Certain protein bars contain more sugar than a snickers bar and can cause blood sugar levels to spike way higher than a 7/11 Slurpee! However, not all protein bars are junk food and I personally recommend a few brands for those times when you’re hungry and on the go. Protein bars are convenient, but as we all know, the fast, convenient foods aren’t always the healthiest. Here’s what you need to keep an eye on when it comes to protein bars.
Sugar content. If there is a low amount of fiber and a high amount of sugar (which would make the protein bar high in Net Carbs) we want to completely avoid it (unless we are competing in some strenuous endurance event requiring fast-digesting carbs). Many companies try to disguise sugar in the ingredients list by putting one of these words on the list. Don’t be fooled- it’s still sugar!
Also, just to warn you. Some protein bar companies replace sugar with artificial sweeteners so that the net carbs are lower. Artificial sweeteners can be worse than sugar itself- overdo them and you will find yourself booking it to the bathroom (if you’ve ever had sugar-free gummy bears you know what I’m talking about…)
Look for whole foods. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fruit are all great things to have in a well-rounded protein bar.
Protein of course! I would make sure that the bar contains at least 10 grams of protein (otherwise you’re having more a carb bar than a protein bar).
Crazy ingredient names like Azodicarbonadmide (seriously, its an ingredient…). If you have to think more than a few seconds about how to pronounce an ingredient think twice about that protein bar. Also, if the list of ingredients is seemingly endless select another option.
Buzzwords. Buzzwords are just meant to distract us and make us think a product is healthier than it really is. Watch out for “green”, “organic”, “good source of”, and “energy.” These all sound great but really many of these bars are just loaded with cheap, low-quality ingredients and a very minimal amount of the actual “good” stuff.
I have yet to discover a perfect protein bar out there that meets all of the above requirements. Does this mean that I completely eliminate protein bars from my diet? Definitely not. It is better to eat a protein bar than to starve yourself (DON’T STARVE YOURSELF!) Just do your best to select only the healthiest protein bars. Bars should not replace healthy meals or be an everyday snack. Let me reiterate that it is best to eat wholesome fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, etc. when that is available.
Here are my top three protein bars and the reasons why I love them!
Quest Bars: 21 grams of protein and 190 calories per bar is an excellent protein to calorie ratio. Quest bars are also sweetened with stevia (currently the most widely accepted healthy and natural sweetener to use). Perhaps the reason it takes #1 of my list is the fact that their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough tastes the best of any protein bar out there. The downside is that they are super pricey $$$.
Kirkland Signature Cookie Dough Bar: This protein bar tastes similar to the Cookie Dough Quest Bar and has almost identical ingredients and costs lest than $1 per bar if you buy them at Costco!
The Perfect Bar. With 17 grams of protein and 310 calories, the protein to calories ratio is not this bar’s strong suit. However, the ingredients contained in the bar make this protein bar well rounded with healthy fats, low-glycemic carbs (mostly), and of course, lean protein. This protein bar is definitely not ideal post workout as it contains protein sources that are not fast-digesting as well as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (which are great- just not post workout). This bar is much more filling than a Quest bar and is more like a meal-replacement bar. I personally think they taste good and provide more long-term energy than other protein bars out there.
Let me know what your favorite protein bar is. I enjoy switching things up and trying new brands, flavors, and types. Protein bars are a convenient way to make sure you have adequate amounts of protein as well as vitamins and minerals to fuel your workouts and your active healthy lifestyle. I hope this post helps you to make more educated decisions when you pick out a protein bar next time you’re on the go!