Choosing the Healthiest Energy Bars in 2014, by Lisa Snow

       lisa-snow     Every New Year many of us resolve to eat healthier.  Eating at home is the most affordable way to ensure you’re eating high quality food, but a packaged healthy snack is better than what’s in your average vending machine.  With more and more protein bars and energy bars on the market, how can you tell the ones that have real food value apart from the ones that are just candy bars in disguise? 

Decoding Labels

While the average consumer just reads the calories, most health-oriented consumers are smart enough to read the ingredients.  But what do you look for there?  The best bars have these traits in common:

  • Do NOT have corn syrup, HFCS, white sugar, brown sugar, or other types of added sugar
  • DO contain natural products like dried dates, raisins, vanilla, stevia, etc. to provide sweetness
  • No NOT have sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), ace-K, etc., which are known carcinogens.  Research also shows that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain (we’re talking fat, not muscle).
  • DO contain a high quality protein source like hemp or brown rice (regular or sprouted).
  • Do NOT have cheap proteins like whey or soy.  Soy protein isolate is actually an industrial waste product of margarine manufacturing. Energy bar companies started using it because industry couldn’t think of any other way to get rid of it.  The soy protein powder used in commercial energy bars has almost nothing in common with healthy soy foods like tempeh or miso.  Whey is made from dairy products, and so isn’t a good choice for people with dairy allergies.  In addition, the whey used in energy bars is usually made from non-organic milk, meaning it contains antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, etc.
  • DO have a short list of ingredients, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.  Some brands, like Vega, have a long list of ingredients, but they’re all nutritious.

Where to Buy

Although it used to be a huge challenge to find organic protein bars, they’re everywhere now.  Locally-owned health food stores, Whole Foods, Vitamin Shoppe, and even some airport snack shops now have great energy bar and protein bar options.  For the ultimate convenience you can shop online at stores like Amazon and have them shipped right to your door.

Some promising brands  (in alphabetical order)

All the brands listed are gluten-free, and contain no corn syrup, no artificial dyes, no artificial flavors, and no artificial sweeteners!

Amrita Bar

Pros:

  • Short list of ingredients
  • Protein from brown rice (no whey, no soy)
  • The only bar on the market that’s completely free of peanuts and tree nuts, perfect for people with allergies
  • Sweetened with maple syrup (no agave)

Cons:

  • Not 100% organic (about 60% of ingredients are organic)

Dale’s Raw Food Bar

Pros:

  • Short list of ingredients
  • Protein from rice, peas, and hemp (no whey, no soy)
  • Sweetened with coconut sugar (no agave)

Cons:

  • Not completely organic (many flavors are 90% organic)
  • Some flavors have peanuts, and nearly all flavors have tree nuts, so they won’t work for children or adults with nut allergies

Journey Bar

Pros:

  • The only bar that’s savory, not sweet, with flavors like coconut curry & pizza marinara
  • Protein from brown rice and peas (no whey, no soy)
  • Contains ancient whole grains like quinoa, amaranth, and gluten-free oats

Cons:

  • Slightly long list of ingredients
  • Not organic, but they are completely non-GMO
  • All flavors contain tree nuts, so they won’t work for children or adults with nut allergies

Pure Bar

Pros:

  • Short list of ingredients
  • 100% organic
  • Protein from brown rice (no whey, no soy)

Cons:

  • All flavors contain tree nuts, some contain peanuts, and some contain sacha inchi seed protein, so they won’t work for children or adults with nut allergies
  • Sweetened with agave

Organic Food Bar

Pros:

  • Short list of ingredients
  • 100% organic
  • Protein from brown rice (no whey, no soy)
  • The “protein” flavor has 22 g of protein per bar!
  • Most flavors taste very sweet, even though there’s only a small amount of added sweetener; most of the sweetness comes from fruit like organic dates and raisins

Cons:

  • Sweetened with agave
  • All flavors contain tree nuts, so they won’t work for children or adults with nut allergies

Vega Vibrancy Bar

Pros:

  • Protein from brown rice (no whey, no soy)
  • Contain non-dairy probiotics, great for people with allergies

Cons:

  • Somewhat long list of ingredients
  • Sweetened with agave
  • Not completely organic (although a few individual ingredients are organic)
  • All flavors contain tree nuts (and some contain sacha inchi seed oil), so they won’t work for children or adults with nut allergies

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