food facts

Five Granola Bars to Fuel Your Active Day

Question of the day... How many times do you find yourself at the grocery store staring blankly at the walls of "nutrition bars", "sports bars", "energy bars"?  If this has ever been you, I can certainly relate.  They are never ending!  With so. many. choices, and all claiming to be the best it was no surprise to me that I started getting questions from clients, friends and family about which bars to choose.

It technically all started with questions about "good" snacks to to have on-hand throughout the day.  Then these general snack inquiries turned into questions about snack bars more specifically.  People were looking for easy no-prep, no clean-up snacks when time is tight.  The questions then shifted towards not only bars but bars that would be good to have before or after a workout.  Then, I talked with several clients and friends who were looking for bars that met their food allergy restrictions.  After doing my own personal "research" on granola bars to find ones that keep me fueled and energized and after doing some research for clients to find bars that met their specific needs, I created my "go-to" bars that have become pantry staples for my own grab-and-go breakfasts, lunches, and snacks.  Nothing is perfect, in my opinion, and there are certainly other bars out there that I know could be great fueling options. However, out of so many options, these are the ones that positively stand out to me the most.   I like these bars for their nutritional profile and, of course, the taste.  And, it's not only me that likes these bars- friends and family and clients have told me that they tried them and like them as well!

I choose higher protein, higher fiber bars for regular snacks or as a component of meals and I choose lower protein bars with minimal fat and minimal fiber before I exercise.  Why?  Because you want a simpler snack pre-workout.  Yes, protein and fiber and healthy fats are all positive components of a snack bar;  however, these components are often not ideal right before a workout - especially a cardo or high-intensity workout.  Protein, fat and fiber are harder for the body to digest than simpler carbohydrates, making them less optimal right before a workout.  When you eat these components pre-workout you are making your body try and do two things at once:  1) Get energy to your muscles for exercise and 2) Use energy to digest the snack.  Usually one of these suffers, leading either to sluggish workouts or stomach cramps.  

So here are the details on my go-to bars that I keep on-hand and in my pantry to keep me fueled and energized during my active, and sometimes hectic day.  This is NOT a sponsored post.  I decided to write this on my own based on my personal and professional experiences and opinion. Please comment or email me if you have any questions or experiences of your own.  Would love to hear from you!

Happy Fueling!


Five Granola Bars to Fuel Your Active Day

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KIND Healthy Grain Bars - Honey Toasted Coconut bar

Nutrition Info

This is currently one of my favorite snack bars. It's the perfect size to keep hunger off until lunch or dinner time or it makes a great part of a breakfast or lunch. This bar contains 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 6 grams of sugar.

Workout Fuel

While I would not eat this bar, the minute before I go out for a run or workout, it's minimal protein, fat (5 grams total), and fiber could still allow me to enjoy it about 30 to 45 minutes or so before a workout (this is my personal experience - every athlete and exerciser is different). I would definitely choose this bar over one of the nut-filled bars before my run or workout. Those other bars filled with nuts are also filled with fat and fiber and a little more protein,which, as I mentioned earlier, while fine on its own, may not be the best right before intense physical activity.

Food Allergy Friendly

Many KIND bars are filled with almonds, peanuts, pistachios and more, so I was excited to find this one with that did not contain any nuts or peanuts. Hurray! It is processed in a plant that processed peanuts and tree nuts, though, so be careful if this would affect you.

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Nutrition Info

These are my new favorite find. I personally like these bars because, depending on the bar, they have anywhere from 3 to 6 grams of protein per bar and about 3 grams of fiber. They have about 8 grams of fat, but it's important to note that only 1 of those grams is saturated fat and none of it is trans fat. This is because the major ingredient in these bars are seeds like pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds. The high seed content adds fat, but mostly "healthy fat" (like omega 3's, which are found in flax seeds). This high seed content is also why these bars are higher in protein without having any protein powder added to them (like whey concentrate, etc.). I also love the simplicity of the ingredients in these bars. Pretty simple and straight forward.

Workout Fuel

Because of the high fat and higher protein content in these bars, I would take this out of my pre-workout options and keep it as part of a meal ( I love it broken up over yogurt), a regular snack, or post - exercise snack. Of course everyone is different, but for many people, that fat and protein could cause stomach cramping during a workout, game or practice. For those reasons it might not be the best bar to grab 15 minutes before a run or high-intensity workout, but still a good option another time of the day.

Food Allergy Friendly

If you read their story you see that a woman without food allergies created these bars because her husband did have food allergies and she wanted something they could both enjoy. So, although these bars are nut-free and gluten-free, they are made to be enjoyed by everyone! To learn more about the product and their story, click on the title above!

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Nutrition Info

I discovered these bars years ago because they were one of the bars consistently offered in our hospital cafeteria. I like these guys because they are a good "snack portion" or a little something extra at a meal. They have around 6 grams of protein, 6 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of fiber per bar. Due to the nuts, they also contain poly and monounsaturated fats.

Workout Fuel

Because these particular bars contain a good amount protein, fiber, and fat, for many they are best eaten further out from exercise. They could make a great mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack or part of a balanced breakfast or lunch.

Food Allergy Friendly

These bars may not be the right pick for friends with food allergies, but if you're food allergy free, they can be a good fueling snack to help get you through your day.



Nutrition Info

The "Original" LARABAR could be a good choice if you are looking for something FILLING. They have a higher fat content due to their high nut content (which means the majority of the fat is mono and polyunsatured fat vs. saturated fat or trans fat). They have a little bit of protein, about 4 grams per bar and around 3 grams of fiber per bar. They do have a higher sugar content, which is due to the dried fruit that these bars contain.

Workout Fuel

While I wouldn't pick this particular bar variety for a pre-exercise snack, it could be a good addition to a meal or included as another snack, especially for athletes having trouble staying full due to their high energy expenditure.

If looking for more of a pre-workout fuel, the "Fruits & Greens" variety may be a better choice. These bars have way less total fat (2.5 grams per bar), and sticks to around 2 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per bar.

Food Allergy Friendly

LARABAR makes varieties that are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan and kosher. Check their website for more details!

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NuGo Slim

Nutrition Info

This is one "protein bar" I have found that (1) actually contains a substantial amount of protein (2) while not being super high in calories, (3) is not packed with sugar OR artificial sweeteners, and (4) tastes good! These bars have about 17 grams of protein per bar, about 170 or 180 calories, and about 3 grams of sugar.

Workout Fuel

With so much protein, this would not be the best pre-exercise, especially high intensity exercise, snack. It could make a good post-exercise snack, specifically after resistance training exercise, or a good part of a breakfast or lunch, when a boost in protein is needed.

Food Allergy Friendly

I recently saw a client who was just diagnosed with several food allergies. When I went to the Nu Go Nutrition page to check out all of their products, I found that they make bars to accommodate all types of allergies or dietary needs (dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, vegan, etc.). Each bar may vary, so take a close look at the ingredient label.

How to Use the Foods of Fall

As much as the Texas heat wave may have had us thinking otherwise, fall is actually here and it seems that the fall weather may finally be arriving (fingers crossed).  As we dive into this new season we see less of the summer strawberries, mangos, peppers and tomatoes and more of the fall & winter favorites like greens, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash, apples and pears.

At times it can seem like a lot fewer options.  And many of you may be thinking, "What do I have to work with now?  Parsnips?  What the heck am I supposed to do with a parsnip?"  Well, let me tell you - you can do a lot of things with a parsnip, as well as the other array of fall and winter fruits and vegetables.  I discovered this in grad school when we had to choose a new fruit or vegetable every week and use it in a recipe.  I distinctly remember getting the parsnip.  But I digress...

I have put together a list of ideas below that I incorporate into weekly meals and snacks or that I'm excited to work on incorporating this year (so many new foods and combinations to try!).  From these I hope you can find at least a few fun and fueling fall meal and snack ideas for you and your active family to enjoy.

Happy Fueling!


  • Butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash

  • Sweet potatoes and white potatoes

  • Parsnips

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Grapes

  • Oranges

  • Greens (mustard, collard, turnip, etc.)

  • Pumpkin

  • Cranberries

  • Cauliflower

  • Mushrooms


  • Make a cinnamon apple oatmeal (let the apples and oatmeal simmer over the stove together until the apples are sweet and soft and the flavors blend into the warm oats.)

  • Top plain or vanilla yogurt with diced pears and a dash of cinnamon.

  • Add sautéed greens to your omelets.

  • Stir pureed pumpkin into warm oatmeal and top with a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Add cranberries to breads, sauces and trail mixes.

  • Add pureed pumpkin to breads to get that fall flavor and, if trying to make your item a bit healthier, to keep a moist crumb while decreasing the butter

  • Make peanut butter apple rings by coring & slicing an apple so that you have apple rings. Taking 2 rings, spread about 1 teaspoon of peanut butter on one side, sprinkle cinnamon onto peanut butter, and top with the 2nd ring for a fast and easy apple & peanut butter on the go.


  • Add thin slices of your favorite apple variety to your turkey & cheese sandwich.

  • Try a lunchbox sweet potato bar (Include the small baked sweet potato wrapped in foil accompanied by small containers each filled with a variety of toppings to choose from!).

  • Make a hearty salad by filling your bowl with mixed greens, roasted cauliflower, roasted pumpkin seeds, quartered baby bella mushrooms, diced apples, & your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

  • Make a Fall Vegetable Soup but filling your regular vegetable soup recipe with hearty fall and winter vegetables (carrots, butternut squash, greens, parsnips, mushrooms, cauliflower).


  • Balsamic Glazed Chicken with roasted carrots and broccoli.

  • Grilled Dijon salmon with roasted parsnips and brussels sprouts.

  • Make your own Fall Garden Pizza by including roasted cauliflower, mushrooms & greens on your homemade pizzas (one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, Trolley Stop Market, will do this and even add sweet potatoes. They have a pizza that constantly rotates and they throw on whatever is fresh out of their garden. It's the BEST!)

  • Put a spin on the traditional summer salad & instead make a hearty fall dinner salad with roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, mushrooms & sweet potatoes. Top with beans, chicken or other protein of choice, a sprinkle of dried cranberries & a drizzle of dressing.

  • Pull out your favorite pumpkin soup recipe and top with roasted pepitas and a side of rustic whole grain bread.

  • Keep dinner simple and stuff a whole - wheat pita with grilled or rotisserie chicken, mixed greens already drizzled with some balsamic vinegar, sliced pears, and crumbled cheese like feta.

  • Try serving mini cheeseburger sliders with oven - roasted parsnip fries and diced sauteed cinnamon pears for dessert.

Find It In Your Food

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This month is all about the facts in our food.  Its focus is on learning about the food we eat and why our bodies need it.  While, yes, supplements are certainly required and necessary for certain medical reasons, the generally healthy person can acquire what they need through the foods that they eat.  If we are choosing the right foods, we are often getting a lot more nutrition in these foods than we think.

I will go into detail about supplements in a later post, but, overall, this month I want you to explore with me the power and magnificence of pure, fresh food and the benefits that these foods hold - the ability to energize our bodies, clear our minds, improve our moods, sharpen our eyes, speed our healing, brighten our smiles, and tantalize our taste buds.  I think food is powerful, magical, medicinal, and, other medical complications aside, it can provide all that we need to be and work at our best.  As long as I'm able, I will pick food first.  I will choose the delight of smelling it, tasting it, pairing its different flavors and textures and temperatures, sharing it with good friends and family, or simply breaking for 10 minutes to savor it on my own over taking pills and supplements.

I hope this month you share in my love and joy and excitement for fresh wholesome food and learn the ways it can empower you to be your strongest, fastest, sharpest self.

Below is a general guide to knowing your food better.  Of course, some of these foods contain more vitamins and minerals than I list here, but I'm including what I get asked about most often.  Follow along on my Instagram account (@thediningdietitian) to learn more about the nutrients in your food this month!


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Meat [beef, poultry, chicken, fish, & eggs] &                               "Meat Substitutes" [beans, tofu, lentils or "plant proteins"]

  • Iron

  • Protein

  • Zinc

  • Vitamin B12 [only in animal sources]

  • NOTE: Pair a source of vitamin C with the plant sources to improve their iron absorption in the body.

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Green Fruits & Veggies [leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, kiwi]

  • Iron (not as much in kiwi)

  • Folate

  • Vitamin K

  • Potassium

  • Carotenoids (such as lutein in avocado)

Red Fruits & Veggies [bell peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit]

  • Lycopene

  • Vitamin C

Yellow / Orange Fruits & Veggies [carrots, mango, winter squash, sweet potato, cantaloupe, apricots,  pumpkin]

  • Vitamin C

  • Beta - carotene (precursor to vitamin A in the body)

Blue / Purple Fruits & Veggies [eggplant, plums, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate]

  • Anthocyanins (powerful antioxidants)

Whole Grains [rice, quinoa, pasta, oatmeal, cereals, granola bars, bulgur, etc.]

  • Fiber

  • Phosphorus

  • Magnesium

  • Iron (if iron fortified)

  • Manganese

  • Protein (in varying amounts)

Low-Fat Dairy [milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.]

  • Protein (whey & casein - a good combination for building or maintaining lean muscle)

  • Calcium

  • Potassium

  • Vitamin D (in fortified products)

Healthy Fats [olive, canola & flaxseed oil, nuts & seeds, nut & seed butter, avocado, salmon & tuna]

  • Monounsaturated Fats

  • Polyunsaturated Fats

  • Vitamin E

I hope you can use this list as an easy guide to fill your and your athlete's plates, lunch boxes, and snack bags this summer.  Be on the lookout for more posts detailing what these specific nutrients can do for you!

Happy Fueling!