Posts Tagged ‘deprivation’


April 10, 2012

Today, I jumped on the bandwagon and tried a Clif bar. For those of you who have never heard of these, where have you been?? These nutrition bars seem to have gathered some type of cult following. I felt I should know what I have been missing. Not much, as it turns out. I sampled the Banana Nut Bread flavor. It tasted like a glorified trail mix bar and made me wish I had spent my $3 (yup, that’s right, $3) on some real banana bread. Go into any grocery store, pharmacy or health food store and there is an entire section devoted to nutrition and energy products. There are protein bars, Atkins bars, Zone diet bars, Slim Fast bars, Recovery bars etc. Some are designed to replace entire meals, while some are designed to be snacks, or to provide a boost pre-workout or help replenish energy post-workout. The calorie content and distribution (carbohydrate/fat/protein) also ranges depending on the type of bar and its intended use.

These products are not new to the market, but the number of choices available and the sales of these products are increasing. According to Symphony IRI, there was a 16.3% increase in dollar sales for nutritional bars compared to the last year for the year ending January 22 2012. (Source: Candy Industry Retail Confectioner). It seems people everywhere are crunching away on these bars. There are several probable reasons for this. People today tend to be more concerned about their health. When looking for snacks, people are going to be more inclined to purchase something they feel is ‘healthy’ as opposed to ‘junk food’. Because of the marketing of these products and product placement in health food stores and health isles, these bars are assumed to be healthy by most people. Many of them are marketed for use as meal replacements, which can satisfy a dual purpose. For those people looking to lose weight, they may appear to offer a simple approach by offering a pre-packaged, low-calorie substitute for meals requiring little to no pre-planning.  I think we all remember the Slim Fast shake diets. “A shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and a sensible dinner”.  In addition, they are great for people on the go. They are portable, can be eaten anywhere, and are relatively mess-free.

So, what’s the problem? I recall a comedy act I once watched on TV where the comic joked that he had been trying to lose weight by eating meal replacement bars, but had given up and switched to Mars candy bars instead when he realized they were lower in calories and tasted much better. Of course the punchline was the absurdity that anyone would deem it appropriate to replace a meal with a chocolate bar. My question is, is a Caramel Nut Chocolate flavor Supreme Protein bar sweetened with maltitol, polydextrose and sucralose really that much better for you? Furthermore, are we really so busy nowadays that we can’t sit at a table, use a fork and a knife, and eat a proper lunch? It seems that we live in such a ‘go go go’ world that no one can take even a minute out of their day to enjoy something as simple as say, a bowl of soup. We can’t be bothered to call each other, we have to text. We can’t watch a show when it’s on, we PVR it and watch it later because god forbid we have to waste a spare moment watching a commercial. There are drive through coffee shops, banks and even pharmacies because we can’t even get out of our cars to run a simple errand. And no way can we interrupt our day for a meal. Even fast food isn’t fast enough anymore. We will eat a tasteless nutrition bar, or drink a smoothie for energy thank you very much. I decided to explore the nutrition content of a few of the most popular nutrition bars, plus this month’s Jugo Juice smoothie of the month, which I noticed today as I got off the subway is “Chocolate Peanut Butter”. This is posted directly beside their sign with the slogan “Healthy Fruit Smoothies” . Cliff Bar: Average 240 calories, 3.5g fat (0g saturated fat), 44g carbohydrate, 5g fibre, 9g protein. Jugo Juice Peanut Butter and Chocolate Smoothie (24oz): 273 calories, 8.5g fat (1.7g saturated fat) 44.5 g carbohydrate, 2.8 g fibre. Zone Perfect bar: 190 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 20g carbohydrate, 3g fibre, 10g protein. Nutribar High Fibre: 230 calories, 6g fat (3g saturated fat) 34g carbohydrates, 5g fibre, 12g protein. Most dietary guidelines recommend less than 30% of calories come from fat, and less than 10% of calories from saturated fat, making the Zone Perfect bar (38% fat) and Nutribar (11.5% saturated fat) less than ideal choices. The Cliff bar is very high carbohydrate at 65%, so beware of this one if you are carb-phobic! Surprisingly, the Jugo Juice smoothie is relatively well-balanced and probably quite delicious. As for that mars bar: 260 calories, 9.9g fat (34%), 4.8g saturated fat (17%), 40g carbohydrate (62%) and 2.5g protein (3.8%). So really, it doesn’t look a lot worse than a lot of the ‘healthy’ energy bars. And boy is it delicious!

I’m not suggesting eating a candy bar instead lunch. But I don’t think that skipping meals in lieu of energy bars on a regular basis is a practice backed up by a lot of science either. Here’s a novel thought: instead of a meal replacement bar how about a real meal? Sit down, take a break, and eat. Remember the 4 food groups? I don’t even know where one would place brown rice syrup, soy rice crisps, barley malt extract, or invert evaporated cane juice on that meal. These are just some of the ingredients in common energy bars. I think it’s time to get back to basics. Healthy doesn’t have to mean it has to be bought from a health food store, have a health claim on the label, be tasteless or make you feel like you are repenting for all past dietary sins. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that depriving yourself can be diet sabotage as it often leads to overeating later. If you are watching your waistline, there are many healthy options that are well balanced, taste delicious, and will make you feel satisfied. And if you still insist you’re too busy to sit down and eat, guess what? The world caters to you. Great ideas for on-the-run meals: Sandwiches. They come in many forms. On rye, pumpernickel, sub buns, white and whole wheat, as wraps and pitas, as donairs, on bagels or biscuits, even on gluten-free bread. You can eat them with one hand and still have a free hand for texting.