Snack Bars: Safe or Scary?
Granola Bars: The good thing about granola bars is that the main component is a whole grain. But read the labels -- some brands have twice as much sugar as others, and some contain partially-hydrogenated oils. The less a granola bar resembles a candy bar, the better, so avoid varieties that are dipped in chocolate or spiked with white chocolate chunks.
Cereal Bars: Initially devised as a breakfast option for those who feel they need to eat on the run, cereal bars are composed primarily of sugar and white flour (and in some mainstream brands, artificial colors). These are not a good breakfast. The organic brands, in particular, are fine as an occasional snack, but understand that cereal bars are not health foods -- think of them like you would Pop-Tarts or cookies.
Energy Bars: Be careful with these. Energy bars formulated for adults have adult quantities of vitamins added to them, and some, like Clif Bar's Carrot Cake and Chocolate Brownie flavors, contain five teaspoons of sugar per bar, which is more than a chocolate-glazed cake donut from Dunkin' Donuts. Plus, there's nothing about energy bars that make them more energizing than whole foods like cheese or nuts.
Fruit and Nut Bars: Fruit and nut bars, like Larabars, contain very few ingredients -- they tend to be made of nothing more than dried fruit and nuts. Unlike some other snack bars, fruit and nut bars are not just a dessert disguised as a healthy snack. These are your best bet.
Jennifer Schonborn is a holistic nutrition counselor, certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at jenniferschonborn.com.