Raising the Bar: How to Choose Healthy Snacks

If you walk down the snack aisle of any local grocery store, you can become quite overwhelmed by the ever-increasing number of nutrition bars to choose from. Even the local convenience store offers a wide selection. This begs the question: with all of these possibilities, how do you know which is the best choice for an on-the-go healthy snack?

For athletes, the answer isn't that easy. Your best option is completely dependent upon when you are eating it relative to your workout(s). The following are some quick guidelines to help you pick the proper nutrition bar—or any labeled food for that matter—when you are in search of a quick and convenient snack. These guidelines do not apply before or during a workout. That is another topic, altogether.

Any food that you are consuming as a snack between workouts, and not to fuel a workout, should:

  1. Provide lean protein to facilitate soft-tissue recovery between workouts.
  2. Have a smooth, diluted, blood sugar response (low glycemic load). This is typically achieved by having some decent quantity of protein and fat with minimal sugar.
  3. Provide minimal, if any, artificial sweeteners due to unknown health concerns.
  4. Have low levels of saturated fat (less than 5 to 6 grams) for obvious health reasons.
  5. Provide some nutrient density through vitamins and minerals (even if fortified), to help promote good immunity, reduce free-radical damage, and improve overall health.
  6. Provide natural, organic ingredients whenever possible.

The Core Ratio

So, how do you know what constitutes "lean protein" or whether or not your healthy snack has a "smooth, diluted, blood sugar response"? At the Core Diet, we use a pretty handy equation to determine which nutrition bars, or other labeled foods, are the best options when traveling or when you're simply too busy to slow down.

This equation utilizes only the information that appears on the nutritional label, and is a quick and easy calculation. We call this equation the "Core Ratio" and we use it when we want to eat any "non-core" foods during non-workout periods. Non-core foods are foods with a label, or anything that is not a lean meat, fruit, veggie, nut or seed.

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