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Weight Loss Lies: Part 2

FREE Food Mistakes Guide

5 BIG Food Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

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by Wendy Goldman in Healthy Eating, Weight Loss

At least once a week, if not more, someone tells me they have some sort of “bar” as their breakfast or lunch. (Did you think I was going to talk about salad bars or bars to drink booze? Hah!)

Energy bars, snack bars and meal replacement bars are all really popular these days. But are they good for you?

Here’s how to find out: start by looking at the package. Most people only look at the front of the package to see what flavor the bar is and what it says on the front. Then they decide to buy or not, based on that information.

Here’s the truth: the front of the package is all about marketing – the stuff the food company wants you to think to get you to buy their product.

It may say “healthy” or “natural”. That’s what they want you to think, but are they truly healthy or natural?

The only thing you need to look at on the front of the package is what flavor it is, and if it’s one you’d like. What you need to look at for the truth about whether the bar is really healthy is on the back of the package.

I love (ok, really, I hate) when they say “made with organic ingredients” on the front of the bar, but when you look at the actual ingredients on the back, it doesn’t tell you which exact ingredients are organic. If they’re really using certified organic ingredients, it will say “organic peanuts”, or the exact ingredients that are organic. If it doesn’t specify exactly which ingredients are organic, assume they’re not, because if they were, they’d list them. So if you want organic ingredients, you need to read the list of ingredients on the back of the label to see if they’re really in there.

Let’s talk more about the back of the package. That’s where the most important information is. Read the entire list of ingredients. Then you’ll really know what you’re eating. Watch out for things like rice syrup, glucose syrup, fructose syrup, etc. These are all sugars. Some of these bars have multiple sugars in them, but they’re listed as “syrup”. Guess what – they’re sugar.

One popular “energy bar” is 31% sugar. Is it really an energy bar, or a candy bar in disguise? If it’s chocolate chip, chocolate coated with caramel in the center, what is it really? If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… maybe it’s a duck.

Unfortunately, a lot of these bars are candy bars in disguise. They’re cleverly marketed to make us think we’re eating something healthy, when it’s really not. Just because there are nuts in there, doesn’t make it not be a candy bar. Lots of popular candy bars have nuts in them.

Also look at the “nutrition facts” on the back of the package. Look under sugar to see how much sugar is in the bar. Sometimes it’s deceiving. There may be three sugars listed in the ingredients, but they’re in such small amounts, that it’s OK. Usually, though, the reverse is true. The ingredients may look healthy, but the amount of sugar may be pretty high. The only way to know is to check the number of grams of sugar in the bar.

If it sounds intimidating to read the ingredients and nutrition facts, it’s really not. It’s a good habit to get into, and the only way to know for sure if the bar you’re considering is a glorified candy bar.

A quick note: you usually don’t need to worry about the fat in these bars. They often have nuts which is where the fat comes from. But, still, you never know until you read the ingredients list.

And, like I tell my patients and students, it’s always best to eat a meal of real food, rather than a bar as a meal replacement. Real food is a better choice than processed food. Bars are processed food. If you want to have healthy bars as a snack, it’s not the end of the world. But could you eat a handful of nuts or some fruit or veggies as a snack?

If time is the issue and you tend to eat a bar as a meal replacement, try planning ahead. If you know you won’t have time to make breakfast, you could hard boil some eggs in advance and have them ready to grab and eat. Sometimes planning ahead is the solution to having a healthy meal and good energy, rather than a glorified candy bar that won’t give you the fuel you need to go about your day. If you do choose to have bars as a back-up, now you know how to choose healthy ones.

And since we’re talking about bars, cheers to healthy eating!

FREE Food Mistakes Guide

5 BIG Food Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Get It Now!