In the spirit of Eat This, Not That!, I’ve done a series of posts over the years pitting foods against each other.

But rather than assess the nutrition, I compare how different foods influence habits. Here I discuss bars and cookies.

From a Habits Perspective, if a bar seems like a cookie, then it is a cookie. And so…

  • If you wouldn’t give your kids cookies every day, then don’t give them bars every day.
  • And if you give your kids a bar one day, don’t give them cookies that same day.

Think of this as the if-it-quacks-like-a-duck argument. This is especially true when toddlers are just learning to eat right.

From a habits perspective, bars and cookies are equivalents.

The only key difference between a bar and a cookie is that people don’t generally polish off a box of bars, but a box of cookies? So, from this angle, and pretty much only this angle, bars beat cookies. (Though I do admit, this is a pretty big advantage!)

From a nutrition perspective, many cookies and bars are also equivalents.

Yes, some bars are healthier than others. And I’m sure you’re home made bars certain are. But in general, cookies and bars are essentially equivalent.

For instance, compared to a Kashi Soft-Baked Ripe Strawberry cereal bar, a Kashi Soft-Baked Oatmeal Raisin Flax cookie has fewer calories, less sugar and the same amount of protein. The cookie even has one extra gram of whole grains.

Yes, I cherry-picked, but only to get two products that are kind of middle-of-the-road. But the nutrition argument is essentially splitting hairs. I guarantee that for every super-healthy bar out there we could find a cookie equivalent.

In the January/February issue of their Nutrition Action Healthletter, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, rated bars: nut, protein, granola…

“Let’s be clear. Even the best bars don’t hold a candle to fresh fruit, vegetables, plain Greek yogurt, or a handful of unadorned nuts. (That’s why we awarded no Best Bites, just Better Bites.) If none of those will do, a bar could work in a pinch. But are you getting a decent snack or a glorified cookie?”

If you want to read CSPI’s nutrition comparisons of all the major bars, consider subscribing to their healthletter. It’s a wonderful resource.

In the meantime, make sure you “use” baked goods as if they’re cookies.

Sweet beverages as if they’re soda. Muffins as if they’re donuts. Pretzels as if they’re chips. I think you get my point.

And for fruits and vegetables, plain yogurt, etc. for most snacks!

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~