Protein bars can be fantastic supplements to your diet. They are ideal to carry in your bag or purse in case you get hungry when you find yourself surrounded by only fast food restaurants and vending machines. But protein bars aren’t all the same and they most assuredly aren’t all good for you! If you aren’t making them from scratch where you can control the ingredients, you must read the labels. What should you look for?
- Zero trans fats – any amount of trans fat is bad.
- Low sugar and low sugar alcohols.
- A minimum of 15 grams of protein. I personally look for at least 20 grams.
- 20-30 grams of carbohydrates.
- A high carbohydrate to fiber ratio. Fiber helps with blood sugar stabilization which in turns aids in appetite control. If one bar has 40 grams of carbs and 8 grams of fiber, it has 20% fiber content from the carbohydrates. If another bar has 30 grams of carbs and 2 grams fiber, with all else being equal, opt for the first bar.
- 8-15 grams of healthy fats which are usually from nuts or seeds.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. Examples are aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.
- Avoid gelatin, aka hydrolyzed protein, bovine protein, bovine gelatin, and hydrolyzed gelatin. While gelatin is technically a protein because in scientific tests it shows the proper nitrogen levels, it is definitely not a quality source of protein. It is made from ground up cow hooves. To put it another way, JELLO is nearly 100% gelatin. If the bar says it provides 20 grams of protein and gelatin as an ingredient, you are not getting 20 grams of a high quality protein.
Don’t be fooled by most of the commercially advertised bars such as Snickers’ Marathon Chewy Chocolatey Peanut bar, Clif Chocolate Brownie bar, or even Power Bar Harvest Oatmeal Raisin Cookie bar. The Marathon bar has 26 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber which is a pretty good ratio. But it has 15 grams of sugar and only 13 grams of protein. Don’t eat it. The Clif bar also has 5 grams of fiber but 44 grams of carbs, 22 grams of sugar and a mere 10 grams of protein. Don’t eat it. The Power Bar has 5 grams of fiber, but 43 grams of carbs, 22 grams of sugar and only 10 grams of protein. Don’t eat it.
Don’t get sucked in by the front labeling. The FDA doesn’t regulate the words on the front of the bar so manufacturers can basically claim whatever they want. For instance, the Promax Nutrition Cookies ‘n Cream bar boasts “All Natural” on the front of the packaging but after reading the ingredient list, I question their definition of “natural.” In part, it contains “high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dutch processed cocoa and sodium bicarbonate.” Do these sound natural?
You should ask friends or trainers which protein bars they prefer and why. Then ask if they’ll give or sell you some to try. Everyone’s tastes are different so don’t expect that you will like every bar that they do. Also, don’t automatically discount an entire manufacturer just because you don’t like one flavor they offer.
Once you find some protein bars you like, look online for the best price and be sure to factor in shipping costs. Many of the national chain stores are way over priced, even with regularly offered specials!
If you have a question about a specific bar or which online companies to search for, please contact me. I’ll be glad to help!