They’re touted as a clean snack. Every fitness celeb and supplement company promotes them. But…are protein bars a healthy snack?
Protein bars used to be mainly consumed by burly boys at the gym, but these days you’ll find almost everyone gobbling them up. Even I enjoy a protein bar from time to time. However, I think it’s important to break down exactly what they are, what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to this convenient snack.
What’s a protein bar?
Protein bars are like a chocolate bar, but healthy. Or are they? Often used as a meal replacement, protein bars come in all flavours, shapes and sizes. Some super popular brands are by Quest (their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavour has a cult following) and Optimum Nutrition, just to name a few.
They are sold as a healthy alternative to a chocolate bar, mostly containing carbs and protein. Some brands have nutrients added to them as well. The advantages of protein bars are:
- convenience (you can get them pretty much everywhere these days)
- versatile (can be tossed in your purse or gym bag and consumed as a snack or meal)
- diet compliant (they’re a healthier option when you’ve missed a meal or need a quick bite after a tough workout)
- they’re easy to make at home
- they don’t require refrigeration (more convenience)
What to look for in a good quality protein bar
- Check the ingredient list on the back of the package.
Many times you’ll notice that the caloric count is 300 calories…or more! If you aren’t sure, this is really high. Aim for ones that have about 200 calories.
- Make sure the macros are fairly even.
Choose a bar that has at least half the amount of protein to carb ratio. For example, if the protein bar you’re looking at has 24 grams of carbohydrates, then make sure there’s at least 12 grams of protein. This will ensure it digests slower than just a Kit Kat.
For me personally, I prefer a higher protein amount, around 24 grams is right. Keep in mind, the higher the amount of protein, the more chance it won’t taste all that good.
- Be careful of the sugar amount.
Some bars have a whopping 30 grams of sugar per bar. Whoa! That’s way too much! Your entire day’s worth of sugar intake should be 30 grams. As you can see, having all your allotted sugar amount for one day just in one protein bar is not healthy. Put it back, there are much healthier options. Aim for 2-12 grams of sugar at most.
What to avoid in a protein bar
- Artificial sweeteners.
Also disguised under the names sucralose, aspartame, aspartame-acesulfame salt, erythritol (sugar alcohol), glycerol, isomalt, maltitol, polydextrose, saccharin, sorbitol, and xylitol (another sugar alcohol) just to name a few.
(If you don’t know the dangers of artificial sweeteners, Dr. Axe has a fab article on their dangers and what to avoid found here.)
- Partially Hydrogenated Oils.
Trans fats. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 20 years, you already know the dangers of consuming partially hydrogenated oils.
- High-fructose Corn Syrup
HFCS will cause obesity and disease. So why’s it so readily available? Because it’s super cheap for the government to produce and in turn for companies to buy and use in their “food” products.
- Food Colouring
Yellow 5, Yellow 6 and Red 40 are the worst and have been linked to cancer.
Research also shows us that food dyes are closely linked to allergies, espesh in children.My niece used to get such a violent reaction from foods containing Red 40. We cut it out of her diet when she was a toddler (she’s now 21, so that was awhile ago) as she would get violent temper tantrums and became extremely hyperactive. Ever notice your kiddoes “go a little crazy” when they eat candy or foods with red food dye? It’s not just the sugar, it’s the dye.
Now that you know what to look for, what to avoid and why when it comes to eating protein bars, there aren’t too many I recommend or would personally consume. When I do, I’m eating them as an alternative to a chocolate bar, as a treat.
Right now there is only one protein bar brand I personally recommend and it’s Bulletproof. Their Collagen Protein Bites are kind of new. The macros are spot on and the ingredient list is pretty healthy.
Plus, their Chocolate Collagen Fudge Brownie Protein Bar has only 200 calories (perfect snack amount), 14 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, 11 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar!!!!
Keep in mind that like anything in life, eating a well balanced, mostly unprocessed and clean diet is key to a happy and healthy life.
Do you eat protein bars?
What are you fave brands?
Have you been nervous to try them in case the rumours about their taste is true (yes, some bars do taste like chalky cardboard)?
Add your two cents (or three or four lol) about protein bars b’low and if you have a brand you’re partial to, share that too!