I don’t know about you, but I used to have this belief that eating a “nutrition” bar was so much healthier than eating most anything else (besides your fruits and veggies, but duh). Little did I know, I was SERIOUSLY mistaken. Just because they’re smaller then say, a piece of cake, doesn’t actually mean they’re better for you! I know, what a tease. So in light of this I decided that us girls need some guidelines when it comes to looking for healthy nutrition bars.
Coincidentally, while researching a “Where Are They Now” post on Laguna Beach, I found out that one of my favorite LB kids could potentially help in my nutrition bar quest. We all remember Loren Polster — he was the super chill, super cool dude who kept everyone grounded and level-headed. And what do you know, he works with Picky Bars, an incredible nutrition bar for athletes. I was excited to learn that all the bars contain natural ingredients and there are a variety of bars that will fit every lifestyle. They have vegan bars and peanut-free bars, and all of them are dairy and gluten free. That’s a win if I’ve ever seen one.
Believe it or not, the whole concept for Picky Bars started with two injured athletes just casually cooking them up for friends and family. Now, they’re huge! Every ingredient that goes into these bars is well-thought out and has a reason for being there. Oh, and to make matters even better, these bars are a healthy post-workout recovery snack and also make a healthy mid-afternoon treat! Talk about two in one.
So here’s where Polster comes back in. I decided to reach out to him to see if he’d be interested in talking about Picky Bars, his Laguna days and his life ever since.
Take a look at our conversation below…
CollegeCandy: What’s so awesome about Picky Bars is that they started with Lauren and Steph casually making individual batches for themselves and friends and now two years later you’ve grown so much, how did you guys do it and become so big?
Loren Polster: Clearly, it’s all because of the graphic design. Just kidding. We’re still really small, but we’ve grown for two main reasons: 1) We create a high quality product that many people need and love. 2) The three founding athletes — Lauren Fleshman, Jesse Thomas and Stephanie Rothstein — already had strong followings that gave us a natural customer base. Picky Bars’ funky, non-corporate brand is an extension of their own “down-to-earth” approachability with their fans.
CC: What makes your bars different?
LP: They’re gluten free, dairy free, made from real food, and have balanced nutrient ratios (for endurance and recovery). What really sets them apart, is they actually taste amazing… seriously. If you’re looking for even some of those qualities, then few other bars really compare.
CC: Though these are designed for athletes, would you recommend them for just about anyone?
LP: Of course! Buy our bars! Seriously though, they are great for non-athletes because they’re just a healthy, tasty energy bar. They do make the most sense for people wanting some of our special qualities—rather than a standard snack bar.
CC: I think its incredible that you have a blog and have such a personal connection with your buyers, how did that become a priority?
LP: As mentioned before, the brand and customer interaction stemmed from what the athletes were doing already. Jesse and Lauren are amazing writers and bloggers, and all three have a great social media presence. I think the quality and connection comes from them telling the whole story — not just accomplishments. They write about their doubts, weaknesses, embarrassing moments and victories. They also respond to and support their fans, and occasionally, they’re pretty dang hilarious.
CC: I have to ask, how was living in Laguna Beach, what did you take away from it?
LP: I was extremely blessed to grow up in Laguna. It’s a beautiful place with a great community of resources to nurture one’s development. Like most places though, it’s a bubble. I’m very glad to have lived elsewhere.
CC: Do you have any Laguna blind gossip from back in the day?
LP: Stephen and Dieter actually hooked up once. They were really drunk and didn’t look each other in the eye, so it didn’t count.
CC: Was it weird to watch yourself being you on TV?
LP: Yes, very weird, but I honestly didn’t watch most of the show.
CC: On a completely different note, how did you find your way to New Zealand, and what did you do there?
LP: One of my best friends from college and his family were building a sweet eco-house in Wanaka. They invited me, and some of our other college buddies to come work on it and stay for free. It was a no brainer — especially since I’d planned to travel and work remotely anyways. I was there for eight months. I did freelance graphic and web design (mainly for U.S. clients), worked on the house and traveled.
CC: What was your craziest college memory?
LP: Hmmm. It’s between losing a bet and having to take an accounting final in my wetsuit, or skinny dipping in my apartment pool during a party and then walking around our party naked for the next 30 min.
CC: What’s your favorite way to let off steam?
Seriously, how cool is he!? Now let’s not forget why we’re here — to figure out the difference between a nutrition bar that’s actually nutritious, and one that has little more value than a Snickers.
The thing about nutrition bars is that there are so many different types, and each have a different purpose! It’s important to know what you’re looking for and why you’re eating it. The three most common types of nutrition bars are: the sports bar, the meal replacement bar and the snack bar. And each of these types should have a different calorie count as well as a different amount of fiber, protein, sugar, fat, and carbohydrates.
Sports bars are those really targeted to eating before or after a workout. If you’re eating a bar before a workout, you should aim to find one that has between 300 and 500 calories, never too much fat, about 3-10 grams of fiber, less than 15 grams of protein, and 25 to 50 grams of carbohydrates. The real difference between a bar that should be eaten before a workout and one that should be eaten after is the amount of protein and carbohydrates. Carbs are great for giving you energy to burn, which is exactly what you want before a workout! Afterwards though, you’ll want to replenish your body, so protein is much more necessary. So though you should look for an after workout bar with around 200 t0 300 calories, the main difference is you should strive for something with about 20 grams of protein and fewer grams of carbs, ideally in the 15-25 range.
In terms of a meal replacement bar, generally, they should be around 200 to 300 calories, but this can differ according to which meal you’re intending to replace. For breakfast bars, I would recommend looking for a bar with around 200 calories, about 3 grams of fat, 15 grams or less of sugar, 5 or more grams of fiber and protein, and 3 to 15 grams of carbohydrates. The main thing about breakfast bars is they should be low in sugar, and high in protein and fiber. On the other hand, if you’re eating a bar for lunch, look for something more substantial with both simple and complex carbs that comes in around 300 calories. The only other real differences are in terms of protein and fiber. Look for a bar with about 6 grams of fiber and about 9 grams of protein.
Lastly, the infamous snack bar that can end up being as bad as eating a candy bar. These babies are sneaky because they pack in the sugar. First of all, look for a bar with 100 to 200 calories — this is a snack, not a meal! There should really only be from 3 to 6 grams of fat in these bars and it should be 30 percent or less of the total ingredients. Also, there should be less than 12 grams of sugar in your ideal snack bar. As for fiber, look for something containing 3 grams of fiber and 5-15 grams of protein. There should be from about 15-25 grams of carbohydrates in your snack bar. Like I said though, they’re tricky. Sugars should be less than half the total carb content. Also, check out the ingredients list, and avoid anything with bexoate in it. Excellent ingredients include nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruits and oats; and watch out for the chocolate and faux “yogurt” coatings.
I know that’s a lot to remember, but it’s so important to know what you’re looking for. Keep in mind, calorie count isn’t always the most important factor; there’s more in these bars than just that, so just keep your eyes open! Here are some final main points to remember: