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Are Nutrition Bars Part of a Healthy Diet?

Sharon Palmer

Today, I’m answering your top nutrition questions on if nutrition bars are part of a healthy diet. 

Question: What’s your take on packaged nutrition bars—the type with plenty of natural sugar but no added sugars. Is it unhealthy to eat several of these a day? –Joe

Answer:

Today’s nutrition bars have come a long way. It used to be that nutrition or granola bars had just as much added sugar as candy bars, often listing it as the first ingredient, along with a cornucopia of refined ingredients, such as flours, oils, additives, and preservatives. But today several brands of whole food nutrition bars live up to their promise: They offer a nutritional balance of whole plant ingredients, including nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and whole grains into one delicious bar. Many such bars do not include any added sugars or refined ingredients at all. So, they offer a much more healthful addition to your diet, contributing the nutritional value of whole food ingredients, such as protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, to your day.

However, it’s important to remember that many such nutrition bars are concentrated sources of ingredients and nutrients. So a little goes a long way. In fact, some whole food nutrition bars provide more than 300 calories a shot. If you are trying to keep your weight under control, those 300 calories can really add up. You’re better off eating real meals and snacks that offer satiety with a balance of plant proteins (beans, tofu, nuts), whole grains (oats, quinoa, brown rice), vegetables (greens, root veggies, cruciferous), and fruit (citrus, berries, stone fruit). Where I think nutrition bars shine is for on-the-go eating, a time when you may have fewer healthful plant-based options. That’s why you will always find one of my favorite whole foods plant bars in my purse and travel bag. Just remember that nutrition bars should be a supplement to a healthful diet based on eating real plant foods—they should not take the place of these healthful foods.

Eat and Live Well,

Sharon

Check out the other nutrition questions I’m answering at The Plant-Powered Dietitian:

How to Prepare Dried Beans to Avoid Antinutrients
Does Roasting Veggies Ruin Nutrients?
Is “clean eating” a healthy lifestyle?

About Ask Sharon:

As part of my program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my   blog,   Facebook,    Twitter  or    Instagram   to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month.

Image: My Red Raspberry Crumble Bars (pictured above) are easy to make yourself at home.

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