My last post, I wrote about one of my favorite products I tried at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference this year.  This week, I am doing the opposite, and I am going to write about a product that I would not recommend.  At the conference, there were so many nutrition bars that were handed out to be sampled.  Some with healthy ingredients but most that seemed to me to be candy bars with good marketing.

One bar in particular that shocked me when I read the label was the Slim Fast Meal Bar.  To start, let’s take a look at what’s in the bar.  The first four ingredients are:

  • Corn Syrup (a type of sugar)
  • Soluble Corn Fiber
  • Sugar
  • High Maltose Corn Syrup (a type of sugar)

Remember that the first ingredient on the label is what there is the most of, and as you go further down the list, there is less and less of the ingredient.  In this product, 3 of the first 4 ingredients are all sugars.  Would you ever read a label and see sugar, sugar and more sugar and think “wow this is healthy”?  The second ingredient (soluble corn fiber), is added to make the fiber content of the bar go up.  As we all know, fiber is very healthy.  However, the reason why they need to add it to this bar instead of having it occur naturally, is because it is made from refined grains that have little to no fiber in them naturally.  Many companies fortify products with fiber to make the nutrition facts look better because they know that many people will look for fiber on the label.  Then, they also fortify the bar with lots of vitamins and minerals to again make it appear very healthy.

The company recommends on the label to have two of these meal bars throughout the day as part of a weight loss plan, and each bar is 200 calories.  If you are following slim fast’s plan, you probably will lose weight because the overall plan is calorie controlled.  Again, weight loss does come down to calories in vs. calories out.

However, you could do the same thing by eating a snickers bar twice a day and then take a multivitamin and a fiber supplement in the morning.  Would this be any worse or any better for your health?  After all, do the nutrition facts of a snickers bar really look that much different?  For example, the first 4 ingredients in the Snickers Bar with Almonds are:

  • Milk Chocolate
  • Corn Syrup
  • Almonds
  • Sugar

The calories of the Snickers with Almonds bar is 230 calories, which is pretty close to the slim fast meal bar.  With the snickers bar only 2 of the first 4 ingredients are sugars, and the almonds are actually healthy ingredient.  So, am I recommending a snickers bar as a meal replacement for breakfast and lunch?  Absolutely not!  But do I think it would be any worse that having 2 Slim Fast Bars?  The answer again is no.

We all have our reasons for losing weight, and I know looking good is often a motivating factor.  However, isn’t the overall goal to feel good, improve quality of life, increase energy levels, and to be healthier?  After taking a closer look at the Slim Fast Bar, do you really think that this is going to do all of those things?

The weight loss industry is a billion dollar industry and there is a lot of marketing that goes into products to make you think they are healthy or will give you that quick fix.  I wrote this post today, so you would think twice about what you’re putting into your body.  Don’t read what’s on the front of the package (the marketing), read what’s on the back of the package (the ingredients and the nutrition facts).  Then you can truly determine if the food is healthy and going to get you to your overall goals, or if it’s something that you should put back on the shelf and save your money.