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Hey, are we being manipulated?

Are you a busy college student with no time to prepare a meal? Grabbing a nutrition bar seemed to me a good compromise, but boy was I wrong.

Like many other college students, finding a healthy snack to eat while walking from class to class - a snack that still tastes good - is harder than I thought.

I recently found myself walking through the grocery store trying to find an item I could eat on the run that was still healthy but satisfying nonetheless. The item I chose was a Tigers Milk Nutrition Bar advertising an “energy packed snack” which was “fortified with vitamins and minerals.” Without stopping to read the back of the package, I grabbed it and hurried on my way. Biting into it, to my great surprise it tasted like the best candy bar I've ever had, similar to a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. To my horror I read the nutrition facts/ingredients and couldn't have been more disappointed in my choice of nutrition bar. The second ingredient on the list is “high fructose corn syrup” followed by corn syrup and then sugar. The bar contains 28g of carbohydrates and 21g of sugar. Although I had already devoured half before I decided to turn the package over, I can promise you I didn't eat the second half.

So I decided to put my questions to Dr. Deborah:

  • What should I have grabbed?
  • What are some better options for fast and easy snacks to grab in a time crunch?
  • Is high fructose corn syrup as bad as we hear?

Hi Meghann, thanks for asking. You raise several great questions and I have a few questions for you to think about.

The short answer: Eat a bigger breakfast. When you do get hungry, grab cheese or nuts for a snack.

Slightly longer answer: Isn't it strange that we all have body fat we could burn but sometimes we get incredibly hungry? That's called “hypoglycemia”, and I'm sure you've heard that term. When I was your age, I could get weak, sweaty, and shaky if I was hungry and couldn't find something to eat. But I had fat to burn, why wouldn't my body do that?

Because we eat mostly carbohydrates (fruits, sugars, grains, vegetables and sweets are really most of what we eat), our bodies look for those fuels first. They actually have to be taught how to find and burn stores of body fat, which people do when they go on a very low carb diet.

So, when you're hungry, if you grab a cookie or a piece of fruit: you will burn that but not release any fat for burning. Once that's burned, you're hungry again.

The nuts and cheese contain protein and fats, so they last longer as energy for your body, and they just might remind your body how to burn fat for fuel.

And for your other question, yes, high fructose corn syrup is a little worse than sugar, but the overriding problem is that we have come to need sugar in everything. Pick up almost any processed (boxed, canned, wrapped) food from the store and there is some form of sugar in it, and often it is HFCS. I avoid HFCS for a couple reasons: it's a part of our unhealthiest agriculture - massive industrial corn fields - and more importantly, the higher fructose levels are indeed a little bit harder on your liver and thus your entire metabolism.

AND! when you're rushed, it might be helpful to know you're getting sound nutrition by taking a regular multi-vitamin supplement. We're very impressed with how people feel taking NewMark Synbiotic Nutrients, they make separate varieties for men or women.

Let me know if you find some other healthy snacks you particularly like!

Thank you Dr. Deborah. I, of course thought that the HFCS was bad, but I wasn't exactly sure why; so your answer has shed some light on both how it is harmful to my body and to the environment as well. The informative sugar vs. fat-burning answer was indeed intriguing and makes complete sense.

I can see that finding a snack that is healthy and satisfying is going to be a challenge for my hectic schedule. I imagine I will probably find another manipulating package where the marketers will win me over. It seems so frustrating that I can't just scan the aisle for products and pick one based off of the package, without taking the time to read all the ingredients.

For me, I think the more annoying thing about this whole Tigers Milk Bar issue, is the fact that I was completely manipulated by the marketing on the package. These companies should not be allowed to advertise things that aren't really true. If I'm not mistaken this is called false advertisement and is essentially illegal. I don't see how these companies think this is okay.

Any of you ever experienced something similar or have suggestions on quick, healthy, easy snacks?