The 11 Best Breakfast Bars
A recent Label Lesson unwrapped the dark side of breakfast bars. This week we want you to take an oath:
I swear I will NEVER touch another Healthy Food Imposter breakfast bar again. I will ONLY eat breakfast foods that provide my body with whole grains and other natural, healthful ingredients - no matter how long it takes to prepare such a breakfast…
Just kidding! You don’t have to give up convenience to enjoy a great breakfast.
That’s right… you can be good to your body even if you don’t have time to prepare a full-blown morning meal. The food sleuths here at eBrandAid.com have tracked down a few good breakfast bars that have nutrients and convenience!
Case in point: LARABAR Raw Food Bar Chocolate Coconut Chew
Cals 220, 12g fat, 0 sodium, 18g sugar, 5g fiber, 5g protein
Ingredients: Dates, Almonds, Walnuts, Unsweetened Coconut, Unsweetened Cocoa Powder.
Friends, this bar contains the Holy Trinity of healthy eating: CONVENIENCE, NUTRITION and ENERGY!
Decoding the fine print
So why is this breakfast bar worth your time and money, you ask? If the ingredients don’t speak for themselves, our food sleuths are happy to speak for them. Take a look:
This bar (like all the LARABAR varieties) is crafted from fewer than six ingredients.
The unsweetened cocoa provides more antioxidants than green tea.
The dates, coconut, almonds and walnuts are all nutritional superstars!
The fiber, protein, good carbohydrates and healthy fats are derived exclusively from whole, raw foods.
This bar is a wholefood NATURAL source of 16 essential vitamins and minerals, including fiber, vitamin E and folic acid. There’s no need for a red-flag label claim like “fortified with vitamins and minerals.”
Sugars and carbs come from fruit, not from processed, added junk sources.
And the best part, they come in 14 amazing flavors all of which are free of added sugars and sweeteners, preservatives, fillers, and artificial colorings.
There’s nothing not to love about this breakfast bar!
Variety is the spice of life – and important to any healthy eating plan – so we’re serving up more nutrition-on-the-go breakfast bars that meet our BestBrands standards:
The first few ingredients are made from wholefood sources like dates, nuts or whole grains such as rolled oats, wheat, barley or brown rice flour.
They have at least two grams of fiber per serving, and no more than 250 calories per bar.
And of course, they’re void of our least favorite junk ingredients like refined sugars, refined grains, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and colors, and harmful preservatives.
Finally, they’re good and good for you! And by the way, these aren’t just for breakfast anymore – they make great in between meal snacks too!
Note: Remember, all varieties of the same brand are NOT created equal! Please make sure you are choosing the recommended variety within each brand. When in doubt, read the ingredients label!
Clif Nectar Organic Fruit and Nut Bar (all flavors)
Health Valley Granola Bars Lowfat Chocolate Chip
Kashi TLC Chewy Granola Bars Honey Almond Flax
Kashi Honey Toasted 7-Grain
Kashi Chewy Granola Bars Trail Mix
LARABARS (All flavors)
Nature's Choice Multigrain Cereal Bars
Nature Valley Granola Bites Oats 'N Honey
Nature Valley Roasted Nut Bars Peanut Crunch
Odwalla Nourishing Food Bars Carrot Raisin
Simple Harvest All Natural Multigrain Chewy Granola Bars (all flavors)
Remember, when you're armed with a little eBrandAid know-how,
you're in control at the grocery store.
Kerry McLeod is eBrandAid.com's chief Brand Doctor and a regular blogger here at Diet.com. Kerry's mission in life is to teach food shoppers how to cut through the clutter at the grocery store in order to find the truly healthy brand-name foods. Go to www.eBrandAid.com for more information.
August 23, 2010
The Skinny On ‘Low-Fat’ Claims
It’s the Catch-22 of dieting. In a desperate attempt to lose weight, you stock your cupboards with low-fat packaged foods. Weeks later your scale is telling you that you’ve GAINED a few pounds. So, you go out and buy even more low-fat foods and the weight gain cycle continues.
A good rule to live and diet by: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! After reading today’s Label Lesson, you’ll want to apply this rule to most packaged foods that are labeled low-fat or even fat-free.
The Food Sleuths here at eBrandAid.com are taking a bite out of this “low-fat” scam. Read on for the details.
The lower-fat versions of packaged foods like cookies, cakes and crackers often sound like healthier alternatives. It turns out that food manufacturers frequently compensate for the lack of fat by adding in more sugar, salt, and thickeners. Sure it boosts flavor and adds texture, but it’s a ploy that merely substitutes one or more junk ingredients for another.
It really bites, but low-fat varieties usually hit you with about the same number of calories.
Case in point:
Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Regular vs. Reduced Fat
Decoding the Fine Print
Serving Size: 33g, 160 cals, total fat 8g (sat. fat 2.5g), sodium 110mg, sugar 11g, protein 2g
Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Semisweet Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin - An Emulsifier), Sugar, Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Leavening (Baking Soda, Ammonium Phosphate), Salt, Whey (From Milk), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color.
Serving Size: 32g, 140 cals, total fat 5g (sat. fat 2g), sodium 150, sugar 11g, protein 2g
Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Sugar, Semisweet Chocolate Chips (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Dextrose, Soy Lecithin - An Emulsifier), Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Ammonium Phosphate), Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Soy Lecithin (Emulsifier), Whey (From Milk), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color.
When you compare the ingredients list, you discover that the only differences between the regular and the reduced-fat versions are that the reduced variety actually has two extra sugar ingredients and one extra filler – both have been added to help compensate for the lower fat. Hmmmm.
The Nutrition Facts label reveals that by choosing the lower-fat variety you’ll enjoy a mere 20-calorie savings, 3 less grams of fat (the saturated fat is about the same), and a 40-gram boost in sodium. So far, this doesn’t sound like a good trade-off to us.
But here’s the clincher. When you take the taste challenge you quickly realize that your low-fat choice doesn’t taste as good as the original recipe. Studies show you tend to eat more to statisfy your craving. This means you usually end up taking in MORE CALORIES. And that, my friends, defeats the purpose of choosing a “reduced-fat” cookie in the first place.
Sure it’s a smart move to decrease your fat intake. But, if there’s not much of a calorie difference with the reduced-fat version, you’re probably better off eating the full-fat cookie that you were craving in the first place. Just be sure to limit your intake to one per customer!
We hope you’ve taken note that both varieties of the featured cookies are packed with junk ingredients, so neither is a healthy option to begin with.
However, we would never promote total abstinence from junk food. That’s an unrealistic demand. It’s too inflexible and, frankly, it’s no fun. Instead, we urge you to watch your portions, exercise in moderation, and make better, more informed brand choices.
Remember, when you’re armed with a little BrandAid know-how,
you’re in control at the grocery store.
Kerry McLeod is eBrandAid.com's chief Brand Doctor and a regular blogger here at Diet.com. Kerry's mission in life is to teach food shoppers how to cut through the clutter at the grocery store in order to find the truly healthy brand-name foods.
May 31, 2010
Healthy Food Imposter: Crystal Light
Oh my Gawd!!!
It's the phrase we uttered most during our recent BestBrands shopping spree. Yes, your trusted food sleuths were regularly freaked out by the plethora of Healthy Food Imposters they found lurking on grocery store shelves from coast to coast.
With so many foods and drinks trying to pass themselves off as "healthy," we decided it might be insightful - not to mention fun - incorporating "The Healthy Food Imposter of the Month" award into our regular lineup. In order to be eligible for this award, a product must meet the following criteria:
Criteria #1: Extremely misleading information on the front label
Criteria #2: Three or more harmful junk ingredients
Criteria #3: Deceptive health claims (blatant or implied)
Criteria #4: A high shock value… the OMG response, if you will!
Our first recipient of this infamous award goes to (the envelope please)...
Crystal Light Immunity On The Go
Serving: 5 calories, 0g fat, 10mg sodium, 1g carbs, 0% vitamin A, 0% calcium, 20% vitamin C and 0% iron)
INGREDIENTS: Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Natural Flavor, Aspartame (Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine), Red 40, Contains Less than 2% of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Vitamin E Acetate, Beta Carotene, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium and Potassium Bicarbonate, Magnesium Oxide, Acesulfame Potassium, Blue 1.
Criteria #1: Extremely Misleading Information on the Front Label
These individually packaged drink mixtures are intended to be added to water to boost flavor and improve your health. The front label clearly states "Immunity on the Go" and "Cherry Pomegranate." Both terms imply that the powder will boost your immune system and provide antioxidant health benefits via the fruit.
However, after decoding the fine print, the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list tell a different tale.
For starters, each serving only provides 20% RDA for vitamin C, 0% for vitamin A, 0% calcium, and 0% iron; we're not really seeing a whole lot of immune boosting going on here.
Then, we find very little evidence that natural cherry and pomegranate exist in the mix. We did however find two artificial color ingredients clearly used to give the mixture the illusion that there was some real fruit involved.
Criteria #2: Three or More Harmful Junk Ingredients
We found a total of 15 ingredients - eight are potentially harmful chemical additives (junk ingredients), including:
Two artificial colors (Red 40 and Blue 1)
Two artificial sweeteners (aspartame and acesulfame potassium)
One refined sweetener (maltodextrin)
Two preservatives (sodium and potassium bicarbonate)
One thickener (modified cornstarch)
Criteria #3: Deceptive Health Claims (Blatant or Implied)
According to the Crystal Light Web sit, this variety is part of their "enhanced line that contains essential nutrients designed to hydrate you, energize and enhance your body's natural defenses." The site also states, "our bodies need water to function, to flush out the bad stuff…"
Really? This product is the BAD STUFF that needs to be flushed out! It's filled with some of the worst chemical additives and they counteract any benefit that you might receive from the water. In fact, this product could actually be detrimental to your health.
Oh my Gawd! (and, thus we meet Criteria #4)
Bottom Line: We found no immunity properties, no significant antioxidants (read: health benefits) and certainly no cherry or pomegranate!
Crystal Light Immunity On The Go Cherry Pomegranate exceeds the criteria needed to win our first-ever HFI of the Month Award!
Nothing replaces the benefits of plain old filtered tap water. It's detoxifying, cleansing and keeps you from getting dehydrated.
We recommend you save your money and stick with the real deal. You'll avoid the chemical additives that can sink your resolve to get healthier! If drinking tap water just doesn't do it for you, then trying adding a squirt of REAL lemon or orange juice to spice things up!
Remember, when you're armed with a little BrandAid know-how, you're in control at the grocery store.
Kerry McLeod is eBrandAid.com's chief Brand Doctor and a blogger here at Diet.com. Kerry's mission in life is to teach food shoppers how to cut through the clutter at the grocery store in order to find the truly healthy brand-name foods. If smart food shopping appeals to you, go to eBrandAid.com and sign up for free newsletters.
May 24, 2010