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Guard Your Health is a resource for Army National Guard Soldiers and family members. Find health-related tools and information. Hear from fellow Soldiers and Families. Make medical readiness part of your personal mission.

I’m on the go so I eat my share of protein/health bars. Are they really good nutrition? What do I look for on the label? Are there healthier alternatives? Making quick lunches, I rely on deli turkey or chicken sandwich meat. Is that healthy?

Thanks for reaching out to us! These are great questions.

Nutrition Bars

Many nutritionists agree that a nutrition bar is better than a doughnut or vending machine snack. Nutrition bars serve different purposes based on the needs of the individual. People eat them to:

  • Replace a meal (protein)
  • Give energy (calories)
  • Provide a boost for a race (carbs)
  • Serve as a snack

But not all nutrition bars are created equal. So when choosing one, check out the label and aim for the following nutritional values:

  • Sugar: Less than 5 grams
  • Saturated fat: Less than 5 grams
  • Fiber: 3-5 grams
  • Calories: less than 300 if your goal is to lose weight; more than 300 if your goal is energy, race boost, or meal-replacement
  • Protein: 15 grams or more if your goal is a meal-replacement; 5 grams or less if you are eating as a snack

Nutritionists recommend eating whole foods when you can instead of a nutrition bar. Healthy alternatives include:

  • Apple, orange, or banana
  • Whole wheat bagel with tomato and swiss cheese
  • Trail mix with nuts and dried fruits
  • Yogurt sprinkled with high-fiber cereal

If your goal is to boost your protein intake, fish, poultry, dairy products, and eggs are great sources. For healthy, ready-to-eat meals, check out this recommended list from an Army Master Fitness Trainer.

Deli and Packaged Meats

Are deli meats and packaged lunchmeats healthy? It depends on what’s in them. Processed meats—anything smoked, cured, salted, or with preservatives—often contain high amounts of sodium and fat. You should consume less than 2,300 mg sodium per day. Your fat intake should be less than 22 grams a day on a 2,000-calorie diet. Be mindful of these facts as you make lunch plans, and opt for low-sodium, low-fat meats.

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