“Energy bars,” “health bars,” “protein bars.” No matter what you call them, 90 percent of these are just extra calories and sugar under the guise of health foods.
I recently received a handful of e-mails specifically asking me about Zone bars. I am not a fan; in fact, I consider them worthy of a “wolf in sheep's clothing” label.
Let’s take the chocolate-peanut butter flavor. Yes, it contributes high amounts of a number of vitamins (big deal, the large majority of us do not need them if we eat a balanced diet) but that comes with 210 calories, 360 milligrams of sodium (15% of our maximua allotted amount), 0 grams of fiber, and 13 grams (a little more than 1 tablespoon) of added sugar.
In scanning the label, you find that the “peanut butter fudge” is a chemical concoction containing corn syrup, sugar, AND high fructose corn syrup.
Interestingly enough, many people who I’ve spoken with refer to these bars as part of what they eat when they are “good” and keeping an eye on their weight. Time to go back to the drawing board, I'm afraid.
Those 210 calories would be much better spent on food that is less artificial and offers more nutrients.
For instance, dipping slices of a medium-sized Granny Smith apple into 1 tablespoon of peanut butter provides 177 calories, 4.5 grams of fiber, and absolutely no added sugar. Plus, both of these foods contain naturally occurring antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant compounds), which offer health benefits that pale in comparison to a bar’s added vitamins.
Similarly, if you are in a munchy mood, you can enjoy FIVE cups of air-popped popcorn. You’ll only take in 150 calories, but enjoy the benefits of six grams of fiber!
If you are on the run and a Zone bar is the only thing you can get your hands on, it is definitely preferable to a pack of Reese's peanut butter cups or a bag of Lay’s potato chips. However, there is no need to make this a daily staple in your quest to eat better.