A Quick Guide to Granola and Power Bars

Source: http://eat-spin-run-repeat.com

Source: http://eat-spin-run-repeat.com

Since the start of school (and the new year), I’ve been on the hunt for some insanely delicious and healthy granola bars. I’ve made stops to multiple local and chain grocery stores, but I always end up staring at the shelves of granola bars in front of me and asking: how do I pick the right granola bar for me? How do I know what to look for? What’s the difference between cereal bars, power bars and granola bars?
A quick Google search left me scratching my head again, as I found out that while the questions I was asking were common, the answers are unique for each individual and the situation they are in. Thus, here are some shopping tips to keep in mind when buying granola bars, and a chart we have come up with at The Point breaking down and comparing all these bars to each other.

Granola vs. Power vs. Cereal

Source: http://www.midnightpoutine.ca

Source: http://www.midnightpoutine.ca

So, what’s the difference?
Granola bars are generally made from whole grains and low in fat. Sometimes they will have refined grains, but usually you can find refined grains in cereal bars. Power bars (also called energy bars) are different in that they can serve as meal replacements or carbohydrates and quick sources of energy, depending on the kind of bar and the individual’s fitness goals. Power bars can be further categorized according to their purposes; some bars are made specifically for pre, during and post-workout.
 

Comparing Granola and Power Bars

Here is a chart we have compiled comparing the nutrition labels on granola bars we found in our local grocery stores.
The Point’s Granola & Energy Bar Comparison Chart

Shopping at the Grocery Store: Things to Keep in Mind 

Next time you hit the local grocery store, keep these tips in mind when shopping for bars:

  • Check the ingredients list. For granola bars, you will want a simple list of ingredients and to make sure that whole grains or whole oats are the first ingredient. For power bars, read the ingredients list for things you don’t need. Sometimes, power bars will contain carbohydrate blockers, caffeine and other stimulants that you may not need.
  • Aim for a bar with 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving.
  • For both granola and power bars, choose products that are low in fat content, especially trans and saturated fats.
  • If you are going to use power bars as occassional meal replacements, make sure that the bars you are buying contain the nutrients you are substituting them for in meals.
  • Try to choose bars with less than 8 grams of sugar per serving (this will be hard to find in granola bars).
  • Bars should not replace food altogether. Although bars generally provide us with many nutrients, they do not provide us with all the nutrients we need. A piece of fruit will always be the better alternative for snacking.

References
WebMD: Nutrition Bars – Healthy or Hype?
University of Rochester Medical Center: Comparing Granola Bars
MedicineNet: The Best of Bars
Diet Surf: Energy and Nutrition Bars
The Globe and Mail: Which granola bars are the healthiest to eat?