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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 1

Energy bars are something I get asked about all the time. Which one is best? Will they help me lose weight? Do they really give you energy?

When you’re facing a wall of them at the market, it can be more than a little intimidating. In fact, I’ve spent well over 30 minutes with clients at the store comparing and contrasting bars to determine which one is truly right for them. So, I decided to devote both today and tomorrow’s posts to some FAQs about these baffling blocks.

Q: Do energy bars give you energy?
A: Another word for energy is calories. Energy bars provide calories, but there’s no criteria or ingredients that specifically make a bar an “energy” bar. When most people hear the word energy, the first thing that comes to mind is a stimulant, like caffeine. In general, energy bars don’t work that way. Some may be high in caffeine (like a bar that contains espresso beans or green tea) but some contain absolutely no caffeine and zero stimulants. In short, they aren’t called energy bars for that reason.

Q: Will a bar help me lose weight?
A: Not necessarily. There are no magical ingredients in energy bars that boost the number of calories your body burns or help melt away fat. But, if someone traded in their usual 600 calorie mid-afternoon frap for a 200 calorie bar, the calorie savings would result in weight loss. In other words, the only way an energy bar can help you lose weight is if it helps you save calories. Another case in point: swapping an everything bagel with cream cheese for a 250 calorie bar at breakfast would save over 300 calories (doing that even twice a week can help you lose about 9 pounds in a year).

Q: Are there any cons to an energy bar?
A: Yes. If you add them to your diet and can’t or don’t burn off the calories they provide, you will gain weight. Also, the ingredients in energy bars run the gamut from extremely healthy and “whole” (like almonds and figs) to science experiment scary. Some bars are high in added sugars and saturated fat and nutritionally speaking, are nothing more than expensive candy bars. Others are condensed versions of whole, healthful foods like whole grains, nuts, and fruit. That’s why reading both the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list is critical. Finally, energy bars are notorious for containing 6 of the top 8 allergens: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), soy, and wheat, and some contain fish-derived ingredients (another allergen). So if you suffer from any food allergies like I do, always check the ingredient list very carefully.

Ok, I think that’s all I have room for today. Please come back tomorrow for more (especially if you’d like to hear my thoughts on how to choose the best bar for you). Have a great day!

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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