Monday, December 13, 2010

Are Granola Bars Healthy Snacks or Junk Food?

For people on the go, granola bars are arguably the best snacks in a hurry. It's difficult to throw much else in your bag or car without fear of spoilage or damage. Sure, you an take an apple, banana or pear, but you risk bruising and squishing that fruit in a rush or after a long day, and need to make sure you wrap it properly to avoid making a mess. Sandwiches are great too, but their preparation and proper storage requires time and thinking ahead. There are many good options for healthy snacks, but most often, granola bars are the easiest. But are they really healthy or just dressed up candy bars?

The answer can be both, and like any starch or grain product ( like breads or cereals), you have to know what you're looking for in order to get the biggest health benefit. A good rule of thumb is to look for products in the range of 100-200 calories (remember- this is just a snack!) with at least 4 grams of fibre and a similar amount of protein (if possible), with 10g or less of sugar for every 30 grams of carbohydrates. The more fibre the better, as it keeps you fuller for longer! Protein will help keep you satisfied, but you don't need to seek out 'high protein' products, as there will be a lot of other ingredients added and likely more calories packed in.

Read the nutrition label - you want to choose a product that is low in sodium (150mg or less), contains little or no saturated or trans fats and less than 10g of sugar. Healthy snacks are meant to help balance your blood sugar and insulin levels from one meal to the next so you stay full and satisfied, so there's no need to dump large amounts of sugar into your body in between meals!

Granola bars are not meant to be meal replacements, they're snacks to get you from one meal to the next and help you stay on track with your healthy eating regimen when you're on the go. If you're not in a total rush, use granola bars sparingly and choose fewer packaged products whenever possible. Fresh fruit, low fat dairy products, whole grains, nuts and seeds all make great snacks, especially when eaten together. A small apple and sugar-free yogurt or 5 almonds provide fibre, hydration, calcium and protein and a slew of vitamins and minerals all for around 100 calories! Try beating that with a granola bar!