Tue, May 8, 2012 – by Jessica Reinhart

Energy Bars We Don’t Hate!

Looking for a healthy snack on the go? Whether you have the mid morning munchies, or want to boost your energy pre-workout, nutritional bars might just be a perfect pick-me-up. But buyer beware; if you’re not careful, you could choose one that’s the nutritional equivalent to a king-sized candy bar, or has the taste of pre-chewed cardboard. To find out what to look for we teamed up with clinical nutritionist Elizabeth Reed and found our favorite stand-outs.

"Nutritional bars are considered a functional food", says Reed. "But not all nutritional bars are healthy functional foods. One must be careful to choose a bar that is balanced using healthy contents. It's important to be an informed consumer and to know what you're looking for. Read nutritional information and ingredients carefully. Choose bars that have between 130-250 calories and focus on those that have less than 20 grams of sugar," she says. And "avoid bars that list cottonseed oil as an ingredient. Cottonseed oil contributes to partially hydrogenated fat content."

Take note, though that while energy bars can be great for you, they’re not actually a meal. "Use nutritional bars as part of a 'mini meal'," suggests Reed. "Eat half a protein bar with a piece of fruit. You might have half of the bar in the morning with a small apple, and save the other half for the afternoon and pair it with a peach or 10 grapes. Or, if you choose a fruit and nut bar eat half a bar with one ounce of low fat cheese or other protein."

Here are a few of our favorite bars that are both delicious and nutritious:

LUNA Bar (Lemon Zest flavor):LUNA bars were created to meet the specific nutritional needs of women. And we love that these tasty bars are made with 70 percent certified organic ingredients—now that’s pure goodness.Nutritional Snapshot: 180 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein.

PowerBar Nut Naturals (Trail Mix flavor): These nutty treats are certified "Heart Healthy" by the American Dietetic Association. Nutritional Snapshot: 210 calories, 10 grams of fat, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein.

Pria Complete Nutrition Bars (Chocolate Mint Crisp flavor):Pria bars are specially formulated to provide balanced nutrition to women. Each bar has as much calcium as a glass of milk and contains 60% of the Daily Value of folate, which is an important vitamin that can help protect against heart disease.Nutritional Snapshot: 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 11 grams of protein.

Boomi Bars (Apricot Cashew flavor):Gluten-free Boomi Bars are an ideal choice for those who suffer from celiac disease. What’s more, these tasty fruit & nut bars are 100% all natural and have no added sugar! Nutritional Snapshot: 190 calories, 8 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein.

UltraLean Gluco-Support Bars by BioGenesis (Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Crunch flavor): This functional food bar is ideal for weight loss and blood sugar stability because it contains no refined sugars. Nutritional Snapshot: 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein.

Zone Perfect Bars (Fudge Graham Classic Crunch flavor):Skip the ‘smores and opt for this tasty treat at your next cookout. With 16 grams of protein this bar packs a serious punch!Nutritional Snapshot: 210 calories, 7 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein.