For food on the go, bars are eating up the competition

Pat Crowley says his bars, called Chapul, the Aztec word for cricket, are something new. With crickets as the source of their protein, they come in flavors that reflect the world: Thai, with ginger coconut and lime; Aztec, with coffee, chocolate and cayenne; and American, with peanut butter and chocolate.

Kristen Buchanan traveled frequently as a member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic hockey team, and she lived on bars when she couldn't find foods she wanted. But she wasn't happy about it and decided to create her own, the Good on Ya Bar, with nuts, seeds, raw honey, hemp and oil.

She's optimistic: "I don't think the market is going to go away. You notice how many bars there are because everyone wants a bar."

A comparison of what's really inside the wrapping

Dizzied by the dozens of bars on the shelves? Here are some tips from the experts:

First and last, read the labels. Check nutrition facts for things you want and for what you want to avoid for allergies.

"Make sure you are getting protein for your money," because that will help maintain lean body mass and control hunger, says David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. He says 10 grams in 150 calories is a good balance.

Beware of the fat. Look for trans-fat calories. And, Heber says, as the protein count goes up, so does the fat, which with sugar help make the bars palatable.

Look at total calories. Some bars are intended to be meal replacements, with 350 calories or more. Others are made as snacks. And be aware of whether the bar is labeled as one or more servings.

For context, consider a 1.86-ounce Snickers bar. It is 250 calories, with 12 grams of fat and 27 grams of sugar, 1 gram of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  Nutrition information for a few bars can be found here.


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