Product Confusion! Is it a Snack or a Treat?
Stacy Beeson is our registered dietitian with the Integrative Medicine Center. She practices functional nutrition which focuses on how whole foods and key nutrients help regulate health and the process of healing. Stacy has been a dietitian for 16 years.
The confusion with snacks and treats comes from the never-ending, grab-n-go snack foods such as granola bars, energy bars, high-sugar fruit snacks and other processed foods. A snack is meant to fill nutrient gaps, specifically vitamins A, B, C, potassium and fiber and provide the staying power of protein and the fiber. Treats are “sometimes foods”, high in sugar, low in fiber leaving minimal items for the body to digest.
Use these initial four steps to help decide if your next packaged item is a snack or a treat:
- Read the label to make sure the serving size is one item
- Make sure a sugar source is not included in the first 2 ingredients
- Look at the grams of sugar and stay around 5 grams/serving or less – this step does not apply to bars with dates or dried fruit as the sugar agent because the label does not separate added sugar versus natural sugar. Use this step for items that do not contain dates or excessive dried fruit.
- Look at the grams of fiber and aim for 2 grams/serving or more
Aim for an item with as few ingredients as possible, with grains, nuts or seeds as the first ingredient.
Try the recipe below and keep a stash of these bars in the freezer. They have 5 ingredients compared to the common 10 in most bars. They contain 3 grams of added sugar and 3 g of fiber and a healthy mix of protein and fat.
Homemade Pick Me Up Granola Bar
makes 24 mini bars
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup peanut butter or almond butter (choose the natural kind where oil is on top)
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted on skillet
¼ c honey
2 T flaxseeds
½ -1 t cinnamon
Combine the oats, peanut butter, almonds, honey, flaxseed and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper with enough paper to fall over the edges to get bars out once done. Press the oat mixture into the pan. Put bars in the freezer for 45 minutes until firm. Remove paper from pan and cut the bars into 24 servings. Wrap bars individually with parchment and store in the refrigerator or freezer. Nutrition per serving: 119 calories, 7 g fat, 10 g carbohydrates, 3 g added sugar, 4 g protein, 2 g fiber.