Our Picks: The 2 Best Snack Bars Without Nuts
Admittedly when we first started writing this article we planned on focusing on bars that have a high enough protein content to be (in our minds) considered a protein bar. What we found was that even though a variety of protein bars without nuts are offered by many brands, but the protein bars themselves are made in facilities that manufacture nut products. This means these brands can’t guarantee that there won’t be trace amounts of nuts in their nut-free products.
The snack bars we’ve listed below are manufactured in nut-free facilities, so there’s no danger of cross-contamination. The two nut-free snack bars below do contain protein, but not enough to where we feel comfortable pushing them on anyone as a protein bar.
Long story short – if you’re looking for something packed with protein you’ll want to keep looking, but if you’re really just in the market for a delicious snack bar without nuts to hold you over until your next meal you’re in the right place.
A satisfying snack marketed for children and adults alike, this nut-free snack bar is made from only fruit ingredients and chia seeds. In addition, the bars are made in facilities that are completely free of gluten and the top 14 foods that cause allergic reactions, including nuts, milk, soy, and wheat. Options include strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry snack bar flavors.
Geared towards children but filling enough for adults as well, this snack bar without nuts contains only organic ingredients, along with 2 grams of protein and 14 grams of whole grains per bar. Gorilla Power (chocolate chip), Blueberry Blast, and Whitewater Chomp (white chocolate) are the flavor options. The facility where these bars are manufactured is peanut-free, tree nut-free, and gluten-free.
Everything You Need to Know About Eating Nut-Free
If you take a look at most diet plans, you’re likely to see nuts on the list of approved foods to eat. Peanuts and almonds in particular are full of protein, so they’re an easy way to boost your energy throughout the day. For one reason or another, however, you may need to cut them out of your diet. In addition to protein, nuts can contain high amounts of fat, so they’re not exactly conducive to a low-fat diet. Allergies to certain nuts make it even more challenging to find healthy food options, because many protein supplements – including protein bars – contain at least trace amounts of nuts.
Here we examine the ins and outs of nut-free diets and get into the science behind why someone may be interested in a snack bar without nuts.
The Benefits of Nuts and Nut Protein
First, let’s take a look at the health benefits offered by nuts. Though they aren’t an option for some of us, those who are able to eat them should have information from both sides before deciding to cut them out entirely. Nuts are among the most nutrient-dense plants, because they’re packed with vitamins and minerals even though they’re small in size. Their consumption has been tied to reduced risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues, particularly in women.
When eaten as part of a balanced diet, nuts like almonds and walnuts can help lower bad cholesterol, improve the health of artery lining, and reduce the risk of blood clots likely to cause heart attacks. They’re known as “heart-healthy” snacks, and most doctors actively encourage their consumption – in moderation. Nuts are also considered a great protein source for vegans and vegetarians who need a substitute for the protein normally found in meat. Nuts are also extremely popular for those following a ketogenic diet.
Reasons to Go Nut-Free
Completely giving up these health benefits is no easy decision, but for some, it’s necessary. In addition to being full of healthy fats, nuts are often high in calories – just a spoonful of peanut butter contains almost 100 calories, so if you’re someone who likes a thick layer of peanut butter on your sandwich, the calories can quickly add up. Some people choose to forfeit the health benefits of nuts in order to avoid the extra calories.
As we know, amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and it turns out that there’s a particular kind of amino acid that’s most conducive to muscle development and building: branched chain amino acids. According to numerous studies, leucine is considered to be one of the best branched chain amino acids, but its presence in nuts is negligible. To obtain significant amounts of leucine, you would need to eat more than just a handful of nuts – and, as we’ve seen, nuts are high in calories and fat. A cup of nuts (about 150 grams) offers around 35 grams of protein, but it also adds a whopping 75 grams of fat and 800 calories to your daily count.
More commonly, some avoid nuts because of allergies. Nut allergies are divided into two groups: peanut allergies and tree nut allergies (technically speaking, peanuts are legumes, but they’re still classified as nuts in terms of allergies). Tree nuts include almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts. An allergic reaction to one type of tree nut doesn’t necessarily indicate reactions to others; however, most people with nut allergies find that they react exclusively to either peanuts or tree nuts – not both.
Schools and other institutions often have policies against nuts of any sort due to allergic reactions. Even simple contact with someone who ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch can result in a serious reaction, so many people decide to forego nuts completely if they find themselves or their children regularly in situations where nuts are not allowed.
What Science Says
Studies recently conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) indicate that the number of children diagnosed with peanut allergies has increased by as much as 21 percent since 2010 – which means that nearly 2.5 percent of American children are allergic to peanuts.
Why the sudden increase? Research from 2012 shows that peanut allergies may be directly related to socioeconomic status: the higher your economic status in society, the more likely you are to have a child with a peanut allergy. The “hygiene theory” has been around for quite a while, but this research supports it. Those who have limited exposure to germs as children are much more likely to develop severe allergies, since the natural development of their immune systems has been suppressed due to over-sanitation.
Foods to Avoid
One of the most common questions asked by people starting a diet free of nuts is this: Which foods should I avoid? The following foods are the most likely to include nuts in their list of ingredients, so make sure you know what’s in each of these items.
- Ice cream. Due to shared scoops in most ice cream parlors, contact with nuts can’t be ruled out. Additionally, the dispensing machines for soft-serve or custard are often used for more than one flavor, so to be safe, buy tubs of ice cream from the grocery store and check the label carefully to ensure it’s free of nuts.
- Candy. Especially when it comes to small businesses, many types of candy include nuts as an ingredient. The best way to avoid this issue is to buy candy from big manufacturers where the labels specify that they’re safe.
- Cookies. Homemade baked goods are a likely source of nuts or nut oils, so unless you know exactly what went into each baked good, your best bet is the grocery store, where everything is clearly labeled.
- Sauces. Peanuts and peanut butter are often used to thicken sauce. This is more often an issue in restaurants than in store-bought sauce, but it’s a good idea to check the label anyway.
- African and Asian cuisine. Food from countries like Thailand, India, and China often contain both peanuts and tree nuts. Make sure you know all ingredients in a dish before opting to try it.
With nut allergies, it’s usually easier to make your own meals, because this way, you know exactly what goes into each dish – no guessing involved. If you opt for restaurant eating, make it clear to your waitress and whoever else will be handling your food that you have an allergy. Cross-contamination is easy in restaurant kitchens, especially during a rush, so be sure that the staff members are aware of your needs.
Substitutes for Nuts
Going without nuts doesn’t have to mean going without the nutrients they offer. Part of a balanced diet is supplementing other healthy foods in where nuts are absent.
- For vegetarians or vegans looking for protein options: beans and lentils, along with pumpkin or sunflower seeds, can be great substitutes.
- For those looking for the heart-healthy fats: olives, avocados, soybeans, and oils like olive and canola offer the same healthy fats you need for a balanced diet.
Though nuts contribute heavily to a healthy diet, doing without them isn’t a problem as long as you make sure to supplement with other foods so your body gets the nutrients it needs. Especially when you don’t have a choice in the matter (as is the case with food allergies), it can be disheartening to find yourself limited – but it doesn’t have to be. If it helps you, make a list of high-protein or high-fat foods that you enjoy eating, and try substituting those the next time you find yourself craving nuts. And for busy, active lifestyles, make sure you have plenty of nut-free snack bars on hand for quick snacks.