Monday, November 23, 2015

Can Low Carb Bars Help You Say 'No' to Cupcakes and Candy?

So recently at work one of my new students offered me a tangerine because word on the floor was I'm a "health nut."

Given the word "health" in this decade has more definitions than Imelda Marcos has shoes, most mainstream nutritionists would not call me a health nut at all since I eat lots of butter and eschew whole grains. I politely declined the offer because I follow a low-carb high-fat diet and typically don't snack on fruit other than berries.

What amused me was that I had been labeled a "health nut" because I have a rep for not habitually accepting whatever food is offered to me (though rarely is that offer a fruit). Ironically, I work as a trainer for a major health care organization.

One of my secrets for being able to turn down most of the sweet treats that magically appear in my workplace during the six-month "holiday season" between Halloween and Easter is that I eat a GNC Advanced Protein Bar every day. These bars are very similar macro-wise to the better known Quest bars, which are also sold at GNC; but I prefer the GNC bars because they do not contain corn fiber and taste less sweet. My preferred flavor GNC bar is the chocolate chip cookie dough, which reminds me a little of the Middle Eastern treat, halvah.

About two years ago I lost 35 pounds on the Medifast Take Shape for Life (TSFL) program and serendipitously discovered that eating meal replacement bars made it less tempting for me to eat sugary treats. Though I no longer eat Medifast products, the GNC protein bars now serve the same purpose as a treat sublimation strategy.

Fast forward to this morning . . .  while researching the controversy over the Quest bar formula change to corn fiber and other cheap fillers, I was led to an interesting blog post on a website called Breakfast Criminals in which various "health" minded professionals weighed in on why Quest Bars are essentially no better than candy corn.

One argument I found intriguing was from a registered dietitian named Willow Jarosh, who is affiliated with SELF Magazine, Bumble Bee Foods, and Bob Greene’s Best Life program.

“If you’re eating a Quest bar to avoid eating something that you really want (i.e., a piece of dark chocolate, a brownie, a cookie, etc.)," writes Jarosh, "then this can lead to a feeling of being deprived which can then lead to overeating the original food you craved. Or eating a couple Quest bars at a time to try to satisfy the craving (and therefore eating more food total than if you’d just had a small portion of the food you were craving)."

For me, just the opposite is true. Knowing I can have a GNC bar, I don't feel the urge to eat all the junk food that is offered to me. My sweet tooth has been weakened to the point where a square of dark chocolate tastes plenty sweet and most baked goods taste like they contain sugar on steroids. In other words, I actually prefer my GNC bar to most goodies and do not feel the least bit deprived.

Sometimes expert dietary theories sound good, but from my admittedly n=1 perspective, they're not always true. In my case, eating a healthier version of a processed food makes me crave the sweeter version less, and I do not need to eat two GNC bars at a time for this to happen.

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