Protein Bars are not all created equal…
When determining if a protein bar is good for you, you need to consider the protein source, the amount of protein and what other nutrients it’s paired with. Many protein bar options are far too low in protein and fibre, and high in carbohydrate or fat. So, just any protein bar doesn’t make the cut as a selection for our patients at Clear Medicine.
I base my choices on the bar ingredients and it’s nutrition profile. With respect to ingredients, it must not contain added sugar (even in the form of dates, honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, cane sugar, molasses, and agave), artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, etc.), harmful fats (soy, cottonseed, vegetable oil, hydrogenated oils) and allergens like soy or gluten, especially if you have sensitivities.
Here are my suggested guidelines of what to look for when shopping for protein bars:
- High-quality protein sources: Protein bars that source their protein from high-quality isolates and concentrates (such as whey protein) are the most beneficial.
- Natural sweeteners: Choose options with minimal amounts of natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit.
- Whole-food ingredients: The best protein bars only use whole food or natural ingredients — no artificial ingredients allowed. The bars with fewer ingredients usually are best.
- Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and they also help to keep you satiated. Opt for protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that include vegetable oils.
- Low to no synthetic or isolated fibre: Avoid those that contain corn fibre, which can cause bloating and increase the risk of allergic symptoms. We used to suggest Quest Protein bars at Clear Medicine but when they changed to a corn-based fibre, we stopped recommending them to our patients.
- Low in sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols have risen in popularity recently because they are a low-calorie way manufacturers can sweeten protein bars. Consuming large quantities of this ingredient, however, can cause bloating for some people.
As far as nutrition content guidelines, look for products that contain this range of nutrients:
- 10 – 20 grams of protein at minimum: The ideal options are those that contain more protein, especially if you are looking for a meal replacement. Go for 15-20 grams of protein if you’re looking to stay strong and lean and at least 10 grams of protein for a snack.
- 5 grams sugar maximum: The best protein bars have no more than five grams of sugar.
- Aim for less than 20 grams of net carbs. For example, some of the flavours of B-Up Bars that we now stock at Clear Medicine contain 28 grams of carbs minus 14 grams of fibre, which totals 14 grams of net carbs.
- NRG Bar from Designs for Health
- Built Bar
- If you have found a good option – message me on Instagram – I’m always looking for more!
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