We all love protein bars. Whether it’s for convenience, a sugar craving, or to fuel your workout, protein bars are the snack or meal of choice for a lot of people. However, all bars are NOT created equal. What I try to teach my clients is to NOT live on bars because, to me, they are not real food. They definitely come in handy if there are no other options and 99% of the time, if you looked in my purse, I would definitely have a bar in it.
The reason for this is simple: my bar is my Plan B. If I’m in a situation where there are no good food options near by and I want to avoid driving through for fast food or reaching in a vending machine for a bag of chips, I choose my bar! For the most part, I try to only have a bar once per week.
Here are some guidelines in choosing a good bar:
1) Make sure Whole ingredients are used.
If there are ingredients you don’t know how to pronounce, its probably not good for you.
2) Stay away from bars that use Hydrogenated oils.
This is to keep them on the shelf longer, but they will effect your trygliderydes and you do not want to be eating something that you think is healthy but it’s not! If you have products in your cupboard that can last more than a month without going bad, they most likely have hydrogenated oils in them.
3) Watch the sugars!
A lot of bars have more than 15gm of sugar in them. For example, a zone bar has 18gm of sugar! A cup of frosted flakes has 20gm of sugar! That isn’t healthy! And on another note, make sure its a good healthy sugar. Honey, maple syrup, or stevia would be my top choices. Scurrilous and aspartame are not a good choice. A lot of bars like Think Thin will use sugar alcohols. Try to make sure that it doesn’t have more than 12gm of sugar alcohols. Otherwise, this may really upset your stomach. Sugar alcohols will not raise your blood sugar but they can act like a laxative and make you cramp up severely.
4) Try to get the higher protein bars to keep you satisfied for longer.
I try to shoot for half the grams of carbs in protein to make it a complete bar. For example, if a bar has 24gm of carbs, I want my bar to have at least 12gm or more of protein. This is a great rule of thumb!
Some of my favorite bars:
20gm protein, 24gm carbs, 0 sugar (sweetened with stevia)
7gm protein, 14gm carbs, 5gm sugar (Not all kind bars are perfectly balanced like this one)
12gm protein, 10gm carbs, 5gm sugar
20gm protein, 24gm carbs, 0 sugar, 12 sugar alcohol
Bars to stay away from unless you are an endurance athlete:
10gm protein, 43gm carbs, 21gm sugar
9gm protein, 44gm carbs, 26gm sugar
15gm protein, 23gm carbs, 17gm sugar
7gm protein, 23gm carbs, 18gm sugar
Fiber One Bar:
2gm protein, 29gm carbs, 10gm sugar
Nature Valley Granola Bar:
4gm protein, 29gm carbs, 12gm sugar
9gm protein, 25gm carbs, 11gm sugar
All of these bars are great for runners, triathletes, or a person who is going to do a 2 hour spin class. If your goal is to lose weight and stay balanced, all of these bars are too high in sugar, not enough protein, and could really drive your sugar cravings up instead of making you feel satisfied.
Once again, try not to live on bars. Try to get in whole foods as often as possible and only use a bar for convenience or in case of an emergency. But choose your bar wisely. That bar could be driving up your triglycerides and causing you to actually gain weight if you are getting too much sugar in your daily allotment!