Energy bars have acquired an air of healthiness which makes them very popular – but are they actually good for you? I’ve been having a look at some of what’s available and this month I share my thoughts with you.
I should first say that the general rule for a healthy life is to eat great meals so you don’t need to snack. If you do want a snack, it’s better to make something yourself and avoid all the sugar and weird stuff manufacturers use.
If you decide to buy snacks and energy bars, be aware that the downsides to factory made food are 1) the aggressive processing and 2) the weird ingredients needed to make a presentable product after it’s been through aggressive processing.
Some of the bars listed here have 20 or 30 odd ingredients, few of which are recognisable foods. I was interested to notice how many of the cereal companies make them, presenting the same cheery image they use to entice us to eat recreational, ultra-processed food first thing in the morning.
The unhealthy bunch – eat at your peril
Too much sugar and weird.
Alpen Light, Double Chocolate
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain, Strawberry
Jordans Frusli – Juicy Blueberries. Only 2.2% blueberries
Nestle Lion Breakfast Cereal Bar – Chocolate
Kellogg’s Coco Pops – Chocolate.
Maxi Muscle – Chocolate Brownie
Kellogg’s Nuts and More – Dark choc and almonds
Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Bar – Choc and peanut
Tracker – Chocolate chip
Cadbury Brunch Bar
Go ahead Yogurt Breaks – Red Cherry. Over 30 ingredients, vast amounts of sugar and only 1% cherry!
Possibly the worst I’ve seen.
So-so in a pinch
Nature Valley Protein Bar – Peanut and Chocolate
Eat Natural – Dark choc, cranberries, macadamias. I used to love these. They’re made with real ingredients but they’re sugary ingredients and I can’t cope with the extreme sweetness now. They also do a protein one which I haven’t tried but might be better.
Eat Grub – Cacoa and coconut. Made of good stuff (including crickets, hence the name) but at almost 40% dried fruit that’s a hit to your liver.
Nestle Yes – Coffee, Dark choc and cherry. Reasonable ingredients and nutritional profile.
Nutramino Protein Bar – Peanut and caramel
Atkins Bars – Chocolate fudge caramel. Low in sugar but I’m not sure I’d want to pay money for a product whose main ingredient is “bulking agent”.
The best of the bunch
These have the fewest, most natural ingredients.
Raw Chocolate – Nut pie. All natural.
Naked Bar – Pecan pie. Just 3 ingredients! Don’t eat too many though due to the high percentage of dates.
Nature’s Energy Meridian – Peanut and cocoa. My winner. All 9 ingredients are recognisable foods, the nutritional profile is balanced and they taste nice!
Better Still – Make Your Own
The simplest product is the Naked bar which is only dates, almonds and pecans.
Of course the thought that springs to mind is that you could just buy dates, ground almonds and pecans and squish them together to make your own. Get used to adapting the recipes you already have. I noticed recently that modern versions of old classics have double the sugar. That means you can halve what most recipes say. Lots of websites have recipes but a word of warning; some of them list vegetable oil as an ingredient. Seed oils like sunflower are not heat stable and should never be used in cooking. Use some butter or coconut oil instead.
Snacks like power balls are usually made with dates as a base or nut butter as in this example:
In a bowl, thoroughly mix :
- 2 heaped tbsp of nut butter
- a drizzle of maple syrup (about a teaspoon)
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut.
Take out a teaspoon at a time and roll into little balls. They can be a bit sticky so you could roll them in sesame seeds or more coconut to form a dry coating. Keep them in the fridge.
As an alternative try quick and simple, low-carb, microwave –
Cake in a cup
Put into a large mug:
- 1 egg
- a drizzle of maple syrup
- 3 tbsp Ground Almonds
- 1 tbsp Coconut Flour
- ¼ tsp baking powder
- 1 dsp raisins
Mix with a fork then microwave on high for 1½ minutes. There’s your cake!
Top tip – If you want an energy booster, make your own.