Happy Monday! Are you a fan of “energy” bars (or snack bars or whatever handle you like to hang on them)? Then read my latest On Nutrition column for The Seattle Times, “Before you grab and go, make sure the bar is worth it.”
I have a stash of bars in my pantry right now. They are not my go-to snack, but I often pack one with me when I’m going to be away from home all day (on those days, I pack a lunch and a mid-morning snack of an apple and some nuts or a string cheese stick…having a bar to tide me over between lunch and dinner saves me some room and time). I also throw a few in my suitcase when traveling, although they usually end up traveling right back home with me (I never seem to encounter food shortages on trips). 
I avoid eating bars at home, when I have ready access to “real food” snacks like the aforementioned apple, or hummus and veggies, or a small dish of cottage cheese with raisins and a few nuts, or plain Greek yogurt with a little fig butter stirred in.
Not only do I find that these “real food” snacks tend to be more satisfying, but they are in line with my goal of eating on the less-processed end of the food spectrum whenever possible. I am also hyper-conscious of the amount of marketing spin that goes into food labels, and know that once you start reading the Nutrition Facts Panel and ingredient list, many brands of bars aren’t as healthy as you thought they were.
In my ideal perfect world, I would make my own “energy bars” for those times and places where their super-portability is a saving grace. Sadly, I don’t live in that world (which means I don’t bake my own bread, either), so when I shop for bars I look for short lists of real food ingredients (i.e., no soy protein isolate or the like). I look for bars that I could make myself if I had the time. 
LARABAR is one of my favorite brands, and I like Kind bars, too. Zing bars (developed by some Seattle registered dietitians) are great, and I’ve heard good things about Pure bars, although I’ve yet to try one. (Note: I’m mentioning these brands because of my own experience/interest/opinions…other than a few free samples at conferences, I’ve not received anything from any of these companies).