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Bar Hopping 101 | March 18, 2009

Choosing a bar can be a challenge – snack bar that is. There is a plethora of options to choose from in your local supermarket, health club or convenience store. When you are on the run and don’t have time to eat, energy bars can help provide calories and some of the vitamins and minerals you need.

But bar hoppers, beware-- some of them are nothing more than candy bars wrapped in clever, misleading packaging. So, what should you look for? Start by reading the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients lists to find bars that have the least amount of added sugar and fat, but that provide good sources of protein and fiber. Tips: look for bars with less than the following; 180 calories, five grams of fat, two grams of saturated fat and 10 grams of sugar per serving.
There are four grams of sugar in a teaspoon. If you divide the grams of sugar by four, you will see just how many teaspoons of sugar are in a bar! Some have more than five teaspoons of sugar per serving. Look for bars that contain at least four grams of high-quality protein such as whey, casein, egg or soy. Protein helps you feel full longer and is useful for keeping blood-sugar levels stable while maintaining energy levels. For an added bonus, look for anything that has over two grams of fiber per serving.

Eating a bar before moderate exercise, such as a 30 minute jog, or lap swimming, is not necessary. However, it may be beneficial before an hour long run or a bike ride of 25 miles or more.

Now that you know the skinny on bars—hop around until you find one you like. But remember, snack bars are popular because they are convenient and transportable foods. Don’t forget there are a number of other whole food snacks just as easy to tote. Try packing some of these nutrient rich snacks; bananas, grapes, apple slices, a handful of walnuts, dried fruit and my favorite, yogurt--a great source of Vitamin D for sun deprived North Idahoans!