calorie counting or measuring. Additionally, they do offer some nutritional value for people who have a poor appetite, no access to heart-healthy food choices or have occasional, extreme time constraints (ex. 6 a.m. - 7:55 a.m. workout followed by an 8:15 a.m. meeting).
Therefore, if you do need a bar, look for the following:
*Bars that are less than 220 calories for a snack and less than 400 calories for a meal bar. *Avoid bars containing high fructose corn syrup (look at ingredients)
*Avoid bars containing a high amount of sugar alcohols (may promote bloating or GI upset)
*Does not have a sugary-icy coating and is low in sugar
*Contains whole grains (at least 3 grams of fiber)
*The first five ingredients are quality (real) ingredients
*Does not contain partially hydrogenated oils (check trans fat on label)
*Contains no more than 2 grams of saturated fat (although no saturated fat is highly recommended) and is not high in fat
*Nutrition profile demonstrates a balance of healthy fats, protein and carbs (avoid sport bars for a snack/meal, which are typically high in carbohydrates and sugar)
Starting today, if you have a habit of choosing bars over real food, be sure to plan ahead with your meals and snacks. No matter how busy you are, appreciate the value of a consistent and nutritionally balanced diet in an effort to meet your daily and athletic needs. More so, by relying less on processed foods and more on whole foods, you will find yourself filling up on nutrient-dense foods and ultimately, consuming less calories throughout the day.
TIP: After looking at nutrition facts to evaluate the best bar for your nutritional needs, be sure to read the ingredient label to find out what you are actually eating.
Use the following guide to be a smart planner rather than a convenience eater
Instead of Chocolatey Drizzle Special K cereal bar
Fill up on ¼ cup skim milk + 1/3 cup instant oats + ½ tbsp. dark chocolate chips (all cooked together in microwave)
Instead of Strawberry Soy Joy bar
Fill up on ½ tbsp natural Peanut Butter + 5 large strawberries (sliced) on 1 multigrain WASA cracker
Instead of NatureValley Almond Crunch Roasted Nut Crunch
Fill up on 6 almonds + 10 peanuts + 10 pistachios on 3 ounces of plain Chobani Greek Yogurt
Instead of BananaNutBread CliffBar
Fill up on 1/2 cup sliced banana + ½ tbsp natural Peanut Butter on 1 slice Nature's Own Double Fiber bread + 1 tbsp chopped walnuts + ½ tbsp honey
Instead of Myoplex Delux Chocolate Chip Protein bar
Fill up on 1 whole egg + ½ cup quinoa (cooked in water) + 1 ounce mozzarella part-skim cheese + 2 tbsp salsa over 1.5 cup spinach and 20 green pepper strips + 1 tbsp hummus