Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Meal Replacement

Reaching for a Meal Replacement Bar?
June 9th, 2011

Caution: You may be entering the marketing spin-zone.
It seems like a good idea.
You’re busy, you’re hungry, and you have the best intentions to eat something nutritious, so you make what you think is the best possible choice—you grab a meal replacement bar. You’re optimistic about the promise of increased energy and boosted nutrition. But most bars are just “glorified candy bars” in my estimation. Under attention-grabbing packaging lurks a whole lot of sugar in the form of the white stuff, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and/or dried fruit that offer a jolt of sugar that could go toe to toe with any candy bar in town.

While they may wear many labels—meal replacement, cereal bar, energy bar, diet bar, snack bar, supplement bar, energy bar, and so on—they’re essentially all the same. It’s true that some bars do contain some added vitamins and minerals, but they’re in no way a substitute for a well-balanced meal or snack. And they certainly are not on an equal par to real food, as marketers try to imply.

But what really concerns me when it comes to raising the bar is that marketers use deceptive labeling when they give the promise of increased energy, which is dangled as a buying perk. The truth is the FDA allows any product containing calories to be labeled and marketed as providing “energy.” So, the consumer sees the word “energy” and thinks stamina and alertness when all “energy” on a label means is “this product contains calories…that produce energy.” Since all calories produce energy, that’s a rather empty promise—it doesn’t mean anything.

And besides the bars are actually pretty expensive. A couple of dollars a bar may seem reasonable, but if you’re gobbling down one or two a day that adds up as easily and quickly as a Starbucks habit—with a similar health sabotage: a quick sugar or caffeine high and then a blood sugar low, making you even more hungry.

If you absolutely insist that you’re just too busy to ditch the bars entirely, at least opt for granola bars—but don’t make them a habit. Look for whole grains and at least two grams of fiber per serving, and low or no added sugar and preservatives. And, please, stay away from bars with “fun fillers” like chocolate, M&M’S, and other candies.

You can always choose a really healthy meal replacement in the form of a shake or smoothie, but steer clear of the ones that contain heavy metals and their own brand of sneaky ingredients—like Splenda or sucralose—that isn’t on the label. I recommend fast food shakes made from Fat Flush Whey Protein or Fat Flush Body Protein, which are both third-party tested to be free of hormones, pesticides, chemicals, heavy metals, GMO, artificial sweeteners, sugar, gluten, and lactose.

For more ideas on healthy snacks, do check out my Fat Flush Cookbook, which will provide you with speedy snacks for all phases to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel all day long with the right mix of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.

-Edge On Health, Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman