Happy Monday Morning, all! Even if this particular day of the week isn’t your absolute favorite, consider a few things:
1. For some, it’s a short week! Dan and I both have the day off work for Good Friday this year, so that’s always a fun twist on a Monday morning.
2. It’s a new month – and it’s April! New beginnings, and April is one of my all-time favorites because it elicits hope of soft, rainy days that evolve into warm sunny skies shining down on newly sprouted flowers and the greenest grass we’ll see all year.
3. If you wish away every Monday morning in your life, that’s four wasted days a month, and in 2012, that’s 53 days! That’s an awful lot of time to just throw away, so make it count!
If you had a relaxing, restful weekend, hopefully you had time to plan out all your groceries, menus, snacks and workouts! But, if you’re anything like me, you may have forgotten to get your whole life in order before the start of the workweek. That’s where snack bars can come in extremely handy. Though I generally don’t eat a LOT of packaged foods, there are some options out there now that aren’t terrible! They can serve as an afternoon snack, a jumpstart before a morning workout or in some cases, your breakfast on the run (though I personally don’t think they’re enough to provide the same substance as a whole meal of food.) Below are some of my favorite options and the benefits of each:
1. Luna Bars. These are created for (or at least marketed toward) females, as a branch of the more masculine CLIF Bars. They come in a mini-size, which makes them perfect to throw in a gym bag or purse to eat before a tough cardio workout or in a pinch on a plane. They also have a separate line of bars marked as “protein bars,” designed to provide more of a supplement in that department for anyone that may be looking for it. One of my favorite qualities of this brand is the wide variety of flavors available, and the fact that almost all the ones I have tried have been delicious. Like most people, I love chocolate, and a lot of Luna Bars incorporate a more chocolate (or at least dessert-like) vibe. Some personal favorites of mine are the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor (in the protein line – it tastes JUST like a Reeses!) and in the main line – I love Nutz Over Chocolate and S’Mores. Here’s a little more information about the ingredients in the bars – the main bragging rights include B-Vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folate and cyanocobalamin), Calcium, Fiber and Folic Acid. Some negatives include the fact that they contain isolated soy protein – this substance is fairly controversial and has been linked to negative side effects. Out of all the bars I like to munch on, they probably taste the best, but are the least natural and wholesome. They have about 180 calories per bar, which is around the caloric target I set for my snacks, so that part works out well.
2. LARABAR. Another more female-oriented line, this company is much more devoted to the single digit ingredient list, wholesome and natural overtones and catering to special diets (gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, food allergies). Each bar is said to have no more than 9 ingredients, and you can find out exactly what is in each flavored bar via their website (this is an example for the Apple Pie flavor). Common components are dates, almonds, and then specific fruits and spices that pertain to the flavor at hand (apples, bananas, raisins, etc.) My favorite flavors in this line include Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (anyone sensing a theme in my palate?), Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Chip Brownie and Cherry Pie. Some of these bars have a slightly higher calorie count, though it’s most likely due to “good fats” from the almonds, etc. Here’s one take on LARABAR v. Clif – the author points out, as will I right now, that if you’re into “whole foods” (by that I mean, non-packaged, non-processed, etc. NOT the grocery store chain), LARABAR is definitely the better choice. But just to mix things up a little, I have one more option I like.
3. KIND Bars. Like it’s similar, all-caps cousin referenced above, KIND Bars are all-natural fruit and nut bars. You can actually see bits and pieces of these whole foods in each bar you eat. KIND has a few lines that include protein fortified bars, KIND Plus (each one has a specific benefit – antioxidants, omega-3, fiber, etc.) and the Healthy Grains line, which is basically bite-sized bits of the bars in a bag.
Though this brand doesn’t have AS many chocolate options (though they do have a peanut butter chocolate protein option you probably won’t be shocked to see on my fave flaves list below!), it’s sort of the best of both worlds – whole ingredients, nutritional boosts packed into one. I honestly enjoy pretty much every flavor of this line, but my all-time faves include: Chocolate Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew, Peanut Butter & Strawberry (it tastes just like a PBJ sandwich), and Fruit & Nut Delight.
SUMMARY. When it’s at all possible, I eat whole foods. If I could choose between a snack bar and a piece of fruit, or some veggies with yogurt or hummus, I would definitely lean toward the latter. I use these bars in my life sparingly, during weeks that feel like I don’t have a moment to breathe, when I’m traveling (especially for work, since it can be so difficult to eat healthy when so little is within the realm of your control), or sometimes when that craving for chocolate is strong (this doesn’t happen to me as much as it used to, thanks to my decision to generally cut candy out of my life) and a bar like this would be a better option than say … an Easter Egg made out of Reese’s. Lately, I’ve been finding myself using these as an afternoon snack all too often, so it’s definitely been a goal of mine to change that. BUT, if you must snack on a bar, I think that KIND is the way to go. Just a personal opinion – subject to change.
Have a great (and not too hectic) week!