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Zeroing in on healthy alternatives to nutrition bars

By Meghan Johnson, November 4, 2014

By Perrin Braun

Many people think of nutrition bars as a health food, but are they really good for you? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no. Some brands of nutrition bars can make for a healthy quick snack, but many varieties contain as much calories and sugar as a candy bar! While nutrition bars are a convenient way to stock up on calories and carbohydrates, don’t become dependent on them and miss the benefits of whole foods in your diet. image

 

What are some alternatives to nutrition bars?

If you find yourself grabbing a nutrition bar instead of sitting down and eating breakfast, there are several other options that are easy to prepare! Try some of these meals the next time you find yourself strapped for time in the morning:

Oatmeal with brown sugar, almonds, skim milk, and a banana Dried fruit and a hard-boiled egg Low-fat yogurt with granola and nuts

If you’re looking for a good pre or post-workout snack, you should concentrate on incorporating healthy carbohydrates, protein, and fat, combinations in order to keep yourself energized during your workout and recover quickly when you’re done. Try some of these easy alternatives for a meal or a snack:

Click here to learn how InsideTracker can help you find healthy snack options!

Hummus sandwich on pita bread with carrots – this protein-and-carb combination will help keep you satisfied during a long workout. Sweet potatoes and kidney beans – sweet potatoes are high in carbs, fiber, and vitamin A, while kidney beans will provide you with the protein that you need for muscle recovery. Oatmeal with brown sugar, almonds, skim milk, and a banana - oatmeal is a great choice for long runs because it helps keep you satisfied without weighing you down Peanut butter & honey on whole-wheat toast – this snack is popular among vegetarian athletes because peanut butter is an excellent source of protein. Low-fiber cereal with skim milk – Since muscles can convert simple carbs into energy faster than fiber-rich foods, try low-fiber cereal if you’re eating right before exercise. Low-fat yogurt with banana – bananas are an excellent source of both potassium and carbohydrates, while the yogurt provides your body with the sugar and protein that it needs to stay energized.  Lean hamburger on a bun and some mixed yogurt and fruit – red meat is an excellent source of iron and protein, and serves as a perfect compliment to the vitamins and minerals that are found in the fruit. Hard-boiled eggs – not only are eggs a great source of protein, but this low-calorie snack is also a great choice for people who are watching their weight.

What if I want to make my own nutrition bar?

Convenience is a big factor in nutrition bars—there is no mess, no preparation, and no refrigeration required. The bars also have a long shelf life, so you can store them in your desk or cupboard without having to worry that they will spoil. However, you can’t control the ingredients, so if you have the time, you might try making your own nutrition bars. Here are some healthy ingredients to use in your homemade bars:

Oats – Oats are one of the healthiest grains. They’re high in fiber, help lower your cholesterol, and keep you feeling fuller for longer periods of time. They’re also a great source of iron, copper, zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin E.

Seeds and nuts – Many nutrition bars contain seeds or nuts, which can be part of a healthy diet. They’re high in protein, which will help you feel full and provide you with energy throughout the day, and also contain fiber, vitamin E, and selenium. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best non-meat sources of zinc, and flax seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Sunflower seeds are also an excellent way to increase your intake of vitamin B1 and vitamin E.  

Dried fruit – Dried fruit is one of the healthiest sugar substitutes. They’re high in fiber and phytochemicals, which provide a range of beneficial functions like improving your immune system and reducing the risk of poor cell health. However, be careful when picking your dried fruit—avoid brands that contain added or refined sugar.

Healthy fats - Some types of dietary fat are good for you in moderation. Olive, soybean, corn, and safflower oil are much better for you than the partially hydrogenated oils that are commonly used in many nutrition bars. Processed fats can increase unhealthy LDL cholesterol and decrease healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

If you eat nutrition bars, choose healthy ones and eat them in moderation. Be sure that your diet also includes plenty of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains! Based on your blood analysis, InsideTracker plans can help you to choose a varied diet that will meet your body’s unique needs.