For many busy Americans, convenience is a major determinant in what we choose to eat. It makes sense, then, that nutrition bars are a hot product. Whether it’s more protein, increased energy, enhanced performance, or weight loss you’re seeking, there’s a bar for it all. But with this widespread expansion of products came a whole lot of additives and a whole bunch of confused and overwhelmed consumers.
In many cases, these bars and their extreme promises are too good to be true. Many of these “nutrition” bars are imposters: they’re basically candy bars disguised as nutritious snacks or meal replacements. Several of them are loaded with sugar, artificial ingredients and unfamiliar additives. Some “protein” bars contain protein in unnecessarily high amounts; some have all the protein you need in a day, and too much protein can tax the liver and kidneys. People that are watching their waistlines like nutrition bars because they are safe: you know exactly how many calories and how much sugar and fat you are getting. But “diet-friendly” and “low-calorie” do not equal healthy. Sure, eating a 150 calorie bar for breakfast instead of a 500 calorie meal may result in weight loss; but if those 150 calories are highly-processed, empty ones, you may be selling your body short on the fiber, vitamins and essential minerals it needs to stay optimally healthy. This simply won't keep you full, and you'll find yourself reaching for other things (usually unhealthy) later in the day.
Here are a few bars that are minimally processed and contain a good amount of nutrients.
I, for one, certainly understand that’s not always practical. So when you’re grabbing a bar on the go, your best bet is to focus more on the ingredient list than on the nutrition facts: first look for actual foods listed as ingredients. Generally speaking, the longer the ingredient list, the more processed the food. When you skim the nutrition facts, pay attention to the sugar; a higher sugar content (>10 grams) is acceptable if there is a decent amount of fiber in the bar (> 3 grams). Be sure to avoid bars that contain sugar and no fiber. Protein bars that contain enormous amounts of protein (>20g per bar, for example) absolutely should be avoided, as we already over-consume protein in the average Western diet.
The list above is a great starting point if you need a quick fix hunger solution. However, bear in mind that these bars are not sufficient meal-replacements, so if that’s what you’re using it for, grab a 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese, a non-fat Greek yogurt or a piece of fruit to have with it.
There's an old Scottish saying, "Every little makes a muckle", which basically means that the little things add up. It is of course referring to money, but we could certainly apply this to weight gain or loss. All those little extras DO add up!
Think about 'saving' whenever you're tempted to eat an extra cookie, use another tablespoon of oil, salad dressing, peanut butter, or to break another tiny piece of chocolate off the bar. Start by eating small, frequent meals. Remind yourself that you'll be eating again in a few hours, so you truly don't need the extras at that one sitting. Implementing this strategy is a sure way to achieve your goals and continue to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
Women who are overweight appear to have more serious hot flashes during menses than those women who are not overweight.
According to a recent study overweight women who were put on an intensive behavioral weight reduction regiment demonstrated a significant improvement in their hot flashes during menses compared to a control group.
While dietary and lifestyle changes are the most beneficial way to regulate your hormone levels, it can also be helpful and often necessary to take a supplement to help support your fluctuating hormones. I recommend feminene, a female support formula that will help to alleviate symptoms such as mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, bloating and menstrual cramps.
Source: An Intensive Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention and Hot Flushes in Women
According to a recent study, vitamin D may help reduce the incidence and severity of both viral respiratory tract infections and the flu, at least during the fall and winter months, the typical time of year when these conditions are most prevalent.
The study suggested having a blood serum level of vitamin D higher than 38ng/ml in order to achieve the most benefit.
Source: Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and the Incidence of Acute Viral Respiratory Tract Infections in Healthy Adults
8. Be accountable to someone.
As much as you need to be picked up when you’re down, as much as you need be helped and supported from time to time, as much as you need some positivity in your life . . . you also need someone to kick your butt back into gear when you’re slacking, and help you snap out of the simple laziness that we all fall into from time to time.
With Lifestyle Nutrition, that person is your coach, whose job it is to stay on top of you as much as it is to support you. If you miss a day, okay, fine; miss two, and the next time we get together I'm on you. If there’s a legitimate problem, we’ll help find a solution; if there’s just an excuse, I'll call you on it and get you back to being honest with yourself again.
Everyone needs someone to hold them accountable, especially in the beginning of a new process that they’re unfamiliar with. So who is that person in your life right now? Who challenges your excuses? Who helps you get back on track?
Who are you accountable to?
Well, there you go, 8 lessons you can use right now to change your body, and ultimately your life — courtesy of Lifestyle Nutrition.
Pick one, and put it to use today, because that’s what it really takes to change.
Alissa Robertson, MS, RD
Alissa Robertson, MS, RD, Nutrition Specialist and Owner of Lifestyle Management & Nutrition, received her Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Vermont. Upon graduation in 2003 she spent four years providing nutrition education and counseling to local Vermonters. In 2007 she returned to the University of Vermont to complete a two-year Master's program in Dietetics and Nutrition. She is now practicing as a Registered Dietitian at Essex Physical Therapy located in Essex Center, Vermont.