Don’t get me wrong, I love real foods…but I always carry “bars” with me, because you just never know what life will throw at you. Situations like when your first flight is late coming in so you literally have to run to catch your next plane, you take a cab to the hotel and the restaurant is already closed for the evening, or when you’re surfing and the waves are so good you’re just not ready to take a lunch break – but you need some fuel.
The wide assortment of bars suit different taste profiles – and can be used in an array of scenarios. Keep in mind that most contain at least 200 calories – a lot of “fuel” for many people. Unless you’re an exerciser, this is probably excessive.
I recommend no more than a 100-150 calorie bar for a quick pick-me-up snack. If you can’t stop eating at a half bar, choose one within this range. But, check the ingredients, many are no more nutritious than regular cookies.
Here’s the run-down of some of the bars I’ve seen recently with categories:
I think the limited number of ingredients with the focus on less added sugar.
- Lara Bars (the Original Fruit & Nut Food Bar) – many, but not all, of the Lara bars consists of just fruit and nuts. I like the simplicity of that – and soooo many flavors. For example, their Cashew Cookie (one of my favs) consists of just cashews and nuts squished up together. While there is some texture to the bars, you can’t see whole pieces. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free…around 200 calories with 4-6g protein and about 3-4g fiber. You can feel good about these bars because they contain real food.
- Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut Bar – this bar, produced by Clif, was new for me. Looks very similar to the Lara bars, except I’ve noticed they added a bit of salt to the bars.
- Detour SMART Bars – I found these at Costco. Gluten free, 130 calories, 10g protein.
Bars with More Texture
- Kashi Bars – I like the Chocolate Almond flavor. 140 calories, 3g protein.
- Quaker Real Medleys – starting with a base of multigrain cereal, Quaker adds nuts, fruit, sugar and syrups, and more…for a 170 calorie bar with 4g protein and 2g fiber. Soft and chewy with small pieces of oats, nuts and fruit.
- Truebar – like the Medleys, this bar is soft and chewy. And like the Medleys, because of its added sugars (including brown rice syrup and cane juice), it has pulls like a bar with honey added. About 160 calories with 3g protein and 3g fiber.
- Kind Bars – at around 200 calories, these bars also have the honey-like pull of the Truebars and Medleys, but the nut and fruit pieces are larger including larger pieces of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Higher Protein Bars for more satiety (fullness)
Carbs are great for a pick-me-up if a meal is just a couple of hours away, but additional protein will help you stay full longer. Even 10g protein will help.
- Rx bars – Love these simple ingredients of egg whites, nuts, and fruit. About 200 calories, 3g fiber, and 12g protein.
- Zing – With 200 calories, 10g protein, and 5g fiber, these tasty, gluten-free, vegan bars offer the same “squished up” texture as the Fruit & Nut bar listed above…but with more protein (rice protein and pea protein). And, the chocolate quality is fabulous (not chalky or fake flavored).
- Bare Naked Bars – these bars are tasty but higher calories with 250 calories, 4g fiber, and 9g protein.
- Nature Valley Protein Bars – in just 3 flavors, these bars contain 10g protein (soy and whey) in a “crunchy chewy” (their words) format. My favorite is the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate with whole pieces of nuts with a slightly sticky pull…topped with dark chocolate. Contains 190 calories and 5g fiber.
- Epic Bars – simple ingredients. Some of them are made with animal protein like bacon & egg yolks or turkey & cranberries. Good for people are tired of all the other sweet bars and want something more savory. Some are in the range of 140-170 calories, 9-10g protein.
- Power Crunch – at 200 calories and 13g protein, this bar looks like a large creme filled wafer cookie. They contain just 10g carbs and 1g fiber so it’s best used as a protein replacement.
Super High Calorie Bars
Most people don’t need a bar in the 300 calorie range. Maybe after more than an hour of intense non-stop exercise. Otherwise, these bars are overkill.
- Gatorade Recover Protein Bar – at 350 calories (and 20g protein), this bar is designed for the serious athlete who needs a quick source of calories and nutrients after an intense workout. Sure, a real meal is needed…but sometimes it’s just not available quite yet.
Not Everyone Eats Bars…or wants them
Awhile back I was speaking to an international group of corporate VP’s about how to refuel your body for energy. Someone asked about packing healthful bars and I offered a list of my favorite bars including Lara, Kashi, and Balance.
Many of these attendees, though, had this look on their face like, “Huh?” because these very-American bars are often not readily available in their countries. And, they just didn’t understand why we eat them.
If bars are not available, and you prefer not to find rotten fruit squished in the bottom of your briefcase, the easiest foods to carry are dried fruit and nuts. Select fruits that are naturally dried without added ingredients (dried banana chips are loaded with added sugar and coconut fat…very high in calories!). For nuts, vary it up…almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia, cashew, and pistachios.