In a world where Amazon Prime Day is considered a “shopping holiday” and using Uber Eats to order a meal is the new Friday night date night, Americans love convenience and we are pursuing it in all aspects of our lives – including what we eat and its impact on wellness. While having so many goods and services at our fingertips can be cheaper and save us time in our busy schedules, striving for convenience when it comes to our food can have unexpected detrimental effects on our health. Cue: the Clif Bar. Advertised as a “nutrition bar” containing “wholesome, organic ingredients,” Clif bars quickly became a hit among athletes, cyclists, and climbers after its launch in 1992. However, underneath its adventure-inspiring, colorful wrapper, is a sugar-filled treat no better for you than a Snickers bar.
With childhood obesity on the rise and nearly 75% of the adult population falling under the category of overweight or obese, it is clear that the health of our nation’s people is in decline – with our food habits and food environment being the main culprits behind this trend. On the other hand, Americans are always fixated on the latest food trends, and want to sample one of the thousands of new products introduced each year. And energy bars have become a perfect reflection of our obsessions and concerns around food and convenience. When you walk into a grocery store, and 40 feet of shelf space is dedicated to the numerous products in the energy bar category, you know there is a problem.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong with eating the occasional Clif bar, the biggest issue with them is that they are advertised as a convenient, yet healthy snack or meal alternative. If you want to lose weight, eat a Clif Bar. If you feel like skipping a meal, eat one of these bars. If you want energy for your run, eat one as a pre-workout snack. But would you eat a candy bar for breakfast? In most cases, I don’t think so.
The first ingredient in one of these “health bars” is not so healthy: organic brown rice syrup or more plainly, sugar. Depending on the flavor, the sugar content ranges from a whopping 18 to 25 grams – the same amount found in a Snickers bar. That is nearly 100% of the maximum allowed daily sugar intake for women (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) and almost 70% for men (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons). Note that there is no official recommendation for the amount of added sugars one should consume in a day – overall, we should be trying to avoid having added sugars as much as we possibly can, since they contribute no real nutrients or benefits to our health and only lead to harm. Although they have a fairly high amount of protein, ranging from 9-11 grams per bar, their high calorie and sodium content are also on par with those of a candy bar. And technically, anything that contains calories can be considered “energy-providing” as calories are the unit measurement of energy. In case you are still not convinced, a nutritional chart is provided below detailing what is found in the different Clif bar flavors:
Serving size 1 Clif Bar (68g)
|White Chocolate Macadamia Nut||260||7g||42g||4g||21g||9g|
|Cool Mint Chocolate||250||5g||44g||4g||20g||10g|
|Crunchy Peanut Butter||260||7g||40g||4g||19g||11g|
|Nuts & Seeds||270||10g||38g||4g||18g||11g|
Serving size 1 Snickers bar (57g)
In theory, Clif bars may be fine for that “150-mile bike ride” or for “exploring a new trail” as advertised, but in reality, most consumers are buying these bars to eat while sitting in front of their televisions or as an on-the-go snack when running late for work or school. Worse yet, they are being sent off to school with children, placed there by their misguided parents. But with their high sugar, calorie, carbohydrate and sodium content, the average person is better off opting for a Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or a handful of nuts. Listed below are a few suggestions for some healthier alternatives for snacking. These foods are still super convenient for those who are on the run, but contain more beneficial nutrients and are much lower in calories, carbohydrates and sugars, and artificial ingredients than those highly processed snack bars.
|Healthy Snacks||Calories||Fat||Total Carbohydrate||Fiber||Sugar||Protein|
|6 oz plain, nonfat Greek yogurt||100||0.7g||6.1g||0g||5.5g||17g|
|1 cup fruit salad||97||0.5g||24g||3.3g||16g||1.4g|
|1/4 cup almonds (raw)||170||15g||6g||4g||1g||6g|
|2 Tbsp hummus||70||6g||4g||1g||0.1g||2g|
|15 baby carrots (raw)||52||0.2g||12.4g||4.4g||7.1g||1g|
|1 oz cheese||110||9g||0.4g||0g||0.1g||7g|
|1 hard-boiled egg||78||5g||0.6g||0g||0.6g||6g|
In summary, what started out as a fuel source for athletes quickly crossed over into an every-day, neatly packaged, trendy snack. Instead of actually being a professional climber or cyclist, you could now just eat like one and, in turn, feel like one. With their aggressive marketing strategy, Clif bars and other products in their class are targeting misinformed people looking for a convenient way to lose weight and get fit. But in actuality, this form of misinformation contributes to obesity, diabetes, fatty liver, and cardiovascular disease.
So in the end, you may as well just eat what you originally wanted to eat: the Snickers.