Unreal Eats is Healthy Living’s original video series, where we go behind calorie counts and health claims to examine what’s really in the processed foods that scream loudest in our food environment.
You’ve hit the 3 p.m. slump, you’re searching for a snack and you know that the candy bar you really want will provide no nutritional value and cause a spike of energy followed by a crash. So what do you do? If you’re one of the people contributing to its $700 million marketshare, you grab an energy (or “sports” or “snack”) bar.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but in our latest installment of Unreal Eats, we demonstrate that when it comes to a sugar rush, your energy bar doesn’t fare much better than a regular chocolate one. Some of the most popular bars in supermarkets — things like PowerBars and Cliff Builders — have more than 20 grams of sugar each, which is often the same as a packet of candy. What’s more, we discovered, the smaller brands you can find in health food stores and places like Whole Foods typically don’t provide less sugar. In fact, two of the top three bars for sugar content also touted holistic eating habits: Organic Food Bar’s Active Greens and Go Raw’s Apricot Bar both clocked in at 24 grams of sugar.
According to the latest American Heart Association recommendations, adult women should eat approximately 20 grams of sugar each day, and adult men can have up to 36. Children shouldn’t exceed 12 grams. With single snack bars that contain more than these daily recommendations, it’s no surprise that the average American consumes more than four times that amount.
It is true that energy bars often offer nutrients that candies do not: Fiber, protein and, in some rare cases, whole food sources like fruits and nuts and seeds. But this does little to mitigate the extreme levels of sweeteners that make them palatable.
The next time you’re looking for a pick me up? Choose a snack made with whole food sources, protein, satiating fat and fiber. Need tips? Check out our dos and don’ts of healthy snacking.