ANN/THE STAR – If you are seeking a tasty snack while trying to steer clear of chocolate, then the good news is that at least there are more options out there, from protein and muesli bars to fruit bars and energy balls.
All promise to be a healthier alternative to chocolate, with many based on dates, nuts, almonds or dried fruit, while some snacks contain protein powder.
Nutrition experts have their doubts, however.
“The range of snacks is wide, but many are more of a sweet than a healthy snack,” said Rita Rausch, from a German consumer advice centre.
One concern is that these products often have a high sugar content, she said, especially fruit or muesli bars, with some containing 12 grammes of sugar.
National nutritional guidelines vary, but the German Nutrition Society (DGE) suggests people cap their sugar intake at 50 grammes per day.
“So if you eat one muesli bar, you have already consumed a good part of the daily amount of sugar,” said Rausch.
Bear in mind too that this does not only apply to added sugars, as dates, dried fruit, rice syrup or honey also affect the quantity of sugar the products contain.
There are good muesli bars out there, however, especially those with a comparatively high fibre content, which keeps you feeling full for longer.
Meanwhile, many snacks have a negative impact not only because of their sugar content, but also “because of their high fat content and added flavourings”, said Rausch.
That doesn’t mean that all snacks available on the market are bad for your health – it depends on the individual product.
So take a closer look at the list of ingredients before you buy.
Protein bars, now seen as the perfect fitness snack, promise to help the body build muscle and promote regeneration during sports.
”However, even the name protein bar is misleading,” said nutritionist Elke Binder, “because the bar does not consist exclusively of proteins.”
They also often contain sugar or substitutes such as glucose or a form of sugar syrup.
And the bars are often coated with chocolate, which also makes them even more of a sweet.
If you eat a balanced diet, you should be able to cover your protein needs through some meat and dairy products, as well as oatmeal, pulses or nuts.
”At most, for some high-performance athletes and people who do physically hard work, such as construction workers, eating protein bars in addition to their regular diet can make sense,” said Rausch.
A further disadvantage of such snacks is that they tend to be relatively expensive, and a homemade snack is usually cheaper and often healthier.
You might try making energy balls, for example, which means you can determine exactly what they contain.
Germany’s Federal Centre for Nutrition (BZfE) recommends a basic recipe: Mix 200 grammes of dried fruit with 100 grammes of nuts, seeds or cereal flakes.
Blitz them in a blender to create a sticky, chewy mass that can be rolled into about 15 balls the size of chocolates.
If you like your energy balls particularly creamy, just add a spoonful of peanut butter.
You can further refine the snack balls with vanilla, cinnamon, poppy seeds, cocoa or coconut flakes.
Meanwhile Binder suggests another quick snack that may also speed up your digestion.
Mix 125 grammes of low-fat curd with two tablespoons each of cream and water, and one tablespoon of linseed oil.
Fold in a teaspoon of freshly ground linseed and fruit.
”Berries are especially good,” she said.
In her muesli variant, the sugar content is limited to the fructose of the berries.
But you can also take a totally savoury route, stirring herbs into the curd and eating a jacket potato.