Whole-food snack combos are an essential part of a dancer’s meal plan. But with little time to build a balanced snack during performance season, convenience is super helpful. Snack bars are therefore practical and readily available when hunger strikes unexpectedly. Keeping an emergency snack bar in your dance bag ensures that your body remains properly fueled throughout the day.
Not all snack bars, however, are created equal. With endless options stocked along grocery shelves, choosing a bar that optimally fuels performance can be quite the challenge. Some bars pack in a punch of claim-to-fame numbers like “X grams” of protein and “X grams” of fiber while others boast “low fat” and “low sugar” labels. Regardless, dancers can benefit from a bar made with more whole foods and with less overly processed ingredients like added sugars and hydrogenated oils.
To walk through your snack barre aisle confidently, try the following steps. You’ll also want to download and pin our helpful guide below!
Step 1: Identify Whole Food Ingredients
Focus on whole foods [plant-based sources of fiber to help stabilize energy]. Note that ingredients are listed in order of weight, with the first ingredients being the most prominent in the food.
Step 2: Know Your Sweetener
Before you worry about sugar, you’ll first want a good understanding of what “total” versus “added” sugars are. The “total” amount of sugar includes naturally-occurring sugar (from fruit and milk) and “added sugars” which are added to foods during processing. Ignore this “total” and assess how much sugar is added and identify the sources of those added sugars. High fructose corn syrup is a highly processed sugar and when consumed in excessive amounts, may negatively impact long-term health. Instead, look to see that the added sugar is coming from sources like dried fruit, cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey, and molasses.
Artificial sugar sweeteners and sugar alcohols like aspartame, sucralose, or acesulfame potassium can cause bloating and gas. Since these are symptoms that can be unpleasant while dancing, it’s best to avoid sugar sweeteners.
A quick tip: aim for your total of added sugar to be equal to or less than the total amount of fiber. So, if a bar has about 6 grams of fiber, look for it to have about 6 grams or less of added sugar. For example, LARAbars have up to 20 grams of sugar, but from whole food sources. Natural sugars deliver a healthy boost of energy and are not to be feared!
Step 3: Reduce Add-Ins and Focus on Ingredients
Less is more. Hydrogenated oils and corn syrup can be a sign of an overly-processed bar. As mentioned earlier, identify whole foods when possible as these will be your ideal sources of protein and fiber.
- KIND: Nut Bars, Protein Bars, and “5 Grams Sugar” Bars
- Whole nuts, grains, and fruits make up the bulk of most KIND bars, making them a filling and high-fiber choice.
- The Blueberry Vanilla Cashew offers a great balance of protein, fiber, and natural sugar. Plus, it’s delicious!
- Lärabar and Lärabar Protein
- With a base made from dates, Lärabars are particularly high in carbohydrates—which is why they deliver such a tasty energy boost!
- The Almond Butter Chocolate Chip variation is the perfect between-classes snack for your sweet tooth!
- Perfect Bar
- Perfect Bars are a nut-butter based, making it incredibly nutrient-dense for when you need something more filling with a good amount of protein.
- The Peanut Butter Perfect Bar is simple in name, but hides a host of surprising nutritious ingredients (from egg whites to celery)! PS- It’s Rachel’s favorite!
- Get Golden
- Made from NYCB dancer Jenelle Manzi, Get Golden Bar incorporates various nuts, seeds, and grains. These are brought together by a turmeric coconut butter “caramel,” which is specifically designed to deliver an energy boost with anti-inflammatory benefits.
- RXBars pack a protein punch with the simplest of ingredients.
- The Chocolate Sea Salt flavor is simple but delicious!
Article written with the help from student Abby Haynes. Expert reviewed by Rachel Fine.