What to Look for in a Healthy Energy Bar

There are many energy bars on the market but not all are necessarily a healthy snack

Credit: Flickr/M.V.Jantzen

Energy bars can be a convenient, healthy snack if you know what to look for

Much like energy drinks there has been an explosion of energy bars on the market in the last five years

Don’t let the term energy bar fool you. Any food you eat will provide energy, whether it’s a piece of greasy pizza or a salad. So while all energy bars promote themselves as being healthy and nutritious, not all of them are.

What to Look for in an Energy Bar

With so many choices and so much marketing hype it can sometimes be difficult to tell the good bars apart from the less healthy options. Here’s what to look for when choosing an energy bar:

  1. Natural ingredients. Look for bars that are made with real fruit, nuts, seeds and other “real” food. These should make up a majority of the ingredients list.
  2. Minimal added sugar. Almost all bars will have some sort of fruit juice or nectar as a sweetening agent but avoid bars that list sugar as an ingredient.
  3. No preservatives, artificial colouring or additives. The ingredient list shouldn’t read like a chemistry textbook. If you can’t pronounce all the ingredients look for another bar. 
  4. Non-GMO ingredients. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. The food company scientists tell us GMO foods are fine to eat, but I’ll still pass on them. I’m sure we’ll see studies in 20 or 30 years linking diseases to increased GMO food consumption.
  5. No trans fats. If you see the term “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated,” run away. Fast. Trans fats are the one kind of fat to avoid at all costs.
  6. Minimal processing. Choose bars that haven’t been overly processed. Hint: if they meet the first five criteria they probably fit the bill.
  7. Fibre. There are many health benefits to fibre and most Canadians don’t get enough. Every meal you eat should contain some fibre so make sure your energy bar has some. 

Raw Food Bars

I’ve become a big fan of the raw food bars that have been introduced in recent years. These bars are made with raw fruits, nuts and seeds (usually organic) and minimal processing; so they’re close to being “natural’ food.

I’ve tried a few of the brands and most of them taste great. One of my favourite raw food bars is the Hammer Nutrition cashew coconut chocolate chip bar. It’s all organic and the ingredients include cashews, dates, coconut, sprouts and flax and it tastes out of this world.

You can find raw food bars at most grocery stores and health food stores.

I’m not advocating making these bars a staple in your diet. But as an occasional, convenient snack they’re a whole lot better than a typical candy bar or bag of chips.