I think the number one question I get and a mistake that is so frequently made, has to do with energy/health/protein bars. There are literally thousands on the market. From Big Food that produce Fiber One Bars and Nature Valley to other bars like Quest Protein Bars, LaraBar (owned by General Mills).
Very, very few bars on the market are worth of your hard-earned dollar.
First, a quick breakdown of the unhealthy ones.
Fiber One Bars
Brand: General Mills who supports GMO*
Sample of ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, HFCS, two vegetable oils, vegetable glycerin, GMO soy and dairy, yellow 5 & 6 lake, red 40 lake, blue 1 lake, propylene glycol
Claim: daily requirement of fiber
Truth: manufactured fiber, not real fiber from real food
Nature Valley Granola Bars
Brand: General Mills*
Sample of ingredients: GMO corn, GMO soy, High Maltose Corn Syrup, 3 oils, rice maltodextrin
Claim: protein bar
Truth: GMO protein and ingredients
(How people even think this is a protein/energy bar, well, I'm not quite sure! They were sponsors of The Biggest Loser so that's why I included it here.)
Quest Protein Bars
Brand: Quest Nutrition
Sample of Ingredients: GMO dairy, GMO whey (part of dairy), sucralose, artificial sweeteners (Splenda), sugar alcohols (Erythritol, Xylitol). (Note: they claim that they are GMO free, but this not stated anywhere on website or labels. Buyer beware.)
Claim: a natural protein bar, "junk free" (this company is very unethical, do not buy, eat, or support)
Truth: protein is from GMO dairy, includes artificial sweetener sucralose (zero calorie sweetener) which the body can’t break down. Zero calorie sweeteners deceive the body, trick the brain (you'll crave more & more), and cause health problems. Sucralose is a toxic, fake sweetener known as Splenda and the following health ailments have been reported from it:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Seizures, dizziness and migraines
- Blurred vision
- Allergic reactions
- Blood sugar increases and weight gain
- Type 2 Diabetes
Sugar alcohols such as Erythritol, Xylitol disrupt the oral AND gut microbiome. Since one of the places that health begins from is in the gut, sugar alcohols are a nightmare to living in optimal health. Any product that contains sugar alcohols must be avoided.
Furthermore, this bar is also made with IMO (Isomaltooligosaccharide). This is why the fiber content is so high in this bar. The thing is that this fiber is fake. It's not real fiber! And anytime you give your body fake, highly processed, man-made food-like products, health problems WILL occur. Your body was not created to properly digest 17g of fiber from a lab-made bar.
A little free lesson: where does fiber come from? Fiber comes from organic veggies, nuts, seeds, fruits, hemp, chia- all foods from the earth, not a lab.
This bar is not real food and your body knows it.
This company is beyond unethical, false advertising, and deceptive marketing (cheat clean*). There is also a lawsuit against Quest Nutrition as well for these issues we've stated. But I digress.
*There is no such thing as "cheat clean"! Another reason why Quest is a dreadful company and bar is due to their false advertising and marketing tactics. They've done a good job at duping many people! "Cheat clean" is an oxymoron. It's like saying you got the oil changed in your car but you used dirty oil! Secondly, is cheating ever a good thing? If a person cheats in a relationship, do you want them to tell you they "cheated clean"? I should hope not!
The above ingredients in Quest are anything BUT clean. They are harmful to your health. Please do not be duped by their marketing ploys.
Question to ask yourself: if you are cheating in your health and nutrition choices, what other areas of your life are you cheating in?
Anytime you have to justify something (I deserve it, I earned it, cheat clean, etc), it indicates an inner turmoil of knowing better but doing poorer and feeling guilty for said choice. Healthy choices do not need justification.
If it's made in a lab, do not buy or eat!
Brand: General Mills*
Ingredients: nuts and fruits
Claim: organic fruit and nut bar
Truth: owned by General Mills who as you know supports and funds GMO. Lara Bars are not organic. Many people think they are but they are not. Lara Bar did recently come out with an organic bar line.
So what bars can you buy, eat and support? Here are the top 5 (now 8) energy/health/protein that I personally recommend (and buy, eat, support).
A small company based in Austin, TX. Strictly a raw fruit, seed and nut bar. Naturally gluten free, organic, plant-based. Colossal Coconut Mango is my go-to bar when cycling or running (and traveling and…)
Another organic raw bar I love. My favorite kind is Spirulina. Also a small company.
My personal favorite is Wholehearted Heaven: almond butter+carob. A small company based in Wisconsin.
Based out of Boulder, Colorado, this newer small bar company makes raw, plant-based, naturally gluten free and organic energy bars. I love Cashew Cacao.
UPDATE March 3, 2016: I've removed this brand as their ingredients aren't as pure from when I first wrote this.
A 6th addition to this list because we fell in love with this small company and bar! They believe in REAL food, REAL ingredients. These bars are paleo, naturally gluten free, and downright delicious. We wholeheartedly approve!
Another small company that uses real food as ingredients. Nut free so perfect for those with allergies.
Another one of my personal favorites. Pure, simple, organic ingredients with different combinations of herbs+spices (like clove, ginger, cinnamon, chili pepper, rosemary) which are great anti-inflammatories! Nuts are the protein content. Small company based out of Chicago.
While Thunderbird is not organic they are GMO free and made with real food ingredients, I'm including them on this list as they are a much better choice than Quest or Natural Valley!
They use spices (turmeric!) and superfood (maca!) in some of their bar flavors. Vegan, Paleo, sugar free as well as sugar alcohol free, these are a good choice for your health.
I'm so excited that Navitas Naturals introduced a bar to their stellar lineup of superfood products!
These bars are organic and chock full of superfood ingredients your body will love. Naturally GMO free and plant-based, these bars are an excellent choice!
Criteria for buying health/energy bars:
- Research company (are they sustainable? Not owned by Big Food or GMO supporting?)
- Raw is the best choice (no fear of gluten, GMO dairy, animal-based protein)
- Make sure protein source comes from nuts, seeds, hemp (not soy, peanuts or dairy)
- Oat/grain free
- Free from artificial sugars, sweeteners, sugar alcohols
- The sweetener should come from dates, raw honey, 100% pure maple syrup, organic fruit
- Packaging- several on this have compostable packaging. This is something you want to look for.
- Ask me!
*The Grocery Manufacturing Association (GMA) spent $22 million for anti-GMO labeling in Washington State (I-522) and General Mills directly contributed $869,270). GMA spent $45 million for anti-GMO labeling in California (prop 37). Source.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid to endorse any of the brands mentioned in this post. I've bought these bars and vetted them through my careful and strict criteria. Nov 7, 2013 / Feb 11, 2015.
photo credit: Daniel E Lee