Monday, August 6, 2012

Pros and Cons of Gluten-Free Nutrition Bars

I usually get my afternoon "hanger"* pains around 2:00pm.  And, while during the summer I can grab whole foods like nuts and berries to snack on, during the school-year I need to have something that I can inconspicuously eat at my desk.  I am sure most people have the same issue if needing a mid-afternoon snack but not wanting to draw attention to themselves.  That's why, I think, nutrition bars are so popular.  They're easy to eat quickly and quietly, they taste good, and they are good at staving off the "hanger"* pains.  But, unfortunately for celiacs, most of the popular nutrition bars contain some sort of gluten ingredients.

Recently, however, there have been a whole bevy of companies marketing gluten free nutrition bars.  They have become so common you  can usually buy at least one brand of gluten free nutrition bar at any grocery store you go to. But just because something is "gluten-free" doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. And  just because something is labeled a "'nutrition bar" doesn't necessarily mean it's nutritious.  (Snickers anyone?)

Since I am so dependent on my afternoon snack to get me through the end of the school day, I decided to investigate which of the most common brands of gluten-free nutrition bar would give me the most bang for my buck. I was looking for bars that were high in protein and fiber to keep me full and give me long-term energy and low in sugar and saturated fats.  I also wanted to find bars that were comprised of mostly whole ingredients, contained no hydrogenated-oils, and had little to no high-fructose corn syrup.  I picked 9 bars that I usually see at the grocery store and here are the pros and cons I found for each:

  1. ThinkThin High Protein Bars:  These bars come in several flavors from Creamy Peanut Butter, Chocolate Brownie, White Chocolate, and Chunky Peanut Butter.
    • Pros:  These bars are sugar-free (wow!) and contain 20 grams of protein per bars.  And while the large bars have 230 calories, you can by smaller versions of the bars for portion control
    • Cons: They are low in fiber (only 1 gram) and higher in saturated fat (3.5 grams).  They also contain a lot of processed ingredients and a main source of their protein is soy protein isolate, which can be tough on the digestive system.
  2. NuGo Free Dark Chocolate Trail Mix: These bars are from the same company that does NuGo Organic.  I have tasted both the carrot cake and the Dark Chocolate Trail Mix both of which tasted great!
    • Pros: They have 9 grams of protein, which is good for a gluten-free bar, and they have a fair amount of whole ingredients ( 3 seeds and 3 fruits)
    • Cons: The seeds and fruit are lower on the ingredient list than I would have expected.  And I still felt hungry after eating one.
  3. KIND Bars: There are too many flavors of these bars to list!  But everyone I have had tastes great especially like the Blueberry Cashew and the Dark Chocolate Peanut.
    • Pros: The bars are made of almost entirely whole foods including many nuts, seeds, and fruits.  They are also made with no GMOs and you get a good amount of Vitamin A, C, and E in each bar.
    • Cons: It is hard to evaluate the bars as a whole as there are so many flavors with many different ingredients. But each bar has around 4 grams of protein and I thinkg that is a little low to keep you full. And, as good as it might taste, I would avoid the ones with chocolate as they add extra sugar.
  4. Bora Bora: I have only tasted one flavor of the Bora Bora bars, Paradise Walnut Pistachio.  But it tasted great!
    • Pros:  These bars are made with almost all whole foods.  They also have a good amount of potassium and contain no high-fructose corn syrup.
    • Cons: They only have 2 grams of fiber and I did not find them particularly filling.
  5. SoyJoy: These soy-based bars come in a wide variety of flavors, my favorite being Mango Coconut.
    • Pros: They are low in calories if you are watching your waistline.  They also contain almost all whole food including a lot of fruit.
    • Cons: They have 3.5 grams of saturated fat which seems like a lot for a small bar.  They also contain malodextrin, which can spike your blood-sugar levels.
  6. Lara Bars: These all-natural bars have a ton of flavors to choose from, of which my favorites are Cashew Cookie and Apple Pie.
    • Pros: The only ingredients in the Cashew Cookie are cashews and dates.  All of the brands contain only fruit and nuts.
    • Cons: 220-240 calories per bar seems like a lot for an afternoon snack, especially considering their small size.
  7. Go Raw:  These bars are all 100% organic and raw (everything is dried under 105 degrees). The only flavor I have tried is the Banana Bread Flax Bar.
    • Pros: These bars are also only whole foods.  The Banana Bread Flax only contains banana, coconut, flax seeds and dates.  The Banana Bread Flax also has 5 grams of fiber in each bar.
    • Cons: 2.5 grams of saturated fat is also a little high.  You also have to refrigerate them all day.
  8. Pro Bar Fruition: This line of Pro Bar  is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.  My favorite flavor is the cherry.
    • Pros: There are no saturated fast and 4 grams of fiber in these bars.  They are also lower in calories than most gluten-free bars.
    • Cons: They are higher in sugar (18 grams) and they only have 3 grams of protein per bar.
  9. Can Do Kid: This is a line of bars especially made for kids.  They have just gone gluten-free.
    • Pros: These bars have a lot of protein (9 grams) and 1/5 of the recommended dietary amounts of many vitamins.
    • Cons:  Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber which makes me think you would be hungry soon after you ate them.  Also, there are a lot of processed ingredients in each bar, more than the whole foods they contain.
Any favorite gluten-free nutrition bar?  Share in the comments section!

*Definition of Hangry: Anger that is caused by one's overwhelming hunger.  (Thanks Mishler and Jefferson!)

1 comment:

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