Top 4 Snack Bars for Diabetes

Avoid the Glorified Candy Bars and Choose a Bar that is Nutritious and Delicious

Kind bars
Claire H Cohen Photography

Snack bars may be convenient, but they also can match up nutritionally to a standard candy bar. With excess sugar, fat, and added ingredients, it's important to read labels and know what kind of bars you are getting.

No Idle Snack Bar Eating

Make sure you eat them for a reason. For example, pre-workout fuel to prevent low blood sugar, or to tide hunger between meals when you are on-the-go. But, remember that not all bars are created equal—some don't stack up nutritionally to others.

I asked my patients to tell me their favorite snack bars based on flavor and blood sugar results. Before I reveal the "best picks," here are some basic guidelines and things to think about before buying a snack bar.

General Guidelines to Choosing a Healthy Snack Bar

There is no real science behind this, rather just trial and error and professional opinion. I tell my patients to aim to keep the counts close to this:

  • Sugar content less than 10 grams (the lower the better)
  • Carbohydrates around 30 grams (depending on what you are eating it for)
  • Protein at least 8 grams (equivalent to a 1-ounce serving of meat)
  • Fiber at least 3 grams
  • Calories less than 250

Keeping snacks to about 250 calories can help to prevent weight gain and keep metabolism revved up.

When Should You Eat a Snack Bar?

  • If you are running late to work and need a quick breakfast, a snack bar can be a good choice. To complete the meal, pair it with a low-fat Greek yogurt, a hard-cooked egg or a handful of nuts. Some people benefit from a larger breakfast. Figure out what works best for you.
     
  • As a snack. The right bar is rich in fiber, protein and healthy fat, which are all filling factors that can help to hold you over between meals and prevent low blood sugars throughout the day.
     
  • Pre- or post-workout. Some bars can give you just the right amount of carbohydrate to fuel or refuel you before or after a workout. Depending upon the duration, intensity and your blood sugar level, you may need to eat 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate before a workout. Ask your dietitian or certified diabetes educator to help you create a meal plan to maximize your nutrition and regulate your sugars during workouts.

    Do Not Use Snack Bars to Treat Low Blood Sugar

    When your blood sugar is low (less than 70mg/dL) or when you are feeling symptomatic (shaky, sweaty, confused or increased heart beat), it's important to test your sugar and treat it right away with a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as 4 ounces of juice, 5 hard sugar candies, or 6 ounces of regular soda.

    Eating a snack bar will not raise your sugar quick enough because fiber, protein and fat delay carbohydrate metabolism and take longer to break down.

    If, however, you've treated your blood sugar and your meal is going to be delayed you can eat a snack bar to stabilize your sugar and prevent it from dropping again.

    The Best Snack Bars

    KIND® Bar

    KIND® Bars are one of my favorite snack bars because the ingredients are whole, natural and not processed. No artificial sweeteners, no artificial anything. The bars are made of all-natural whole nuts, fruits and whole grains, making them rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber.

    The best part is that they taste great, too.

    If you have diabetes, avoid the bars covered in yogurt or chocolate as they will be higher in sugar.

    Nutrition Information:

    Calories: 180-200

    Protein: 4-10 g

    Carbohydrate: 16-24 g

    Sugar: 4-10 g

    Fiber: 3-7g

    Fat: 4.5-16 g

    ** Also available in KIND Plus for added protein, fiber, antioxidants, or Omega 3s

    Flavors to try: Fruit & Nut Delight, Almond Cashew with Flax, Apple Cinnamon & Pecan, Almond & Apricot

    Where to find them: Target, Walmart, Amazon, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and online at www.kindsnacks.com

    For more information go to: www.kindsnacks.com


    Quest® Bars

    Sweetened with stevia and erythritol, Quest Bars are a low-sugar, gluten-free protein bar. Quest does not use soy protein, but rather whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate.

    I have never had one before, but I am told they taste good. Most of the carbohydrate in these bars comes from added fiber which can help to delay how quickly blood sugars rise.

    Although Quest is not a whole-food product, its nutritional breakdown can help to regulate blood sugars. Take caution when increasing fiber rapidly, 16 g of added fiber is quite a bit and can cause gas and bloating, especially if you are not used to eating this much fiber in one sitting.

    Nutritional info:

    Calories: 170-210

    Protein: 20 g

    Carbohydrate: 21-25 g

    Sugar: 1-3 g

    Fiber: 17-19 g

    Fat: 6-10g (~2.g saturated fat)

    Flavors to try (recommended by patients): Mixed Berry Bliss, Vanilla Almond Crunch, Peanut Butter Supreme

    Where to find them: Vitamin Shoppe, online at www.questproteinbar.com

    For more information: www.questproteinbar.com


    Evolution Harvest:

    This is another one of my favorite picks, because of the use of organic, non-GMO, fresh ingredients. These bars are also gluten-free (except for the cocoa bar). Conveniently available at Starbucks, you can pair this bar with your afternoon coffee or tea for a nice pick-me-up.

    Nutrition Information:

    Calories: 200

    Protein: 6-10 g

    Carbohydrate: 13-17 g

    Sugar: 5-10 g

    Fiber: 3-4 g

    Fat: 12-14 g (~1.5 g saturated fat)

    Flavors to Try: Roasted Soybean Pepita Almond Bar, Pepita Almond Raisin Cranberry Bar (I would avoid the Almond Cocoa Bar as it only contains 5g of protein)

    Where to find them: Starbucks

    For more information: http://www.starbucks.com/promo/evolution-harvest


    thinkThin® Bars: thinkThin Bars are a favorite of one of my longtime patients. While I don't love them because they remind me of a candy bar, they work well for some people with dietary restrictions, especially those that need to follow gluten-free diet. They are all Gluten free and Kosher. Some are also vegan and Dairy Free.

    thinkThin states that they use non-GMO ingredients, but this is limited to their crunch mixed nuts bars. thinkThin also is a low-glycemic-index choice. The sugar in thinkThin bars comes from sugar alcohols. Be careful when ingesting too many sugar alcohols because they can cause gas and bloating.

    Nutrition Information:

    Calories: 170-250

    Protein: 8-20 g

    Total Carbohydrate: 19-25 g

    Sugar: 0-10 g

    Fiber: 2-5 g (important to choose the right flavor to maximize fiber)

    Fat: 7-12 g

    Flavors to try: Dark Chocolate, Blueberry and Mixed Nuts, Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts

    Where to find them: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, online at www.amazon.com or www.thinkproducts.com

    For more information: http://thinkproducts.com/products/

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