5 Best Ingredients in Energy Bars
Have you ever stopped to think about where the calories, fats, and sugars in your favorite energy bar come from? A glance at the nutrition label may reveal that healthy ingredients are on the rise. This means that the high, seemingly unhealthy numbers have a healthy source. As always, portion size is key, but when given the choice forget the empty-calorie artificial sweeteners and fortifiers and look for the following popular ingredients instead.
Dates and Other Dried Fruit
Natural sweetness, a long shelf life and a perfect sticky nature make dates, raisins, dried apricots, and other dry fruit perfect for use when creating a bar. The natural sweetness and stickiness reduces the need for added sugar or an artificial binder, resulting in a production process that is simple for the manufacturer and healthier for you. The high fiber and antioxidant profile doesn’t hurt either. Five to six dates (1.4 oz), for example, have 110 calories, about 3 grams of fiber, and 260 mg of potassium. You wouldn’t get any of this (except more calories) from sugar!
Nuts and Seeds
Yes, nuts and seeds are high in fat, but research keeps showing that in proper portions they’re still healthy and may help you lose weight and live longer! It might have something to do with the variety of micronutrients they have, the healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3’s they contain, or that the fiber and protein in them helps fill you up. Another benefit: there are so many to choose from (flax seeds and chia seeds included) for that satisfying crunch and texture.
The world of natural sweeteners is complex, but that’s a good thing. Complex sugars in some sweeteners, specifically agave, date sugar, barley and brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and molasses, take longer to break down and don’t alter your blood sugar levels as drastically as refined sugars do. Plus, they contain the vitamins and minerals that are stripped away in refined sugars, and the stickiness helps hold all the goodness in the bar together. A guide for options available can be found here.
Unsweetened Coconut Flakes
I believe coconut flakes to be the modern version of chocolate chips (although cocoa powder is still commonly used in energy bars). They are visually appealing and delicious, thus often coating the tops of bars. Although natural, they don’t offer much nutrition. A one-fourth cup serving of unsweetened flakes contains 100 calories, the majority of which come from the 10 grams of fat, 9 of which are saturated. You do get only 4 grams of carbs and a miniscule amount of iron and phosphorus added to the mix, but make sure the whole bar isn’t smothered in coconut!
Complex carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein for half a cup make oats a nutritious addition to any energy bar. They tend to hold well and don’t have to be cooked, so they’re easy to work with too. With the satisfying texture, you have plenty of reasons to like these in your bar.
Make Your Own Energy Bars
The common ingredients listed above are very accessible, no high-tech, fancy science lab or production required. Cooking up your own energy bars (or balls) can be as simple as blending together a few of the ingredients and chilling. Check out your options below.
Remember that portion control is key! Many of these common ingredients are high in calories, but they still have health benefits to offer. Also remember why you are munching on these. They are energy bars after all, and thus perfect for fueling pre-workout, refueling post-workout, or as a quick pick-me-up snack through the day.
- Top 10 Energy Bars from About.com
- 9 Healthy Homemade Energy Bar Recipes from Daily Burn
- Easy 3-Ingredient Energy Bars from theKitchn
What do you look for in an energy bar? Let us know what your favorite bars are!