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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Energy in a Bar? Part 2

Hey there. Hope you’re having a great day. Ok, back to energy bars! Here are a few more FAQs:

Q: How do I choose the right energy bar?
A: Well, it depends on what you’re using it for. Is it a snack, to tie you over, or a meal replacement? If it’s the latter, the bar’s nutritional profile should attempt to mimic a meal. In other words, it should provide some complex carbs (hopefully including some dietary fiber), some protein, a bit of healthy fat, and a fair chunk of your vitamin and mineral needs for the day (at least 25% of the Daily Value). Think of it this way: a standard sized slice of whole grain bread provides about 15 g of carbohydrate (including a few grams of fiber), 3 ounces of lean protein (size of a deck of cards) provides about 20 grams of protein, and 1 tsp of oil provides about 5 g of healthy fat. So, a bar with 30 g of carbohydrate (including 4 g of fiber), 20 g of protein, and 5 g of fat is pretty much equivalent to a sandwich. Thinking of it this way can help you put those numbers in perspective (i.e. would you eat a sandwich as a snack?).

Q: How many calories should I look for?
A: If you’re using the bar as a snack, a good rule of thumb is no more than 100 calories per hour for each hour the bar should last you. For example, let’s say you eat lunch at noon, but you don’t get to eat dinner until 7 pm. That’s a long time! You’ll probably get hungry 4-5 hours after a well balanced lunch, which means you’ll need a 200 calorie bar to get you through till dinner. Now, some bars provide as little as 100 calories but others can weigh in at over 300, and eating a 300 calorie bar 2 hours before your next planned meal will probably spoil your dinner – or cause you to gain weight (if you eat dinner anyway). If you’re using the bar as a meal replacement, you can (and should) “spend” more calories. But, there are few bars on the market that provide more than about 350. If you’re a petite female (which means you have lower calorie needs) or you’re not very active, that may be enough. But, if you’re taller, of the male persuasion, or a more active woman, a 350 calorie bar probably won’t cut it as a meal. You’ll have to pair the bar with something else, like maybe a piece of fruit (or more).

Q: Any other rules of thumb?
A: You bet. I’m a fan of bars of bars made with “whole” ingredients (you know, words you can pronounce and recognize) and I generally recommend choosing one with no more than 2 grams of saturated fat. I’m also not a fan of bars made with sugar alcohols or those with added herbs or stimulants. Oh and one last thing – I definitely recommend buying just ONE of a new type of bar to be sure you’ll like the taste or texture before you buy a whole bunch. Some bars are chewy while others are crunchy, some are coated, and some are layered, and you may love the taste of one banana nut bar and absolutely loathe the same flavor in a different brand!

Ok, I think that about does it. Have a wonderful weekend!

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sass
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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