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 In Ask an Expert, Pediatrics, Pulse Blog

Q: What should I look for in a bar?

Granola, energy, and breakfast bars are a quick and easy snack for families on the go. However, many of them can be high in sugar, saturated fat, and calories. If you’re turning to bars to curb your kid’s hunger (or yours), it’s important to check the nutrition label to make sure you aren’t giving your kid things you don’t want them to have. If you aren’t familiar with how to read a nutrition facts label, watch this video first.

Start by looking at the ingredients. They should all be things that you recognize, such as oats, whole-wheat flour, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and egg whites.

Next, look at the numbers. A healthy bar should have:

  • No more than 10 grams of sugar
  • Low-glycemic sweeteners such as agave and coconut palm sugar
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • At least 5 grams of protein
  • At least 4 grams of fiber
  • No partially hydrogenated fats (aka “trans fats”)
  • Less than 2 grams of saturated fat.

Different flavors of bars from the same brand can have different nutritional profiles, so it’s important to check each one to see if it meets the criteria. Many bars contain lots of dried fruit, which is much higher in sugar and calories than fresh fruit.

You can also make energy bars at home, which allows you to better control the sugar, protein, and fiber. Even quicker? Make a homemade trail mix with nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit. Just remember that nuts and seeds are choking hazards for young children, so it’s best to reserve them for kids who are at least 4 years old.

—Valerie Weiss, MD

Dr. Valerie Weiss is a pediatrician at Vancouver Clinic. She has a special interest in helping families make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent or reverse obesity and its complications.

Valerie Weiss, MD.