Yesterday, I was just standing there, looking at the bakery case like a donut junkie.  And I then did it.  I purchased something positively illegal, potentially shameful and completely irrational for the average dieter.  And after buying it, I didn't feel guilty one bit!  Mostly...

I brought it home and kept it super safe in the waxy, white bakery bag until the next morning.  Then I devoured it with my morning cup of joe.  And while I prepared in advance to avoid any post-donut guilt, I still feel the need to plead my case!

Preparation is nine-tenths of donut law

There is something I need to point out regarding my opening testimony, "..I prepared in advance to avoid any post-donut guilt..." documented in this donut trial.

While I did my typical 30 minutes of cardio the morning of my sinful purchase, I added another jog around the block following my purchase as an extra precaution.  I mostly did this to avoid a case of the guilties before, after and God forbid during, my willful act.  

But what sinful item did I purchase?  What initiated my diet impropriety?  


This completely candied, iced and caked donut landed me in donut courtsurprised

Image: Sprinkle Donut

Yes.  That's right.  Somehow, this ridiculously childish, if not obvious, high-risk donut looked good to me. 

Most days, I walk right past the bakery case and find just looking to be a bit precarious.  But yesterday I threw caution to the crystal-clear glass that exposed said donut and pushed right past the tall, heavy set multi-danish pastry buyer.   

Then with one swift shake of the bakery bag and a delicately applied bakery tissue (for the donut's protection, of course) I snatched the best sprinkle donut in the case. 

Donut heroes are born, not made

But donuts are made, and they are meant to be eaten. Right!?

The slow-moving man with the box of messy danishes never knew what hit him.  All he knew was that some donut hero who was faster than a fasting diva, more powerful than a dieter's guilt, not (eating like) a bird, not interested in a plain (donut), yada, yada, yada.

Fighting discrimination against sweets one donut at a time

This time, my typical "once-in-a-while" donut, the French Cruller, wasn't enough!  I needed sweeter and messier!  Who knows what drew me to act on my impulse purchase!?  

Image: French Cruller Donut

Why'd she do it?

A good attorney may claim, "The sprinkles made her do it!"  foot-in-mouth  

But who knows?!  I plead the fifth!

Closing Argument

Okay, okay I'll officially rest my bakery case!  All I can do is humbly ask the donut court for leniency.  And since I'm the only one in charge of my nutrition, I guess that's me.  So here it goes.


Upon heavy consideration, I feel the extra jog was too much and sentence myself to another donut in the near future!   Case Closed.  Bakery case open.

Now onto a more significant donut trial on the court docket!  The sweetest part of our article, the big Shabang!

Donuts v. Nutrition Bars

The honorable dieter with a sweet tooth presiding (that's me again)

The state (of hunger) wishes to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, or at least for the most part, that the nutrition bars and snacks so many of us purchase for 2 or 3 times the cost of an average donut are not that much better for us than the amazing goodness in exhibit D (as in donuts) displayed below.

Exhibit D. (as in donuts) displayed above

Now, I know what you're thinking.  How could this be?  How could something sold in health food stores and on diet product shelves have nearly the same nutritional benefits as what many may consider an unhealthy food like a donut?  

Marketing 101

As a former marketer, I have not only been party to clever methods to sell products, but also developed them.  And any marketer who says otherwise, lies (or sucks at her job).  

A good marketer, among other things, focuses her plans based on her target audience - what they want, need and otherwise purchase.  She develops campaigns, packaging and names for which her audience responds favorably (as in buys, would buy or is attracted to buy). 

She comes up with slogans, tag lines and packaging that steers her audience away from the negative aspects of the product in order to lead them to believe in what the manufacturer is selling, regardless of if factual data directly supports such claims.  

Is it a dishonest business?  Maybe.  But honestly, it really comes down to common sense.  

"If you see a birthday cake or donut on the package of a protein bar, chances are you aren't really buying into a healthy lifestyle.  You're just feeding a growing diet industry's tap on a marketer's bullsh*t! " 

Awareness is the first step to better nutrition

Far be it from me to say it's all bad!  Really, the point isn't to slam the product, manufacturer or marketing.  It's really just to provide a fair representation of why these items attract us, get purchased and proliferate like wild dogs.  It's not because they necessarily live up to their claims (for which they rarely stipulate in words cause pictures on packages work just fine).  Rather they appeal to us based on psychological profiling.  And, well they taste pretty good too.

But, when it comes right down to it, would it just be better to eat what's on the front of the package or are these protein jammed products worth the buy?

Honestly, if it looks like a donut, kinda' tastes like a donut, it's prolly a donut in a nutrition bar wrapper.  But don't just take my word for it, I'm the schmuck who designed the wrapper. 

Don't just blame the marketer, be honest with yourself

The fact is that if you want to eat nutritiously, eat nutritiously (fruits, vegetables, raw, clean, blah, blah, blah).  If you want a donut, d*mn it, eat a donut (at least that's what I'm telling myself). 

If we stop denying ourselves what we really want, at least some of the time, maybe the real nutritional stuff will be easier to digest most of the time.  We can only hope, eh?

Most of us rarely have time to read the nutritional facts on the back of the package.  We're easily impressed with the finer points of the contents the marketer cleverly displays on the front, in bold letters.  It's usually located right next to the picture of the cupcakes, donuts or cookies! 

I thought I'd do a quick comparison and a summary of my findings.  Then you can do the math in your head and decide if they are worth it or not. 

Yes. I still buy them. 

Before we get started, I'll just tell you. I still buy them.

I buy nutrition bars, even though I know the facts.  Actually, I still buy a lot of marketer's bs because I'd prolly starve if I didn't.  I also don't read the back of most packages because I know everything on the front is the best they got and it only goes downhill from there.  But it's better than assuming I'm getting the whole picture from the best angle of the product, the front. 

I also bought donuts and junk food occasionally.  But after my little investigation of these products, I'll most likely buy them more often, in place of some nutrition bars that don't provide a significant health benefit in comparison to the real thing!

Shop smart 

So 'caveat emptor' rather, buyer beware is what I'm selling in this article.  Not really donuts or protein bars.  Just in case you missed it.

Caveat emptor, quia ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit, "Let a purchaser beware, for he ought not to be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party."

The donut trial begins

Exhibit C. (as in Comparison data)

DISCLAIMER: The data in this comparison is based on three common nutrition bars v. three common donuts.  Since this is an article and not a book, I selected these three comparisons as representations of a more extensive, independent comparison research (I ate a lot of bars and donuts and then compared nutrition and price).

ONE® Maple Glazed Donut Bar v. Maple Glazed Donut

COMPARISON ITEMS ONE® Bar Nutrition Facts Donut Nutrition Facts
CALORIES 230 220
FAT 8 Grams 12 Grams
Saturated Fat 6 Grams 5 Grams
SODIUM 150 Milligrams 280 Milligrams
TOTAL CARBS 23 Grams 25 Grams
SUGAR 1 Gram 14 Grams
PROTEIN 20 Grams 3-4 Grams

 Average Price Comparison 

Price per bar: $1.87 Price per donut: $1.09 (average variety donut)

CASE #1 RULING:  ONE® Maple Glazed Donut Bar v. Maple Glazed Donut

The judge finds the Maple Glazed Donut One® Bar GUILTY of being a minimal improvement over the real thing.  While it's impressive 20 grams of protein and low sugar gain a buyer's attention, the calories and carbs make eating the real thing for half the money a better choice.  

Cons: If you eat this bar, you will have to walk a few minutes to burn off the extra calories consumed rather than just eating the maple glazed donut.  You could easily drink an 8-ounce glass of skim milk with your donut instead of a sugary soda or energy drink and you would consume about 12 total grams of protein.  It's a few more calories, but it also provides more calcium in addition to the protein!

Benefits: The protein in this bar may control your appetite after eating it for longer than the donut and the low sugar content will reduce the chances of a sugar crash which leads to low energy and increased appetite shortly after eating a sweet food like a donut.  It's also more convenient than a sticky donut when you're running out the door to catch the "L" or cycling to work!

Quest® Chocolate Sprinkled Doughnut Protein Bar v. Chocolate-Chocolate Sprinkled Donut

COMPARISON ITEMS Quest® Bar Nutrition Facts Donut Nutrition Facts
CALORIES 190 270
FAT 8 Grams 12 Grams
Saturated Fat 4 Grams 5 Grams
SODIUM 180 Milligrams 290 Milligrams
TOTAL CARBS 23 Grams 36 Grams
SUGAR >1 Gram 14 Grams
PROTEIN 20 Grams 4 Grams

 Average Price Comparison 

Price per bar: $2.08 Price per donut: .99 (Dunkin Donuts®)

CASE #2 Ruling: Quest® Chocolate Sprinkled Doughnut Protein Bar v. Chocolate-Chocolate Sprinkled Donut

The judge finds the Quest® Chocolate Sprinkled Doughnut Protein Bar NOT GUILTY of being minimally healthier than the real thing.  This nutrition bar wins on every count of nutrition!  High in protein, low in sugar and calories make this bar worth the buy! 

Cons: If you skip the nutrition bar and opt for the donut, you will need to walk an additional 30 minutes to burn the extra calories.  You will totally blow a hole in any low carb, low fat diet and of course there's the sugar crash you will likely experience within the first hour after eating this chocolate donut beast! 

Benefits: The protein in the nutrition bar may control your appetite after eating it for longer than the donut and the low sugar content will reduce the chances of a sugar crash which leads to low energy and increased appetite shortly after eating a sweet food like a donut.  It has very low calories that will take less than an hour to burn during a casual walk (2 mph. on a flat surface). It's also less messy than a chocolate-chocolate sprinkled donut (sprinkles when driving - not good).

Cinnamon Sugar Donut (Cashew Butter) Outright® Bar v. Cinnamon Sugar Donut

COMPARISON ITEMS Outright® Bar Nutrition Facts Donut Nutrition Facts
CALORIES 280 290
FAT 13 Grams 3 Grams
Saturated Fat 2.5 Grams 1 Grams
SODIUM 25 Milligrams -- Milligrams
TOTAL CARBS 23 Grams 70 Grams
SUGAR 20 Grams 13 Grams
PROTEIN 17 Grams 4 Grams

 Average Price Comparison 

Price per bar: $2.50 Price per donut: $1.09 (average variety donut)

CASE #3 Ruling:  Cinnamon Sugar Donut (Cashew Butter) Outright® Bar v. Cinnamon Sugar Donut

The judge finds the Cinnamon Sugar Donut (Cashew Butter) Outright® Bar Super GUILTY of being minimally healthier than the real thing.  This nutrition bar's big fail was the immense sugar content, but it really didn't shine on the entire nutritional breakdown either!  I'd only buy this again 'cause it's delicious, but so are donuts... and they're cheap, I'm a writer, poor and hungry!  Soooo....

Cons: It's just too high in sugar to consider this bar a healthy option.  Other than the protein, it would really be something to consider more as a candy bar over a nutrition bar.  It's expensive and not as prevalent at the markets as other less expensive, healthier bars.

Benefits: The bar tastes super yummy!   It's a unique variety/flavor of protein bar.  The cashew butter makes all the difference! It certainly is less messy than a donut and provides decent enough protein to hold back hunger. 

The Bottom Line 

Look, most nutrition bars are pretty okay.  They're tasty and have some nutritional benefits over junk food.  However, don't ignore the bad stuff in these bars like sugar, sodium and calories just 'cause they have things like high protein or alternative ingredients like carob or rice milk.  Also, if they are low in one thing, it's a good possibility these bars are high in something else.

Will eating a donut in place of your lunch everyday be smarter. 

Um. Really?!

No.  While you'll possibly get less calories than in a traditional lunch, it simply won't hold your hunger based on its content, physical volume and composition (low fiber).  Moreover, it's sending the wrong message to your psyche and stimulates a hormonal reaction that can lead to craving more junk food, more often.

Your body would do much better with lots of fruits, vegetables and lean meats along with an occasional donut than a daily infusion of meal replacements!

However, if you feel like eating sugary foods sometimes (less than 10% of overall food consumption), just do it, rather than lie to yourself that the overpriced nutrition bar is righteous. 

And when all else fails, run a few times around the block like me, then pig out!  It's like junk-food, diplomatic immunity!


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