For the fitness-minded, grabbing a protein bar can be a great supplement as part of a broad healthy eating plan when you’re on the road or too busy to have a balanced meal. They are not, however, meant to be a meal replacement even though that is exactly how many people treat them.
Not all protein bars are created equal. Some are very high in saturated fats, sugars and calories and are nothing more than a glorified candy bar. The next time you look for a protein bar, pay close attention to what you are actually eating or you may unknowingly be sabotaging your fitness goals.
For example, the other day I came across a protein bar that actually had on the label “Powered by Snickers”. Are you kidding me? If you are trying to eat healthy by monitoring your caloric intake, this is not something you want to put into your body. It is imperative you read the label.
As a general rule of thumb, if there are more than 10 ingredients, if it is owned by a company that makes a breakfast cereal with a cartoon character on the box, if it has ingredients like Hydrogenated Oil, Sodium Aluminosilicate, Tyrosine, Corn Syrup Solids, Phenylalanine, Aspartame, or Caffeine…run fast and far!
[Related: Portion Control & How to Curb Overeating]
In terms of ingredients, remember: Less is more.
Limit your choice to a protein bar that has just a few ingredients, especially those that are recognizable and familiar, and those that are low in saturated fat and calories.
So which options are the best? Here are three choices you can feel confident reaching for next time you are looking for a great protein bar:
Lara Bar – A tasty raw food energy bar with an ingredient list is short and sweet: fruit, nuts, and a spice or two and void of gluten, dairy and soy. The consistency of the bar is excellent and the taste is fantastic without any bizarre flavors from unnecessary additives. This is a perfect choice to munch on when you need a quick burst of energy, like between sets or after a workout.
LUNA Bar – These are high in protein and satisfy the cravings for something sweet. They come in tasty flavors like Chocolate Dipped Coconut, Toasted Nuts and Cranberry. These bars are gluten-free and provide a great source of iron and Vitamin D. As an added bonus, they are also high in calcium and folic acid.
Clif Bars – Offer a great balance of carbohydrates, protein (9-11 grams) and fiber (4-5 grams). These also contain 23 vitamins and minerals and are free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, flavors, preservatives and ingredients sourced from genetically modified foods.
When it is all said and done, remember to keep it simple and clean. You only get one body, treat it well!
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Dejinira Lee, Certified Personal Trainer
Dejinira has been a personal trainer and group fitness instructor since 1996. She holds nationally recognized certifications from UCLA, Tufts University School of Nutrition, the Arthritis Foundation, YMCA, and the American Council on Exercise. She is also CPR and AED certified. Dejinira’s own quest for a healthier lifestyle began in the 90’s and she soon discovered a passion to help others. Her approach to health, wellness and life is finding balance and harmony of mind, body and spirit. Her motto is, “Have fun getting fit and never underestimate your own strength!” Some of her favorite formats to teach include Core Strength, Aqua, Gravity and Zumba.