Meal supplement

Related Terms

Antioxidants, Atkins Morning Start Breakfast Bars?, Balance Bars?, calcium, diet bars, energy bars, fortified foods, functional foods, meal replacement, meal supplement, nutraceuticals, Nutribars?, omega-3 fatty acids, PR Ironman Bars?, probiotics, protein bars, Pure Protein Bars?, Slim Fast Meal Bars?, South Beach Diet Cereal Bars?, Trim Advantage Meal Replacement Bars?.


Functional foods, also called nutraceuticals (a combination of the words "nutrition" and "pharmaceuticals"), are considered to be any food that possess beneficial health and wellness properties beyond the well proven nutritional benefits a person might find on the food label. The supposed benefits of functional foods go beyond the dietary needs listed on the USDA's food pyramid. The USDA defines functional foods as "any food, modified food or food ingredient that provides structural, functional or health benefits, thus promoting optimal health, longevity and quality of life." Foods might inherently possess these supposedly beneficial qualities, or they may be fortified and/or genetically modified.
The concept of functional foods first became popular in Japan in the 1980s. The Japanese government developed a regulatory agency to oversee the approval of functional foods in 1991. The name of this agency is called Foods for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).
Functional foods are increasingly popular in the United States. A significant number of popular, mainstream brand name products are available on the market. The Nutrition Action Healthletter notes that an increasing number of major brands are planning or developing labels that purport the benefits of eating their functional foods. Furthermore, functional foods are reported as one of the fastest growing segments of the food economy in United States. In the past decade, functional foods have become so popular that other governments, including Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom have devoted major health initiatives to investigating the usefulness and safety of functional foods.
Some foods are said to be inherently functional foods, such as green tea, which has antioxidants, and salmon, which contains omega 3 fatty acids.
Functional foods are also often created when foods are processed. Foods may be fortified to include more fiber or calcium, for example. Consumers are advised to choose foods that appear healthy according to the way they fit into their food pyramid, rather than on the claims of additional, and usually unproven, beneficial properties.
Nutrition bars contain herbs, supplements, vitamin, minerals and or/protein. There are many different forms including protein bars, meal replacement bars, energy bars and diets bars. Protein bars contain a high amount of protein, usually about 10-30g, and many also contain vitamins and/or minerals. Examples include: Balance Bars?, PR Ironman Bars? and Pure Protein Bars?. Meal replacement bars contain the necessary amount of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that are typically found in a healthy meal. Examples include: Slim Fast Meal Bars?, Nutribars? and Trim Advantage Meal Replacement Bars?. An energy bar is a dietary supplement for athletes who need to maintain a high caloric intake due to high physical activity.
There are also many varieties of diet bars. For instance, some are high in protein for individuals on the Atkins diet. Examples include: South Beach Diet Cereal Bars? and the Atkins Morning Start Breakfast Bars?.
In addition to nutrition bars, fermented foods are also included in the functional food category. A common example is yogurt, which often contains live bacterial cultures known as probiotics. These fermented foods are thought to promote a healthy environment in the body.


Athletes commonly consume protein bars after working out to help build muscle.
Energy bars are most often eaten before participating in a vigorous physical activity.
Meal replacement bars are usually eaten in place of breakfast, lunch or dinner. However, they are not recommended as a replacement for a substantial amount of a person's diet.
Diet bars are usually eaten in place of a meal or as a snack between meals.

Theory / Evidence

The benefits of many nutraceuticals are the source of considerable public and governmental discussion. The American Dietetic Association recently released a position statement regarding the potential benefits of functional foods and encouraging research into the further incorporation into the diets of healthy Americans. A report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest approaches the subject of functional foods more cautiously. In either case, a number of loopholes in regulatory food laws the United States allow food manufactures to make misleading and often unproven claims on food labels. The Food and Drug Administration's rules regarding the labeling and health claims of functional foods are complex and often confusing; consumers should exercise caution when purchasing functional foods to improve or regulate their health.
More than 60% of nutrition bars failed to live up to their food label, according to a recent report. Only 12 out of the 30 products tested met the labeling criteria. The protein bars were the most likely to fail - only 1 out of 12 passed. The most common labeling problem was the undeclared amounts of carbohydrates. Fifty percent of the products exceeded their claimed levels. In addition, seven products were found to contain more sodium than declared on the label; two products exceeded their claimed amounts of fat and four products had higher amounts of saturated fat than claimed. However, all of the tested products were within an acceptable range of their protein claims.

Author information

This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. 8 May 2006.
American Dietetic Association. 8 May 2006.
ConsumerLab.Com. Product Review: Nutrition Bars (High Protein Bars, Low-Carb/Diet Bars, Energy Bars, and Meal-Replacement Bars). 11 May 2006.
Functional Foods: An Overview. 9 May 2006.
Joint Health Claims Initiative. 8 May 2006.
United States Department of Agriculture Food Pyramid. 9 May 2006.