The manufacturers of snacks are very creative and keep bringing new things onto the market - be it energy balls, fruit bars or nut bars. The products often have a healthy coat of paint. But are they really?
Satisfy your hunger between meals - without having to reach for a chocolate bar: there are more and more snacks on the market that claim to be a healthier alternative. The assortment ranges from protein and muesli bars to fruit slices and energy balls. The products are often based on dates, nuts, almonds or dried fruit, and some contain protein powder. How recommendable are these snacks?
Nutrition experts like Rita Rausch from the Rhineland-Palatinate consumer center in Mainz are rather skeptical: "The range of all snacks is large, but many are more of a candy than a healthy snack," says Rausch. The reason is the often high sugar content of the products. This applies, for example, to fruit slices or muesli bars. Some of the bars contained twelve grams of sugar - that's the equivalent of four sugar cubes. Sometimes it's even more.
According to the recommendation of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), you should not consume more than 50 grams of sugar per day. "So if you eat a muesli bar, for example, you have already consumed a good part of the daily amount of sugar," says Rita Rausch. This also applies if no sugar has been added to the products. Because ingredients such as dates, dried fruit, rice syrup or honey also affect the sugar balance of the products.
After all, some snacks such as muesli bars score with a comparatively high fiber content, which keeps you full longer. "Apart from the sugar content, a high fat content and added flavorings also have a negative impact on many snacks," says Rausch. That's not to say that all of the snacks on the market are bad from a healthy eating perspective. In the end, it depends on the individual product. It is best to take a closer look at this before it goes into the shopping basket and later into the backpack for on the go.
The Kempten nutritionist Elke Binder therefore advises a critical look at the list of ingredients. It can help to compare the information from different products. How much sugar is in it? how much fat How long is the list of ingredients in total? This gives you a feeling for which snack performs better in terms of nutritional value.
And what about protein bars - the quintessential fitness snack? They should support the body in building muscles and thus promote regeneration during sport. "However, the term protein bar is in principle misleading," says Elke Binder. "Because the bar does not consist exclusively of proteins, i.e. proteins."
Protein bars often contain sugar or substitutes such as glucose or invert sugar syrup. And: The bars are often covered with chocolate, which makes them even more of a candy.
Quite apart from that: "For the majority of the population, this snack is simply superfluous," Rausch clarifies. Recreational athletes would hardly have an increased protein requirement, even with regular training. If you eat a balanced diet, you can get your proteins in this way - through some meat and dairy products and also through oatmeal, legumes or nuts. "At most, for some high-performance athletes and people who do heavy physical work, such as construction workers, the consumption of protein bars in addition to the regular diet can make sense," says Rita Rausch.
Another disadvantage of the snacks: They are comparatively expensive. A homemade snack is usually cheaper - and often healthier. "Top a slice of rye bread with cheese and garnish with pieces of fresh paprika," recommends Elke Binder. Rye bread causes the blood sugar level to rise more slowly and is easy to digest, which is why it scores points compared to wheat bread. The protein content speaks for cheese and paprika also provides vitamin C.
Also a healthy snack for in between, because unprocessed: "Eat fresh fruit," says Rausch. This can be an apple or a handful of berries. Vegetables - such as carrots, cucumbers and peppers - are also suitable: cut into bite-sized sticks, as travel provisions or as a snack during a hike.
"Even a handful of unsweetened dried fruit is often a good choice when it comes to giving the body energy in between meals," says consumer advocate Rausch. Speaking of dried fruits: They can be used to make energy balls, and you can decide for yourself what's in them.
The Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE) offers a simple basic recipe: Simply mix 200 grams of dried fruit of your choice with 100 grams of nuts, kernels, seeds or cereal flakes in a blender. This creates a sticky, viscous mass from which around 15 balls the size of pralines can be rolled. If you like the energy balls to be particularly creamy, simply fold in a spoonful of peanut butter, according to the advice of the BZfE. The snack balls can be refined with vanilla, cinnamon, poppy seeds, cocoa or grated coconut.
Another idea for a quick snack comes from nutritionist Binder. And it even gets a sluggish intestine going: 125 grams of low-fat quark are mixed with two tablespoons of cream and water and one tablespoon of linseed oil. Fold in a teaspoon of freshly ground flaxseeds - and fruit. Finished!
"Berries are particularly well tolerated," explains Elke Binder. In this muesli variant, the sugar content is limited to the fructose of the berries. But it's also possible without it: "The quark can also be eaten spicy with herbs with baked potatoes."