A healthy snack bar can be a saviour when you’re out and about. Between meals, at the movies or driving from A to B, a snack bar is the perfect cure for a bad case of stomach grumbles. However, snack bars can also contribute to mindless snacking – they are easy to access, often high in sugar and usually not very filling, which can leave you wanting to eat more and more. This is far from ideal when you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, writes Ellie McInerney.
If, however, you are a true fan of the humble snack bar, there are always healthier options available to you. It’s just a matter of reading the nutrition label and the ingredients list to make sure you’re choosing a bar that’s not just right for your taste buds, but your overall health and wellbeing too.
Remember though, anything fresh is always better than something from a box, so if you’re feeling peckish then a small serve of nuts, a piece of fruit or a protein shake are great options. However, there are some great snack bar options available in your local supermarket.
My favourite snack bars
When choosing a snack bar, steer clear of anything with artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. If it looks like a rainbow, it’s not natural – so leave the brilliant blue cartoon inspired ‘fruit’ bars on the shelf and pick up a box that looks a little more… down to earth.
One of my favourite brands is Carman’s. Carman’s create healthy, delicious snack bars using fruit, oats and nuts with no nasties and all natural ingredients. Just some of the yummy options in the Carman’s selection include the Original Fruit-Free Muesli Bar, Classic Fruit and Nut Muesli Bar, Super Berry Muesli Bar and Deluxe Gluten Free Muesli Bar.
Freedom Foods have a fantastic variety of gluten free, wheat free, sugar free and dairy free snack bars. These are available in most supermarkets in the health food section.
Watch out for sugar
Many snack bars are chock-full of healthy ingredients. Nuts and seeds are a great source of protein, low in carbs and high in healthy fats, so choose a bar that’s bursting with almonds, cashews, walnuts and pecans. Fruit in snack bars can really increase the sugar content, so be mindful of just how much sugar is in one serve, particularly if there is any added sweetener like maple syrup, cane sugar, coconut sugar etc.
Check out this table for an overview of the nutritional content of just a few of the snack bars available in your local supermarket. Note that many of the snack bars are low in protein, which means they won’t fill you up for long and probably won’t tide you over until your next meal.
Nutritional details of popular snack bars
|Carmen’s Original Fruit Muesli Bar||5.2g||7.7g||23.4g||5.4g||191||1 bar 270g|
|Milo Energy Snack Bars with Milk||1.8g||2.5g||18.4||7.4g||107||1 bar 160g|
|Uncle Toby’s Chewy Chocolate Chip Muesli Bar||2.3g||4.6g||20.1g||5.7g||134||1 bar 31.3g|
|Freedom Foods Crunchola Chewy Choc Chip Bar||2.4g||4.2g||21.1g||4.3||138||1 bar 35g|
|Be Natural Trail Bars Berry||2.1g||1.4g||20.4g||6.6g||109||1 bar 32g|
Source: Nutritional information taken from individual snack bars, March 2016.
To boost your protein intake between meals, try including a protein shake with your snack bar, or try a boiled egg or some sugar-free peanut butter on rice cakes.
Create your own snack bar
If you really want to get smart about snacking, why not create your own snack bar? At the end of the day, the healthiest snack bars are simply a good quality trail mix without any added sugars. To make your own snack bar, grab a couple of handfuls of your favourite nuts and seeds and one or two handfuls of fruit such as sultanas, banana chips, dried apple or dates.
Chop up the nuts, seeds and fruit and combine in a bowl with a dash of honey and some oats (gluten free oats are available online or your local health food store if you are gluten intolerant or sensitive to wheat). Mould the mixture into balls or bars and pop them in the fridge until you’re feeling a little peckish. Simple, healthy and super delicious!