I should start by saying that I am in no way, shape, or form any sort of dietician. I did, however, gain 30 pounds throughout two years of college, so I consider myself gifted at the ability to consume mass amounts of food with no remorse. Thankfully I learned how to run, and I can proudly announce that my dad no longer tells me I need to lose weight (in the kindest way possible).
With that being said, I obviously had to find a happy-medium with my diet during my weight loss journey. After *attempting* to eat healthy over the past three years, I’ve come to the conclusion that protein bars are the most cost-efficient snack to keep me full in between meals. BUT YOGURT HAS JUST AS MUCH PROTEIN. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I hear you. I also don’t want to carry around an ice pack at all times, so thank you…but I will stick with my bars.
Even though my love for protein bars is immense, not all are created equal. Since I have no credibility on the basis of being able to boss you guys around by telling you what to eat and what not to eat, I found someone who does. Emily Batten is a registered dietician who works in the Carolinas HealthCare System out of Charlotte. She also has her Masters of Science in Human Nutrition, working at Winthrop University as a part-time professor. I’m just here to tell you what tastes good.
“Although protein is a very important part of our diet, we only need a small amount (0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, that is only 55 grams of protein for an individual weighing 150 pounds), said Batten.
She added, “Since protein keeps you full and satisfied longer than other nutrients; protein bars are a great way to curve your hunger until your next meal.”
So what should you look for when faced with the seemingly never-ending isle of bars staring back at you? Batten says it’s pretty simple.
“Some things to consider when choosing the best protein bar for yourself is to keep it simple. Look for 10-20 grams of protein per bar, and look for whey protein, which is high quality protein that is absorbed and digested easily”, said Batten.
But wait…there’s one more thing. Batten said, “Sugar is another nutrient to be wary about when choosing a protein bar, so keep sugar content as low as possible and watch out for sugar alcohols that can cause stomach distress (examples include: xylitol and sorbitol).”
She added, “If you are watching your weight, I would also limit the fat content to 10 grams.”
To recap, an ideal protein bar should contain no more than 220 calories, have 10-20 grams of protein, 20-30 grams of carbs, 8-12 grams of fat, and possess no sugar alcohols with a short list of ingredients.
Without further adieu, I present you a list of the good vs. the bad.
Say Yes To These Bars:
- Think Thin Protein Bars- Most of these protein bars are gluten free and have close to 20 grams of protein. They have a HUGE flavor variety, and a low glycemic index which means that you will stay full for a while. Grab the Salted Caramel flavor next time you are out at the store.
- KIND Bars- These are my favorite protein bars. Not only are they healthy for you, but the flavor variety is amazing. For those who aren’t into sweets, the company has embraced the savory aspect as well. Say hello to Roasted Almond, Roasted Jalapeño, and Honey Mustard flavored bars.
- Quest Bars- In terms of caloric content, you can’t go wrong with Quest Bars. They are pretty low calorie, and pack a lot of protein punch at the same time. The only thing to be wary of when choosing a Quest Bar would be to try and avoid the ones made with sugar alcohols. Some contain them; some do not. I went on a personal mission to try all of the flavors, and my favorites are Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coconut Cashew, and S’mores. They keep me full for HOURS.
- Health Warrior Chia Protein Bars- Isn’t anything with chia seeds considered a “super food” in today’s society? Hello, omega 3’s. Besides chia seeds, these bars have a lot of plant-based, organic ingredients. You’ll get 10 grams of protein and and added bonus of 5 grams of fiber. It’s an all around win. I opt for the Banana Nut flavor.
- NuGo Go Free Bars- I discovered these bars at Publix, and I am hooked. They are gluten free, vegan and soy free, which means none of those fake ingredients are present. My favorite is the Dark Salted Pretzel. They are also pretty cheap at $1.00 per bar, and have at least 10 grams of protein.
Avoid These Bars (Mostly):
- Luna Bars- I hate to put Luna Bars on the no-go list, because they taste so good. I’m definitely guilty of grabbing a Chocolate Dipped Coconut bar when I’m craving something sweet. With that being said, they are made with a genetically modified soy that contains pesticides. Even though they claim to have “organic” ingredients, there is sadly a lot more sugar than protein in these ones.
- Clif Bars- Don’t get mad at me! Batten said that these bars are only bad if you’re sitting around all day, not doing any physical activity. They have a high caloric count, but do possess a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. If you plan on being active all day, these are fine. If not…say no. Extra carbs and sugar won’t help if you plan on being slim and trim in time for summer. My personal favorite is the Peanut Toffee Buzz.
- Balance Bars- Wrong. There is nothing balanced about these bars. These little suckers contain casein, which is a dairy protein that is really hard for us to digest. They also try to hide the fact that there are a lot of sugars and syrups with the fact that the bars contain “23 vitamins and minerals.” Just say no!
- PowerBar Protein Bars- All I have to say for this one is 27 grams of sugar. Add in the MSG, and you’re looking at a lie. Someone on their marketing team really knows what they are doing.
There you have it, people! Overall, eating a protein bar that’s on the “bad list” isn’t going to kill you. Some nutritionists will have differences in opinions on which bars you should be eating, but the best rule of thumb is the fact that you should be able to pronounce all of the ingredients in the bars you are eating.
Batten said, “Using protein bars as your sole source of protein should be avoided, however, using them occasionally is okay. Focus on getting most of your protein from heart healthy protein sources like nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, fish, poultry, and lean cuts of meat.”