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Jul 3, 2011 2:01 AM by From the Editors of Live Right Live Well

Are energy bars a good pre- or post-workout snack?

That depends on what you mean by good. If you like sweet and crunchy or chewy, many energy bars taste good. But if you re interested in good nutrition at a reasonable price, you re better off with real food: a piece of fruit, handful of baby carrots or a sandwich on whole-grain bread, says Elizabeth Applegate, a nutritionist at the University of California at Davis.

The problems start with the word energy. Most people assume that a so-called energy food makes you feel energetic. But to the federal agencies that regulate food labels, energy is just another way to say food that contains calories. Of course, virtually everything we eat contains calories, so by the government definition, all foods are energy foods. This labeling loophole translates into a clever marketing scheme for energy bar makers, notes nutritionist Bonnie Liebman of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.

What s inside an energy bar? Most are loaded with high fructose corn syrup (translation: sugar). However, many are also high in fiber, low in saturated fat and trans fats, and contain some fruit, nuts and whole grains. So they re better than candy -- but not much. Bottom line: They re candy bars with a veneer of nutrition.

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