How to Choose a Healthy Snack Bar by Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN

Protein bars, granola bars, and snack bars got you confused? Check out this handy guide to learn how to pick a healthy bar!

I’ve long been preaching the importance of eating real, whole foods. Things you can grow in your garden are always going to be better than things you can find in stores. However, we know that life doesn’t always provide you with the time or opportunity to eat farm-fresh foods 100% of the time, and this is where grocery stores, specifically food products, fill in the gaps. 

Many of my clients love keeping bars around when they need a little help with balancing their blood sugar or if they don’t have access to a real meal. Unfortunately, we can’t trust marketing labels like “healthy” or “all natural” since they’re not regulated, and the organic label might indicate a reduced level of pesticide exposure, but it doesn’t mean it’s a balanced option - you’ve all seen organic gummy bears, right? 

But - don’t fret - follow this quick & simple guide to select healthy bars wherever you are! I’m not including a huge list here; this post is meant to teach you how to read these labels for yourself. That’s important because companies change their formulas all the time and each brand has a variety of products and flavors with different profiles and ingredients. 

Disclaimer: this list is made as a “rule of thumb” guide, which doesn’t account for therapeutic diets, underweight conditions, gut complications, and more. So don’t be surprised if your practitioner (me!) alters a few things to suit your individual case. 

  1. Ingredients: The first thing to do is turn over the bar and look for the ingredients label. You’re looking for real food ingredients you recognize. The ingredients should be those you’d use in your own home, like nuts, seeds, and maybe some dried fruit. And it is important to TURN OVER the bar. Some of these sneaky marketers include an incomplete list of ingredients on the front (looking at you, RXBAR). 

You also want to look for a limited ingredients list; more ingredients means more processing. While 5 ingredients is ideal for a “real food” designation, that’s nearly impossible with bars, so I look for those with fewer than 10 ingredients. 

    1. Real, recognizable ingredients

    2. Fewer than 10 ingredients

  1. Macronutrient Ratios: Next, look over at the nutrition label. You want to make sure that you’ve got a somewhat balanced ratio of carbohydrates to fat and protein. Ingredients are important, but caramel can be made with one ingredient, but that one ingredient is sugar, and that is clearly NOT a balanced option. 

After checking for balanced macronutrients, it’s time to take a quick peek at the sugar. Ideally, you want fewer than 8 grams of total sugar per serving (the daily recommended maximum of sugar is 25 grams). I do not recommend parsing out total sugar, added sugar, and fiber when it comes to bars. Sugar is still sugar; stick to the lower sugar options.

    1. Protein + Fat > Carbohydrates 

    2. Sugar below 8 grams

Below we are going to dissect a few popular bars to see which ones meet the balanced real food criteria. 

Apple Pie LaraBar
Dates, Almonds, Unsweetened apples, Walnuts, Raisins, Cinnamon. (6)
25g C
4g P
9g F

Apple Pie Lara Bar.jpg

Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
Almonds, Peanuts, Chicory root fiber, Honey, Palm kernel oil, Sugar, Glucose syrup, Rice flour, Unsweetened chocolate, Cocoa powder, Sea salt, Soy lecithin, Natural flavor, Cocoa butter. (14)
6g C
6g C
15g F

KInd bar.jpg

Health Warrior Organic Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bars
Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Wildflower Honey, Organic Dutch Process Cocoa Powder, Organic Milled Quinoa, Cocoa Extra, Organic Vanilla Extract, Organic Coconut Oil, Sea Salt. (8)
11g C
8g P
13g F

Health Warrior.jpg

Chocolate Sea Salt RX Bars
Egg whites, Almonds, Cashews, Chocolate, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt
24g C
12g P
9g F

RX Bar.jpeg

So what do you think? This LaraBar flavor has a great ingredients list, but it is heavy on carbohydrates and sugar. The macros are good in Kind bars, but they have funky (super processed) ingredients like soy lecithin, palm kernel oil, and glucose syrup, and the 14 ingredients lets you know it’s a little more processed than it should be. If you’re in love with LaraBars, be sure to pair them with additional fat and protein (hard boiled egg, meat stick, etc.), and as for the Kind Bars, they don’t make the cut for “real food,” but they’re probably a better choice than most other options at, say, a gas station rest stop. Moderation!

As for the RX bar, it is somewhat more balanced, but it is still too high in carbs and sugar, plus it has “natural flavors,” which could be anything derived from plant or animal matter. Also, the fact that they list some ingredients on the front and say “No B.S.” but then they have natural flavors listed on the official label means they’re not being fully transparent - and I don’t support that kind of trickery! 

The winner here is Health Warrior Organic Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Bars. They have 8 ingredients, all of which are available to those of us not working in food science, and they have a great ratio of protein + fat : carbohydrates. Plus, the sugar content is under 8 grams. Win, win, win!

Now it’s your turn - what bars have you found that check all the boxes? Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook!

Q&A with our Nutritionist, Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN

Meet Caitlin Self.png

Caitlin is the licensed nutritionist here at Charm City Integrative Health, and we did a little Q&A
with her to help our CCIH family get to know our newest addition!

What is your nutrition philosophy?
Keep it simple! Start with the simplest foods that your grandparents would recognize and tweak
from there based on how you feel. Nutrition is super individualized, so oats might be great for
one person, and awful for someone else. We say everyone needs more veggies, but
recommending a high-vegetable diet to someone with SIBO or Crohn’s can make their condition
worse, and a daily kale salad can be damaging to someone with thyroid issues. Every piece of
nutrition is individualized. The basic tenets for most of us are pretty generic: drink water, eat real
food, limit sugar (in all forms), and limit toxic exposure.

What is your least favorite nutrition myth?
Fat makes you fat. I hate this myth! Fat is super important for brain health - and so many of my
clients, especially women, are dealing with moodiness, anxiety, and depression. Sure, the root
cause can be lots of things, but oftentimes we can correct some of this with appropriate levels of
healthy fats, like avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, and grass-fed animal fat.

What’s the biggest nutrition mistake you see?
Too much, too soon. It’s easy to get caught up in all the things that we can “do better” that we
forget to focus on the one or two things we can do right now. Starting small is super important
for long-term behavioral change. Most of my clients get started with this great can-do attitude,
reporting they’re 100% committed to change, and then they try to implement half a dozen
interventions all at once, which is a true recipe for failure. When you’re re-learning a skill or
habit, you don’t start off with a decathlon of 10 events, you start with a 5K and you build from

What brought you into nutrition?
A lot of triggers and exposures throughout my life led me here - in high school, I noticed how
much faster I ran in cross country when I didn’t have chocolate chip granola bars for lunch, and I
learned how sugar can slow the recovery from injuries during a sports nutrition talk in high
school. Since then I’ve had my share of health issues, and when I started digging into solutions,
nutrition was always a major component. I started a food blog in 2013, and then eventually
decided to dive head first into nutrition with the Master’s program at MUIH. And I haven’t
stopped since!

What does Integrative Health mean to you?
It means treating the whole human with a variety of modalities - not just a single approach. We
are so individual, made up of both our genetics and our experiences, and integrative health
acknowledges this by providing a number of different approaches for the same conditions.

For example, some of us can reduce joint inflammation by healing the gut (nutrition), adjusting
energy meridians (acupuncture), or correcting skeletal imbalances (nervous system
manipulation). It’s the same diagnosis, but with several different root causes and treatment
options. And here at CCIH, we have supporting treatments like cryotherapy to treat systemic or
idiopathic inflammation. It’s a great multifaceted approach. The same is true for other chronic
conditions, such as endometriosis, SIBO, or chronic fatigue; nutrition is an important spoke on
the wellness wheel, but we should take advantage of all the approaches available to us to
improve the health and wellbeing of our clients.

What gets you up in the morning?
Client work! A lot of practitioners get bored with paperwork or bogged down with client
communications, but I love it! When I see emails from my clients, I get so excited that they’re
being proactive and taking their health seriously, and I don’t mind providing extra support. That,
and warm weather - it’s a lot harder for me to get out of bed when I know it’s cold outside!

The Pizza Test By Dr. Tom Ingegno, DACM, MSOM, L.Ac.


Inflammation is one of the underlying causes and complications of most illnesses from which a person can be suffering.  Possibly the most common cause of chronic inflammation is your diet. Coincidentally, it's also the most difficult to change. I often joke it would be easier to get someone to convert their religion than to change their diets.

Fortunately, I have two “aces in the hole” for you! First - there is a ton of dietary information available today.  Most restaurants have at least a couple of menus options that will fit almost any diet restriction. There are also some amazing sources on the internet as well as books that can help you fill your belly with quality foods.  Whatever diet you follow (Whole30, Bulletproof, Paleo, The Plan or AIP), they all aim to improve your health by removing inflammatory foods from your diet.

Charm City Integrative Health - The Pizza Test

My second ace is our nutritionist, Caitlin Self, who is available for consultations, and regardless of your preferred eating style can help you make better choices.  She is currently available for consultation in our Baltimore office and has a special deal for members as well.

Honestly, I am a huge fan of Food Sensitivity Tests and Elimination Diets that are available to help people pin down their individual inflammatory foods.  There are some drawbacks to both. Food Sensitivity Tests can be costly out of pocket, and many insurance companies won’t cover them, because sensitivity is not an allergy, even though both can negatively impact your life and overall health.  Elimination Diets are in essence free but it often takes a long time to slowly eliminate foods and then reintroduce them to see how they affect you. In addition, dining out and some prepared foods may not totally list their ingredients which may mess up all your hard work.  

Now to the meat and potatoes of the article, or more appropriately, the Pizza.  One quick way to help figure out if you are sensitive to three common inflammatory compounds will only take a week of commitment and at the end, you get to dig into a slice of your favorite pizza.  (Please be warned, after this, pizza may no longer be your favorite!)

I like to start this test over the weekend so have time to meal plan.  I also suggest doing it on a week that doesn’t include any birthdays, holidays or special events where you will be tempted to slip up.  Spend time deciding on your menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinners for a total of 7 days. Make sure every meal you pick does NOT contain dairy, gluten or any nightshades.

Nightshades: Tomatoes (all varieties), Potatoes (white and red potatoes but not sweet potatoes), Eggplant, Peppers (Bell peppers, chili peppers, and any red spices), Paprika, and Goji berries

Nightshades: Tomatoes (all varieties), Potatoes (white and red potatoes but not sweet potatoes), Eggplant, Peppers (Bell peppers, chili peppers, and any red spices), Paprika, and Goji berries

Everyone knows someone who is Lactose Intolerant, but did you know that a second protein called casein is even more inflammatory and is the compound that makes Elmer’s glue so sticky.  When ingested in most people, it creates mucus in the sinuses and can make joints stiff and painful.  Check out what WebMD has to say here.

Charm City Integrative Health - Lactose Intolerance

Gluten is a protein that is present in anything containing wheat, rye or barley and is the reason bread, cereals, and other baked goods are so chewy.  This may be the most inflammatory compound in American diets. Here’s a great article from Chris Kresser that talks about some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance you may not have known.

Charm City Integrative Health - Gluten_Wheat Rye Barley

A third, but a lesser-known inflammatory family of foods, called nightshades. As an Italian-American, this one pains me the most, as it contains fruits and veggies including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and other foods generally considered healthy for most. talks about removing these from your diet for 3 months to see changes, for right now try one week.

*Bonus points if you can remove soy and corn from your diet for a week as well.  We can address issues with those more in the future.

Make a shopping list.  Choose simple recipes that do not contain the previously mentioned ingredients.  Even better - choose fresh organic foods. There’s no limit to the amount of food you consume during this week but eat sensibly.  Shop and meal prep ahead of time because this will help you be more successful and get thrown off track if the week throws you an unexpected curveball. However, don’t forget to leave the 7th day’s dinner menu open for your favorite pizza.  

Charm City Integrative Health - Planned Grocery List

This week you are going to track several variables to help you gauge your sensitivity.  You may notice changes in these factors at different times so writing them down and comparing day to day will help you reflect.

  • Weight: Weigh yourself every morning and evening.  This isn’t to lose weight, but you may notice a significant drop in weight when you are not consuming foods that cause inflammation.

  • Pain: If you have body aches, old injuries, or have experienced massive trauma, give yourself a 1-10 Pain Rating every morning and evening.  

  • Congestion:  Maybe you never have a stuffy nose or sinus issues, but more often than not you may be walking around with congestion you thought was normal. Give yourself a 1-10 rating.

  • Energy: Give yourself a 1-10 rating on this as well.  Be advised that 2-3 days into this process you may notice a drop in energy, or generally feel a bit crappy (that’s the medical term) because of the bacteria die off in your gut.  Don’t worry. The ones that are dying are hijacking your system and telling your brain to eat more foods that cause inflammation. The good ones will enjoy more room to reproduce. I’ll save that for another post.  Your energy should pick back up towards the end of the week

  • Sleep:  This goes hand and hand with the energy.  Many people are already tracking sleep thanks to devices like the Fitbit, but don’t feel like you need to buy a tracker for this self-experiment.  In this case, see how you feel when you wake up. Give yourself a 1-10 for your overall quality of sleep.

Now that you’ve made it to the seventh evening, go ahead and indulge in your favorite slice or two. Track how you feel immediately after eating as well as over the next few days.  

Use the variables above to compare how you felt to how you feel, after eating pizza.  Did you suddenly add weight? Do you have an increase in pain? How’s your energy?

Charm City Integrative Health - Energy

None of this is set out to demonize pizza, just to give you an insight into how to help your body function better.  If you noticed no difference, congratulations, you have an iron stomach and were blessed with great intestinal flora and good genes.  But, I am willing to guess, you saw some improvement in at least one of the above criteria. Now you can go back and eliminate, dairy, gluten, and nightshades one at a time to see where your sensitivities exist.  

Every service at Charm City Integrative Health addresses inflammation. This post, as well as a few others, will soon be compiled into a short guide titled, “5 Steps to Knock Down Inflammation”. Seriously, you don’t want to miss this super helpful, free guide! Sign up for our newsletter here and you’ll be one of the first people to get your hands on it.

Dr. Tom in "Your Tango" Magazine - It's More Than Just Weight!

Credit: Your Tango Magazine

Credit: Your Tango Magazine

Does Acupuncture Help With Weight Loss?

There's a lot that can be going on when you gain weight, and acupuncture can actually help with many of those things.

Recently, Dr. Tom Ingegno was asked to voice his opinion in YourTango Magazine:

“Weight gain can come from a variety of issues. Looking into the realm of functional medicine, weight gain may be due hormone imbalance, bad gut health, or stress inducing high cortisol levels. Acupuncture can’t magically help people lose weight, but can help resolve some of these underlying issues. Studies have shown that acupuncture combined with diet and exercise can help patients lose about an additional pound a week,” advises Dr. Tom Ingegno, DACM, who owns an integrative medical center in Baltimore, MD.”

To read the entire article, please visit

VIDEO: 3 Tips for Finding a GREAT Licensed Acupuncturist

Screen Shot 2017-11-20 at 9.53.05 AM.png


It can be tough to find the right option in alternative medicine these days. With so many choices, the search can seem difficult but it's easy if you know the right questions to ask.

Today's local holistic expert is here to give you some great tips to help you find the right professional who will quickly treat your issues. 

~  ~   ~

I'm often asked, "Tom, how do I find the right acupuncturist?" The problem is that finding the right choice in acupuncture can feel overwhelming. Acupuncture can often seem foreign and present concepts that we in the West haven't been exposed to before, but the good news is if you have some basic questions at your disposal - making the right choice can be much easier.

If you've heard good things about acupuncture and think it might be a treatment that would fit you, where do you start? Finding someone who is nearby with hours and availability that works for your schedule can be a challenge. I'd like to give you a few tips to help you find a great licensed acupuncturist. 

Tip #1
Do they have a great reputation? 

Social media has made it easy to find out all about your practitioner. Look them up online. Do they have a good amount of positive reviews? You want to make sure that others have had a good experience. It will give you some good information in order to make your decision

Tip #2
Do they offer free consultations? 

Consultations are a great way to meet the acupuncturist, see their location and make sure they are the right fit to help you get the results you're looking for. This is a great opportunity for you to ask the acupuncturist questions about your health issues as well as questions about their experience and training

Tip #3
Do they offer other therapies in their office? 

Acupuncture is amazing, but there are many other techniques that the acupuncturist may be able to provide you to help you get better faster. Not only can a good acupuncturist provide techniques like cupping, Gua Sha, Cupping, dietary advice and herbal medicine, but they may be able to offer modern therapies and supplements as well.

Our expertise is in recovery and peak performance and we focus on helping potential patients reach their health goals with custom treatment plans that can include acupuncture, whole body cryotherapy, massage and more. For a free consultation, they can schedule on our website here or they can call us at 443-869-6584. We're happy to help. We want patients to reach their optimal health levels

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Wow. That's pretty incredible, isn't it? Now you have some great tips to find just the right professional that will help you along. Are you ready to learn more? You can reach today's expert by calling the number on your screen. See you next time

VIDEO: 3 Simple Tips to Help You Be More Limber and Move with Less Pain!

Tom Ingegno, L.Ac.

Tom Ingegno, L.Ac.

Hi there. I'm Tom Ingegno, licensed acupuncturist, and owner at Charm City Integrative Health. Now our office has some amazing services and treatments (acupuncture, cryotherapy, local cryo, Live O2) that help knock down inflammation, improve mobility, and reduce pain, but let's say you can't get it in as often as you like? Here are three simple tips you can quickly implement into daily your health routine

Tip Number 1: Stretching 

Sounds simple right well it is and best of all it's free doesn't have to be an elaborate yoga routine or some crazy pretzel looking things just take some time every morning before you even get out of bed and move around. Stretch and twist and bend and get some blood flowing. Studies show that getting the fascia to move can really help reduce inflammation.

Tip Number 2: Magnesium

Studies suggest that over 80% of the population here in the U.S. is deficient magnesium. Supplementing with this either through a pill or Epsom salt baths or sprays or creams will increase the amount of magnesium in your body which has been shown not only to reduce inflammation that helps improve sleep and even in higher doses, helps with bowel movements.

Top Number 3: Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that's been around than Indian food for thousands of years. It's been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for just about as long as well.  Now studies show that not only is this a great antioxidant but it helps detoxify the liver and reduce systemic inflammation. There are tons and tons of studies to show that turmeric along with bio pairing or black pepper really can help improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Thank you for watching.  If you enjoyed this video, please give us a thumbs up. If you want more tips on integrative health, please click the subscribe button. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave them in the comment section below.

Once again thank you for watching and hope to see you soon!

(DISCLAIMER: With any recommendations, supplements or exercises, please consult a licensed professional.)