A HELPFUL ARTICLE
5 tips for picking a Protein Bar
I have done a lot of research on Bars..and not just the kind you sip cocktails at. I am talking about the wall of granola bars, snack bars and protein bars at the grocery store. They all have delicious sounding names like “peanut butter cookie crunch” or “chocolate chip cookie dough”. But are they healthy? Do they even taste good? Do I get the protein bar or one without? Which is better? All critical questions when you are about to invest any where from $1.50-4$ a bar. Luckily for you, I often become very hungry while food shopping and have done extensive field testing on some of these that I will share with you here so you can save your wallet and your sanity breaking down these bars.
Tip 1: Less is Better
When looking at the ingredients in a bar, less is definitely better. You want to be able to recognize and pronounce everything in it. If you see chocolate and bunch of other things that sound like a science experiment..don’t go for it. A good example, RX Bar. They list the ingredients right on the front of the package: Egg whites, Almonds, Cashews, Dates. There is no mystery here and you know what you are getting is clean.
Tip 2: Choose Your Sugar
Ideally you want to pick a bar with less than 10g of sugar. Look for a bar that derives its sugar from a natural source like dates, coconut nectar or pomegranate juice, rather than high fructose corn syrup. Why? These sugars have a lower glycemic index which are digested and metabolized more slowly, reducing a large spike in blood sugar. Avoid sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners as these have shown to cause weight gain, not loss and can cause an upset stomach.
Tip 3: Pick Your Protein
Some bars have high amounts of protein, aka “protein bars”, others do not. If you are looking for a bar that is going to keep you fuller longer, you definitely want to pick your protein. It can be derived from whey, pea or plant protein or soy based on your dietary needs. For a snack bar, stick with a protein content of 10-15 grams, but for post-workout, I would say to do around 20g if possible.
Tip 4: Fear of Fat
Many women will see the fat content in some bars and cringe. The truth is, if most of the fats are “healthy” meaning monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, they will actually help keep you fuller longer. So when you see a fat content of 15g, do not freak out. Look at the breakdown of trans fats verses mono/polyunsaturated. In general, try to keep that fat in the 5-10g range as most of them will come from nuts and seeds in bars with clean ingredients.
Tip 5: Carb Content
Unless you are really trying to shred or doing a ketogenic diet where carbs are scarce, try to limit the carbs in a bar to about 20 grams. You definitely want some in there, but not with a lot of added sugar. So what are some of my top picks? Well it depends how hungry I am and how long I will need this snack to hold me over until my next meal. For when I am less hungry but want a little snack to soothe my sweet tooth and curb hunger, I reach for a KIND bar. My personal favorite is Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt. I see all the ingredients I know and the taste is exceptional. Another good choice, the RX bar is a fave among my friends and certainly does have pure ingredients, but the texture and taste are a turn off for me. When I am looking for something that will keep me fuller longer, I will reach for a bar with higher protein content like Square Organics or my new favorite..Beach Bars. Both are gluten free and soy free, the Squares carry a higher calorie and sugar content (210 cal, 11g sugar) when compared to Beach Bars at 150 calories and only 5-6 grams of sugar. Not to mention the taste of the Chocolate Cherry Almond Beach Bar is to die for, but will not kill your waistline. You can also check out other snacks that are easy for on the go in my recent post Snacks to Pack to Stay on Track.