Men don’t need to avoid “women’s” bars. Some of these bars do emphasize nutrients that “women need,” like folic acid, but while women can often use a boost of some of these ingredients, men can use them, too. The biggest difference between bars targeted at men and women is that women’s bars tend to be a touch smaller — as are women’s average calorie requirements.

Energy bars marketed to women often just sound more delicious. They are somewhat more likely to offer more flavors, to name flavors after baked goods, and to emphasize special ingredient categories like vegan, all-natural, and gluten-free. As these products have become mainstream, changes like this have helped their makers build a market beyond the adventure athlete by making flavors and textures appealing to the people who do the majority of the household shopping.

Energy bars run the gamut from pretty good quick hits of nutrition to basically treats, but they’re a fruit-and-nut treat rather than a cake-or-cookie treat. (So-called “protein bars” tend to have more protein, of course, and still have the carbs, so they contain more calories overall.)

If you’re tempted by chips or donuts during the day, it may help to have a couple of energy bars at your desk or in your backpack. (If your office stocks a snack cabinet with chips and cookies, suggest they carry nutrition bars, too — some good options are Kind, Luna, Builder, and Lara bars.) They are a handy, easy-to-eat option for long walks or day trips. Most are about 180 to 300 calories, and most offer a fairly modest serving of protein (6 to 10 grams) and a touch of fiber (about what you’d get from a piece of whole fruit). They are better for you than an actual candy bar, but I wouldn’t use them as meal replacements.

So what if all we have are my girlfriend’s women’s bars? Are they safe? Oh, you know they’re safe to eat. Worst-case scenario, you might want to eat two of them, because they’re small, but ask permission first. When it comes to wonderful combinations of nuts and dried fruit pressed into bars that taste like pie, your girlfriend might not feel like sharing.

Image: Cartoon by William Haefeli, in the New Yorker


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