Living in today’s world demands a lot of eating on the go, running around, and often grabbing something quick to eat between work, errands, classes, etc…our modern, active lifestyles demand food we can eat on the go and for years, I have eaten many snacks in my car, out of my purse or pocket; on my way to and from the day-to-day madness. As a result, I have tried many different nutrition bars and have come to learn about which ones are the healthiest while still the tastiest on the market.  As my mom had pointed out, the packaged energy bar industry is over saturated with so many choices, so in sharing my favorites and the ones I believe we should stay away from, I hope you will be able to find your favorites to eat on the go.

In general, eating packaged foods are almost never going to be as healthy as a freshly made meal. However, these days, health food manufacturers are finding cutting edge ways to create the healthiest foods they can, with the ability to package them and allow them to live on a shelf, without losing their nutritional benefits. For example, after failing at producing my own version of crispy kale chips, I found that Lydia’s Organics produces far tastier ones by dehydrating the kale, allowing it to be packaged and on a shelf for several months, while still maintaining its many nutritional elements as though I had made it myself from scratch.

The point is that there are some really great, healthy energy bars and snacks out there so that you CAN eat a nourishing snack on the go. Here are some guidelines for finding the best ones out there, along with a list of my favs:

  • AVOID SUGAR AND HIGH FRUCTOSE SYRUP! Make sure first and foremost you read the ingredients label on the back. Chances are sugar, evaporated cane juice or syrup, or unrefined sugar will be included on the list. Many of the less expensive, massively produced ones are sugar based and should be avoided! Seek out the bars that use fruit, fruit juices or agave as a sweetener, to keep blood sugar from spiking. After all, if you are eating one for more energy why not select the healthiest one you can? These days there are so many great options that use coconut, dates, agave, brown rice syrup, stevia or even honey as a sweetener and all of them are better than sugar. Also, avoid the ones with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Nutrasweet, or Sweet N Low.  There is still much debate in the medical world about whether or not these sweeteners are dangerous but if it is known to kill rats in medical testing, is it worth the risk? Besides which, it tastes terrible! (More facts on artificial sweeteners can be found by clicking here).
  • AVOID SOY BASED NUTRITION BARS! Unfortunately, soy has become such a popular protein in our food that most of the time it has become so processed that it no longer contains the nutrition it  in should in its purest form. Research suggests soy consumption might be linked to several health conditions including: bloating, hormonal imbalance, unusual weight gain, and allergies. (Hidden Dangers of Soy by Dianne Gregg.) Many of the nutrition bars out there are mainly soy, and while the protein is important, there are other ways to get it, such as from nuts and seeds or Whey (a milk based protein).
  • GO RAW and NATURAL! Check out the ingredients on the back. The simpler the better! Check out the nutritional ingredients in one of my favorite bars below, “The Perfect Foods Bar” and see not only how many amazing things are packed into it, but also what are the ingredients? Anything you don’t understand? I should also mention that some of the healthiest bars might have the ingredient MIXED TOCOPHERALS in them and this is an organic form of Vitamin E and is not a chemical! It is great for you!

  • IF YOU CAN, GO FOR THE GLUTEN FREE! Whether or not you have a sensitivity to gluten, it is always better to opt for the gluten-free bars. Like Soy, wheat is so processed these days and rarely has the nutritional benefits it claims. According to a study done by University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Celiac Research, the data suggests that 18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity, many of which suffer from Celiac disease and don’t even know it! Celiac is an autoimmune disease where essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten (More info here). Again, why not find something nut, fruit, seed or even whey based instead? Just another opportunity to eat something a little more nutritional and while you are at it, avoid the ones with corn. Similarly, corn is processed and devoid of the nutrition it has in its natural state (though even then it is still high in sugar).

Here are my favorites and a little description of what they are like, to save you the time and money of doing the research that I have spent years doing. There are always new ones popping up on the market, so please share your healthy favorites with us all if you have one that isn’t on the list! We can’t have too many options!

Perfect Foods Bar: Perfect Foods Bar are my absolute favorites. They are high in protein, incredibly filling and something I can snack on all morning and get the nutrition I need whether running around with a client or teaching for hours at a time. They are sweet, not as dry as some of the others and I love the flavors. They make some with and without peanuts so if you can’t have peanuts, the Almond Butter bar is a fantastic alternative! (Honey is the sweetener so if you are trying to avoid any form of sugar, these may not be the right ones for you). Most of the ingredients are organic and it is a gluten-free, raw foods bar that you keep in the refrigerator before eating. (I have only found these at Equinox gyms and Whole Foods but I am sure they are out at other natural food stores).

Betty Lou’s Snacks: I also love Betty Lou’s line of homemade products for the days that I need a little snack in between meals or just something small before a workout. They have a great selection of flavors from Spirulina, Peanut Butter and Almond Butter, to their Coconut Macadamia, that tastes like a yummy macaroon. They are surprisingly filling for their size, can live in your cupboard for a long period of time, are corn, soy and gluten-free, and packed with nutrition (some flavors are even dairy free).  I have found them at smaller natural foods stores as well as Pharmaca.

Lydia’s Organics: Lydia’s nutrition bars remind me of the granola bars we ate as kids, but a much healthier version. These nut free bars are made from seeds and fruits such as coconut and/or dates, and though not as high in protein, a great light snack for between meals. Also a raw bar, it is vegan, sugar, soy, corn and wheat-free. And yet, still totally delicious! This is a great option for those that have a dairy allergy. I love the Cacao and Spirulina flavored ones best but the raspberry, lemon and mango flavors are also really popular.

-Raw Revolution Live Foods BarRaw Revolution – This is another organic, raw bar free of preservatives, refined sweeteners, gluten, soy, wheat, peanuts and all animal products. They are also made in a gluten, peanut and animal product free facility.

Lara Bars Lara Bars are about a basic as they come in terms of the ingredients. Most of them contain some form of nuts-  cashews, pecans or  almonds – and dates are usually the “glue” that hold this bar together. It is a dense, sweet choice, but there are so many delicious flavors, inexpensive, easy to find at most grocery stores (I have even bought them at gas stations) and best of all, none of them contain more than 9 ingredients and most contain more like four or five.

The ones I have listed below are on the bottom based on taste and the fact that some of them have sugar (corn, gluten or soy) in them, which is obviously not going to be quite as nutritious but are still all natural and use no hydrogenated oils, so they are already better than so many of the others out there:

Organic Food Bar

Jay Robb’s Energy bar

NuGo

Greens Plus

Odwalla

Clif Bars, Clif Builder Bars and Luna bars

What’s your favorite all natural bar? Any great recipes for a healthy homemade energy bar? My goal is to find or create one to share with you so stay tuned and in the meantime, happy trails to you on your journey to finding your own perfect energy bar.

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