Today most people lead very busy fast-paced lives, and they don’t always have the time to sit down for a meal. Energy bars, which were once primarily the territory of serious athletes, seem to be exactly what most active people need to keep their energy from flagging. These pocket-sized bars offer busy people the ability to save the time and effort preparing a regular healthy meal would require, but are energy bars really good for you?

There are now so many energy bars competing for your business that some research into the energy bar market is highly advisable before settling on a particular brand.  These portable energy-boosting bars offer a convenient way for people to consume the healthy calories they need to keep on going when they would otherwise be tempted to grab a donut or another unhealthy snack. But what should you be looking for in an energy bar?

For starters, you should be looking for a low-fat, low-sugar energy bar, otherwise you may find yourself in a lot of trouble. Many energy bars have a high-fat high-sugar content, defeating the purpose of having an energy bar in the first place. In fact, some of them actually have as much saturated fat and sugar as a candy bar. Studies have shown that while some popular energy bars trigger a spike in blood sugar that remains constant for an extended period of time, providing a steady level of energy, others sparked a sugar high that was followed by a rapid decline, similar to the effect of eating a snickers bar.

Steady blood sugar levels mean sustained energy levels for athletes or busy active people, but sugar spies translate into energy ups and downs, which are disastrous for athletes and active people alike. An energy bar with a balanced carbohydrate-fat-protein composition seems to be the best overall choice for both endurance athletes and highly active people. Look for an energy bar with the following: less than 8 grams of fat, at least 5 grams of protein, 3-5 grams of fiber, and less than 250 calories.

Ideally, if you intend to replace a meal with an energy bar, you should also eat other healthy foods with it, like a piece of fruit, grape tomatoes, carrots, or a cup of yogurt. No matter how convenient or healthy your energy bars are, don’t overly depend on them for your energy needs. Nobody is going to take a full healthy meal with them on a long bike ride or endurance run, but balance your energy needs with other healthy snacks, along with your low-fat low-sugar energy bar!