There is an explosion of so called health bars on the market. I was looking for a healthier substitute to the everyday chocolate bars so I ventured into health food shops and the health section of supermarkets to see what they had to offer. So this is not a protein/energy bar review – I will do that another day – however some of the guidelines below will still apply no matter what type of bar you are buying.
Some of the 7 bars I reviewed appeared really healthy and I nearly got drawn in by the promises on the packaging in spite of my background in marketing. So don’t get fooled by all the health claims. Actually it was a case of the healthier the bar the fewer the claims. So my advise is ignore the ‘noise’ on the wrappers and head straight to the ingredient list. The normal rules apply here – if there are lots of ingredients listed you don’t recognise as food don’t buy it. If it is not in your kitchen press it is not real food. Stick to the bars with fewer ingredients.
Added sugars are a concern in many bars marketed as healthy. Added sugars include the sugars that have been added to processed foods. Agave syrup, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose syrup, honey, and tapioca syrup are among the sweeteners used in many health bars. Though many of these sound healthy they are all added sugars and should be kept to a minimum in your diet. I suggest it’s better to choose a bar that has been sweetened by fruit. However if it does have added sugars make sure it is listed toward the end of the ingredients list. The World Health Organisation recommends keeping added sugars below approx. 6 teaspoons per day (25g) for adults and less for children, so be mindful as all these sugars from different foods can add up throughout the day. My advice – stick with bars made mostly from wholefood ingredients. They taste better – it will taste like real food and not taste processed.
You might wonder how a bar can be high in fibre – the first bar below has 10g of fibre which is the amount you would get in about 3 slices of brown bread. Some of the fibre in this bar is due to inulin – a favourite ingredient for food manufacturers to bulk up the fiber in packaged foods. Inulin is found naturally in foods like bananas and onions and is a powerful ingredient in regulating blood sugars, digestion and cholesterol and also acting as a prebiotic. However adding it to a processed food would not be as beneficial as eating it in its natural state in plant form. Take note – people who eat foods with fibres added to them such as inulin may complain of gas, cramping, diarrhoea or constipation.
1. ZOOT ZERO BARS
- No added sugars
- Smooth dark chocolate product sweetened by stevia and maltitol*
- I tried the Cacao and orange product
- Made with cashew nuts, dried fruit, peanuts, sunflower seeds
- The sweetness comes from the dried fruit
- 7g of protein per 35g bar (all from nuts which is good)
- No bitter after taste
- High in fibre 10g (see note above)
- No preservatives
- A good alternative to popular brands containing up to 56% sugar
- I recommend have it as an occasional treat
- You should find them in your local health food store or on line
* Although maltitol (a sugar alcohol and half calories of sugar) can be safe to eat in small amounts can cause digestive issues in larger doses.
2. TREK BARS
There is not any chocolate in this bar but I included it in here because I tried it!
- Sweetness comes from the dried fruit and fruit concentrate
- Made with dates, peanuts, raisins
- 10g of protein per bar
- Contains – ‘soya protein crunchies’ so would indicate it is quite processed
- Has over 10 ingredients – the more ingredients the more processed it can be
- These are available in most supermarkets
- A half decent pre/post exercise snack if you are stuck
3. THE PRIMAL PANTRY BARS
- Only 5 ingredients so that’s a good start
- All ingredients you would recognise – dates, almonds*, hazelnuts, cocoa and vanilla
- Fine as an occasional treat and a healthy substitute to most popular brands
- I would recommend it – it is quite nutritious and tastes great
- Contains cocoa powder which is quite processed . I would have preferred to see cacao the more natural form of chocolate but this could compromise on the taste for some people
- Available in health food shops
- You could throw it in the bag or car as a back up
*Almonds appear to not only decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result. (Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Journal of Nutrition)
4. PULSIN CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
- Made with cashew, dates, chicory fibre, almonds, cacao, brown rice bran, concentrated grape juice – so no refined sugar
- Raw cacao is rich in anti-oxidants and nutrients unlike cocoa powder which is much more processed
If you want to learn more about the difference check out this link httpss://blog.paleohacks.com/cacao-vs-cocoa/#
- Tastes delicious with a chocolate kick and quite filling so half would do
- Source of magnesium, good quality protein (5g) and fibre (7.6g) – 25% of your daily fibre needs
- I would have this again when I need a chocolate hit without the guilt!
5. HAZELNUT PRALINE BAR
Shaped a little like a wispa with a praline centre. On the first bite I was transported to a far off land but deep down I knew this tasted too good to be true!
What is says on the packaging – gluten free, organic, vegan, 47% less sugar. (47% less than what I wonder).
Ingredient lists: Raw Cane Sugar, HAZELNUTS (24%), Cacao Butter, Cacao Mass, Gluten Free Oat Flour (8%), Agave Fibre, Quinoa (1.2%), Sunflower Oil, Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin)
- First item on the ingredient list is sugar. Raw cane sugar is still sugar no matter how they dress it up. Agave is another source of sugar.
- I would not recommend eating Sunflower oil. The oil is a stable fat and it used here to lengthen the shelf life of the product however is associated with all inflammatory health conditions, it is not good for your health and should be avoided at all cost
- It does have nuts, oats and quinoa in it but has too much sugar for my liking so unfortunately I won’t be having it again.
6. NAKD Bars
Ingredients: Dates (40%), Cashews (40%), Raisins (14%), Cocoa (5%), a hint of flavouring
- So made from all natural ingredients so that’s a good start
- No added sugars – all the sugar is from the fruit form of sugar fructose in the dates
- 145 calories per bar if that interests you and you are a calorie watcher
- 4g of protein to balance the sugars
- If you like the chocolate and orange taste you will take this
- I would recommend them as an occasional snack when you want something chocolatey.
7. FULFILL TRIPLE CHOC DELUXE
- Over 10 ingredients as well as added vitamins
- I suggest you get your vitamins from real food rather than relying on processed bars
- Contains added sugars, flavourings and sweeteners
- I would not recommend them
So in conclusion I would recommend you read the ingredient list. Choose the bars with the fewest ingredients that are actually food. Avoid the bars with added sugars and stick instead to the bars sweetened by dried fruit and with added nuts to balance the sugars and avoid sugar spikes. Have them occasionally as a treat.