Protein Bars 101
Looking for a nutritious snack on the go or an easy way to get protein for your post workout snack? A protein bar might just fit the bill but not all protein bars are created equal. What should you look for when choosing a protein bar?
Choosing a Protein Bar
Flavour might be the first thing you look for when choosing your bar and there are lots to choose from. Peanut butter, chocolate, salted caramel, and mint to name a few. Next read your ingredient list as some bars are more like glorified chocolate bars. Ideally you should recognize all the ingredients and it should not look like a list of items made in a lab. The more whole food ingredients such as oats, quinoa, almonds, and dates, the better.
On the nutrient facts table calories will be in bold on the new food label and easy to spot. Protein bars can range in calories from 170 calories for a smaller snack sized bar to 300 calories for the larger higher protein bars.
Look for a high-quality protein source such as nuts, peanut, whey or soy protein isolate, egg white, brown rice or pea protein.
How much protein is there in one bar? To be a protein bar I recommend at least 7-8g per 45g bar for a snack and up to 20g for a post-workout recovery snack.
Choose bars made with healthy fats from real foods such as nuts, flax seed, peanuts and other seeds and avoid palm oil and hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Chose one with less saturated fat and more omega 3. Unless you are looking for a Keto bar, try to keep the fat to no more than 10 grams.
A healthy protein bar should also offer at least 2g of fibre. If you have a sensitive stomach or be careful of bars containing large amounts of synthetic fibres such as chicory root or corn as they can cause bloating and gas.
Some protein bars can be quite high in sugar based on the nutrition facts table. Check out the ingredients to make sure the sugar source is from food. Natural sweeteners such as dried fruit and fruit purees are terrific sweeteners. Sugar is a carbohydrate and it gives you energy so some sugar is fine, especially if it comes with nutrients. Steer clear of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols such as maltitol, erythritol and xylitol which can cause gastrointestinal distress.
- RXBars are a great example of these components. They are made with real ingredients and not too many, they contain 12g of protein from egg whites and nuts, they have 7-9g of healthy fats and the sugars come from real fruit.
- GoMacro Organic Macrobar is a Vegan protein bar which contains 11g of protein from brown rice, pea protein and peanuts, 3 grams of fibre, healthy fats from flax, nuts and seeds and no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols.
- Iron Vegan is also a Vegan bar with 16 grams of protein from sprouted grains and fava beans, nuts and seeds. There are only 4 grams of sugar, no sugar alcohols and it is sweetened with stevia. Iron Vegan is the highest fibre protein bar with 16g of fibre from a synthetic tapioca dextrin fibre.
- Cliff Builder Bar and Vega Protein bar are 2 of the highest protein bars available with 20g of protein each. Vega is slightly lower in sugar, both are sweetened with natural sugars and no sugar alcohols. Cliff Builder bar is also high in iron and Vega is high in fibre. Unfortunately, both contain some palm kernel oil.
- Simply Protein and Simply Protein Whey Bars are low in sugar with only 1 g per bar and no sugar alcohols. They contain 15-16g of either whey or soy protein and are gluten free.
The Bottom Line
Choose a bar made with real food, that has a decent amount of protein, some fibre, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, not too much sugar and no sugar alcohols. Use your food label to help compare bars and find the one that is right for you.