Yes, yes I am a little behind on posting my opinion on what is being called the Kind Bar Controversy. But better late than never.
I am sure you have heard about the warning letter the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent to Kind, LLC regarding four of its bars: Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants. Essentially, the issue is that these KIND bars use the term “healthy” on the label when they do not meet the criteria to market the bar in this way.
There’s a definition for healthy?? Yes there is! FDA rules state that in order for a product to use the word “healthy” it must, among other things, be low in total fat and saturated fat per serving. Since the Kind bars in question contain nuts, which are naturally high in fat, they don’t meet this criteria. These named bars above didn’t make the cut to be labeled “healthy” because one of the criteria is that the they must contain 1 gram or less of saturated fat or no more than 15% of calories from saturated fat specifically. At about 2.5 grams or more of saturated fat per bar, KIND bars do not meet this criteria.
However, keep in mind a good portion of the saturated fat used in the bars comes from: 1) a high nut content and 2) use of coconut or palm oil. The jury is still out on how good or bad coconut oil is for us. But, many of my colleagues find the logic behind this confusing because nuts are otherwise known to be nutritious and high in healthy unsaturated fats, fiber and vitamin E. Hence, the controversy.
So, as a nutritionist, what’s my take on this?
1) The legal definition of healthy needs an update because HELLLLOOO many whole foods don’t even meet this definition!
And on the flip side, many foods that are low in total and saturated fat, and meet the criteria for the term “healthy,” are foods I wouldn’t recommend because they are processed.
Cynthia Sass, RD said is best when she wrote “Nutrition is an evolving science, and I think we’re at the point where the notion of what’s “healthy” has expanded in the minds of both experts and consumers and while proper food labeling is important, but there should be updates and priorities.”
2) I still wouldn’t recommend some of the kind bars to my clients and I wish the FDA had focused on the sugar content of these bars, not the fat.. While many were left scratching their heads and thinking, “Really? That’s where you’re going to focus your resources?” I am actually kind of glad the FDA chose to focus on these so-called “healthy” bars. It’s important that both processed foods AND healthy foods get focused on because if we only choose to focus on the crap, the public will continue to remain uneducated and buy what they think are healthy products. We have an obesity epidemic and with 16g sugar per bar, there are better bars out there. Again, I wish the FDA had focused on sugar because that’s the real issue with some of the bars. If I had to guess, I would say in a given week about 95% of the people I see are eating KIND bars, thinking they are doing themselves a favor. Well let me tell you, that full sugar KIND bar and flavored Chobani yogurt you’re eating is making your waistline bigger. We need to shed light on the fact that even our “healthy” products are being spoiled by the food industry.
I’m not saying don’t buy a KIND bar or yogurt, but here’s what you should look for when choosing snacks:
Low Sugar. Aim for 6-8grams of sugar or less, Natural sugars found in fruits and dairy products (lactose), vegetables, etc, are better obviously but sugar is still sugar- HONEY IS SUGAR PEOPLE! If you are going to buy a KIND bar- opt for the 5g of sugar or less. For yogurt,
The more natural the better. I love my quest bars and I always will- are low sugar KIND bars better for you?- totally but they stick to my teeth and personally I enjoy Quest bars more. Skip any bars though that have an excess amount of sugar alcohols in them.
Protein. A good rule of thumb? Opt for a bar with protein of at least 5g or more. Sometimes it can be difficult to get a good wholesome bar though with loads of protein. Do the best you can. I personally really like NUGO slim bars, Nogii bars (GF and paleo), Quest bars, and Larabars. My least favorite: Clif Bars and Balance bars.
My overall recommendation: Always watch the sugar, and of course, watch the number of bars you eat! Never is an excess consumption of bars good for you.