04 June 2013

Should Health Bars Feature In Your Diet Plan?

I'd like to remind all the participant of 35 Days Weight Loss Challenge that this week is a sugar-free week. Hope your Day 3 will go smoothly. I'd be fascinated to know how do you plan your the rest of your week without sugar. Let me know in comments below.  In the meantime, please welcome our guest contributor, Charlotte.

More and more of us who are concerned about our overall health and well being choose to eat so called 'healthy' foods and snacks.

Health Bars for Weight Loss?

However, while we perceive many of these as being the healthy choice, most of them are no more than cleverly packaged and well advertised and promoted gimmicks with no real benefits in terms of health or nutrition.

The Facts About Your Cereal Bar
One of the most popular 'health' foods is the cereal bar, tracker bar or power bar. Often marketed as the perfect snack to replace a missed meal for those on the go or with hectic lifestyles, cereal bars are a convenient and clever way to get vital nutrients - or so the manufacturers would have us believe. In the past, only athletes ate health bars and this was because these original high protein and high fibre snacks had great benefits in terms of quickly replacing lost energy and aiding the levelling off of lactic acids and blood sugars following extreme exercise. 

However, they were dry and not particularly tasty and while they did a great job, they were only of real interest to serious athletes. The rapid growth of the diet and health food industry over the past few decades meant that health bars were a serious contender for a revamp. It's this reworking of the original health bar formula which causes concern today. Far removed from the original health bars consumed by athletes, today's health bar is far tastier and comes in a variety of flavours and options. It's also much more pleasant to eat, a lot moister and chewier than the originals. What could possibly be the harm in that you may wonder?

Exposed - The Unhealthy Bar 
Manufacturers rightly identified a gap in the market and were fast to capitalise on it. More of us have busy lives and less time to prepare foods and meals, so health bars were touted as the ideal meal replacement and snack bar. Some are even said to aid with weight loss. However, it's highly unlikely that any of the popular makes of health bar available now would have any effect on weight loss considering the ingredients, high calorie count and hidden extras that they contain. You may think that because the label doesn't include sugar that you're choosing a healthy alternative to breakfast. Sugar comes in many forms and glucose and dextrose are just a couple which appear regularly in the list of ingredients on the labels of the major brands of bar. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame are just as detrimental when it comes to health and nutrition. These ingredients all add a sweetness that makes us enjoy these so called healthy snacks, but more importantly in the eyes of the manufacturer, it keeps us coming back for more.

More Astonishing Facts 
Sadly, it's the manufacturers and advertisers who are the real winners in the so called healthy foods market. Take one of the popular 'multigrain breakfast bars' for example, the makers describe it as deliciously chewy, yet it's a wholegrain cereal bar. It's also packed with pecans and 'drizzled' in 'sweet' maple syrup. The vast range of flavour combinations, even chocolate chip in some cases, and the new chewy texture makes these 'health bars' so far removed from the original, high protein bar which athletes used to enjoy. The chewiness makes these snack bars easy to eat and the sweet, exciting flavours means that it's easy for our taste buds to succumb to them . However, the nutritional benefits are dubious to say the least.

One needs to be rigorous when checking the ingredients of food whether it's health bars, snacks or readymade meals. SaintsandSlimmers is one such organisation that has applied the science to dieting and aims to provide personalised and structured diet plans and a range of products and bundles that won't compromise your nutritional intake. One example is a meal replacement that can be a good substitute for lunch, with an emphasis on protein and fibre that also fulfils the RDA for vitamins and minerals.

Unfortunately the same is true of many of the foods and drinks which we recognise as being 'healthy' or good for us. Even fruit juices, which many of us think are tamper proof, fall short when you examine the facts. Although a juice may be called pomegranate and raspberry, a look at the label reveals high amounts of apple and grape juice in amongst the healthy pomegranate that most of us chose the product for. These juices are included for two reasons. One, they're cheap to produce and two, they're sweet and they make us crave that taste. Most commercial fruit juices are highly sweetened and made from concentrate, try to choose some of the pure juices with no additives available instead.

In short, don't be fooled by the advertising into thinking that the most popular is the best. Overall, nothing beats a wide variety of good, fresh foods. Simply reducing your portions is a good springboard to start shifting that weight.

About Charlotte
Charlotte is a qualified nutritionist and writes for Monocore Ltd and SaintsandSlimmers on a number of topics related to weight loss and the human behaviour. 

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  1. I seldom gave energy bar, I find most of the "healthy" bar are unhealthy, they contains tons of food additives in it..honestly, I'd rather eat real food. :)

  2. There is so much about our food industry that is frustrating to me. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible!

  3. There is so much about our food industry that is frustrating to me. I try to stay away from processed foods as much as possible!

  4. Are there any that you would recommend? I like having something from time to time that I can take on the go!-Ashley

  5. I would recommend flapjacks. Most decent health food suppliers sell them. I always have one with me.

  6. I really don't think that we should go take what athletes take especially if we don't move a lot, it's so much different because athletes burn their fats easily unlike us.

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