Contributing Monkie Julie Morris
Published on November 21, 2008
There are a lot of bars out there. Food bars, energy bars, protein bars, nutrition bars, diet bars, fiber bars, raw bars… bars bars bars and more bars!
A quick search on Amazon yields 2,759 different varieties. Think about it: 2,759 different kinds of neatly packaged little edible rectangles. It’s like space food… except on earth. (I think half of them are chocolate peanut flavor, too.)
Obviously not all food bars are created equal. So, what makes a good one?
Since reality TV does such a good job of selecting “winners,” we’ll just call our selection process Dancing with the Bars. Nifty, eh? In this case, the bars are the dancers, and we’re the expert judges. Oh, and just so you know: I’m totally wearing my fuchsia sequined flamenco mini dress with 4” heels and a tiara — not necessary for judging bars, but always a good touch.
Round one is the elimination round, and most of our players will be cut from the competition right away. Before even thinking about eating a bar, turn that sucker over and look at the ingredients (not the nutrition facts… we’ll get there in due time, I promise). You can usually slash the selection down drastically just by identifying those with unhealthy ingredients — because the truth is, most of them do. If the bar contains any of the following ingredients it’s not (and never will be) a winner:
On the NO THANK YOU list:
Sugar, fructose corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (evaporated cane juice is best avoided as well).
Non plant-based ingredients — ingredients derived from animals tend to be acid forming, disrupt digestion, throw off energy levels and contribute to disease. To give you just a few reasons.
Hydrogenated oils/Trans-fats — a no-brainer. It’s THAT bad. Really.
Non-organic Soy, Canola, or Corn products — if not organic, ingredients from these sources are most likely to be genetically modified (unless labeled as “non-GMO”). Major creepo factor.
Highly processed ingredients — things like polydextrose or fractionated palm oil. These are FAR from being natural food sources. There’s no need to be eating a science lab.
All right then, let’s see who’s left.
Round two is where we get technical with the bar contenders. And it gets personal. You as a judge must figure out what your personal bar requirements are, and then look for the bars that are the closest to meeting those needs by assessing the nutrition facts label. Let’s say you want a meal replacement. Look for a bar that’s got a good amount of fiber and protein to keep you full, as well as a little fat to balance the meal out. Conversely, if you are looking to lose weight and in need of a hold-me-over snack while doing simple sedentary activity, a 350-calorie endurance bar is not a good fit. You get the picture.
Round three — the final round — is what separates the best from the rest. This is where we find out who’s going home… with you, in your reusable shopping bag. Go back to looking at the ingredients again — but instead of looking for crap, this time we’re looking for stand-out ingredients. At this point, you’ll notice the bars that are slacking. Lots of protein is nice, but is that all it has to offer? And while there’s nothing wrong with a simple fruit and nut bar, isn’t that basically just mushed up trail mix? Bo-ring.
Why not take advantage of some stellar superfoods that some bars are packing into their recipe, and get the most out of your edible rectangle? Right? Power to the people, anyone?
Ingredients of a superstar (a bar doesn’t have to contain all of these, but the more the merrier):
Sprouted ingredients — deeply alkaline, enzymatically alive, and rich in nutrients.
Greens — grasses, blue-green algae, sea veggies, land veggies… sneaking an extra dose of chlorophyll in your system is always a good thing. It’s like a bonus salad.
Knockout protein and fat sources — hemp, chia, flax, almond. So nutritious.
Herbs, Superfoods, & Antioxidants — the list here could go on and on, but will potentially include things like maca, acerola cherries, acai, gogi berries, ginko biloba, green tea.
Probiotics — supports healthy digestion (double check that these are from a plant-based source).
So, now it’s time for the moment of truth. You should have just a couple of finalists left in your hand: truly amazing food bars that will keep you healthy and dancing (even if it’s just on the inside). All of these are good choices. But to be a master bar discerner you must use your ultimate tool to make the final cut. And, of course as we all know, that tool is called four-inch heels and a tiara.
Or you can just skip the tiara and just go with the one you think tastes the best.