Born and raised in Austin, Sarah is a health nut with a passion for nutrition and fitness. In addition to being a communications student at UT, she is the world’s biggest dog lover, an innovative latte-maker and Kill Bill enthusiast. You can catch her at the gym, cuddling her dog Vinny or trying to find ways to healthify her meals in the dining halls. When not doing any of the above, Sarah is sharing her experiences with food and exercise through her health column at ORANGE. Look out for her future stories, which will cover topics like weight training, reviews of fitness facilities around Austin, healthy food and much more.
By Sarah Roberts
As college students, we’re constantly on the go. Something we often forget is to treat our bodies right by fueling them throughout the day, thus keeping our metabolism rolling, energy levels high and hunger pains subsided. One issue we tend to face is choosing the right snacks. We’re constantly encountering foods filled with bad fats, extremely high levels of added sugar and ingredients we can’t pronounce. But in the sea of unhealthy products is a better option for nourishment: nutrition bars.
I’m a firm believer in paying more attention to the ingredients in a product rather than its nutritional information. The difference between 100 calories of, say, Oreos versus 100 calories of kale is immense. Most granola and protein bars are falsely advertised as a healthy source of nutrition, including a long list of junk under the nutritional value column that probably causes you to furrow your brow.
To de-furrow that brow of yours, I’ve constructed a list of some healthy ingredients to look for next time you pick up a nutrition bar on the way to class.
Most bars I come across are loaded with processed and refined sugars, one of the worst ingredients you can feed your body if not eaten in moderation. Because I, too, enjoy sweet treats, the first ingredient I’d like to introduce is the date. According to The Milwaukee Journal, these sweet little gems derive from countries in the Middle East, as well as California, Arizona and even some parts of Texas. Dates are an excellent source of easily-digestible sugar, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. When choosing your next nutrition bar, try to pick one that is date-based. Some of my favorites include Larabar and assorted Thunderbird Energetica bars.
“Organic.” We’ve seen this word countless times on signs and packages, but what does it really mean? The Environmental Protection Agency describes “organically grown” food as “food that is grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” In other words, organic products are not exposed to harsh chemicals during the growing process, decreasing your chance of illness and disease by consumption. So what does this have to do with my bar, you ask? Simply put, the more organic ingredients, the better. Some examples would be organic sugars, fruits, nuts, cocoa and assorted oils. If you’re looking for a tasty and organic-pumped bar, try any in Oatmega’s line (my favorite is chocolate mint crisp).
Unprocessed & Natural Sugars
This is a big one. Like I previously stated, added sugar can be one of the worst ingredients for you if not eaten in moderation. That’s why, being the health-nut I am, I get way too excited when I find products with unprocessed or natural sugars. In reality, the body will react to most sugar consumption in the same way; breaking it down in the form of fructose and glucose molecules (read all about this stuff here). It’s still smarter to choose sugars that are in their most natural form and to ingest them sparingly. That being said, when choosing a nutrition bar, look for sugars such as date palm (or just dates), coconut palm, maple syrup, honey, unrefined organic cane sugar, erythritol and stevia.
Fruit & Nuts
Aside from dates, there are other fruits, as well as nuts, that should be components in your bars. It’s no surprise that these two are vital for a healthy, balanced body, and what better way to incorporate them into your diet than picking up a product that’s already got them all packed together for you? The natural sugars in fruit and high-fat content in nuts make for a perfect combination in keeping us awake and ready to take on that economics class. Many people stray away from nuts because of how much fat they contain, but if you take a closer look, you’ll notice they’re packed with good fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are essential for your health, and nuts are a fantastic source for these two. I say go for any assortment of nuts and fruits in your bars.
Next time you’re looking for a quick pick-me up bar in between classes, keep these ingredients in mind. It’s amazing what natural sources of energy can do for the brain and body. Happy snacking!