Anel and I are always looking for good snacks that we can take on-the-go. I always get hungry in the car, and he needs something to grab quickly between clients at work. We both love the idea of bars, but have really only found one that both tastes good and has clean ingredients… so I asked my friend Amanda, a nutritionist, what her thoughts were. Here is what she had to say:
If I had a nickel for every time a client or friend asked me what my favorite protein bar is, I’d be one rich little lady. Convenience snacks continue to be all the rage, and I would argue that protein bars top the list as most women’s fave grab-n-go snack. But… there’s one problem with our beloved protein bars.
The quality of most bars on the market is no better than that of a candy bar. Despite the attempts to make us believe they’re healthy – i.e. “Gluten-free!” “All natural!” “Low in sugar!” and, yes, even “100% organic!” – the vast majority of protein bars will leave you with a sugar high (eventually craving more sugar) similar to what you would experience if you simply ate a Snickers.
Speaking of Snickers, let me put this in perspective for you…
One might reason that the quality of the sugar is different in these bars compared to the white sugar in Snickers, and they would be right. Clif uses beet syrup, organic brown rice syrup, and organic dried cane syrup (yes, all in one bar!), and Perfect Bar uses organic honey.
But remember, sweet friend, sugar is sugar, and although your body may be able to discern the difference between honey and straight up white sugar, it uses both in a very similar manner.
I’m certainly not downplaying Clif or Perfect Bars (in fact, my hubby stocks our fridge with Perfect Bars and I tend to crave them as dessert during my pregnancy!), but I wanted to give you a comparison as to why we have to be extra careful when it comes to choosing a protein bar.
And, unfortunately, it’s not just the sugar we have to worry about.
It’s all of the other ingredients, too. Ingredients such as…
Soluble corn fiber (Just because it says fiber, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing!)
Calcium caseinate (Protein derived from casein in milk)
Malitol (Sugar alcohol)
Sorbitol (Sugar alcohol)
Canola Oil (Most likely GMO)
Soy protein isolate (Most likely GMO)
Whey protein isolate (Difficult to digest if not grass-fed)
Natural flavors (What does natural even mean?)
Powdered yogurt (On all of the “yogurt-coated” bars)
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (Trans fats, anyone?)
BHT (A preservative)
Corn syrup (Hello, diabetes)
Brown rice syrup(Fancy way of saying sugar)
Dried cane syrup (Another fancy way of saying sugar)
BHT, canola, and malitol, oh my! If I were you, I’d run to your cabinet now to read the ingredient list of your favorite bars and see if any of the above make an appearance. I’m not trying to scare you, so don’t fret! Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your food choices.
And now that you’re a protein bar pro, you can start making healthy decisions. Here’s a list of my top five recommended protein bars, in no particular order:
Dale’s Raw Protein Bars: Dale is one smart dude. He uses a combo of different organic vegan protein options such as pea and hemp, bringing his total protein content per bar to 20 grams. The sugar content is one of the lowest on the market at six grams, and the only sugar additions he uses are coconut nectar and date paste. REAL food. These bars do have a chalkier taste because of the protein base, but they are of superior quality. One caveat: you have to order online since they aren’t sold in stores.
Square Organics: Square Organics are definitely a bit more candy bar-ish than I’d like, but the chocolate coating does help take away from the similar chalky taste because of the high protein content. These can sometimes be a great option when sitting on the shelf next to some of the other aforementioned brands.
22 Days Nutrition Plant Power Protein Bars: With five grams of sugar and 15 grams of protein, these bars have everything you need in one little package. Taste-wise, these are my personal favorite, especially in the peanut butter chocolate chip flavor!
Primal Kitchen Dark Chocolate Almond Bars: These bars are chewy AF and not organic, but with three grams of sugar, 15 grams of healthy fats and 15 grams of protein from grass-fed collagen, I’d say you’re winning. Just don’t eat them in public because they will get stuck in your teeth.
Go Macro Protein Purity: I love all of the ingredients in these bars (their entire protein line), except for the brown rice syrup. It’s really difficult to make a bar without using some type of liquid sugar base, but these are an excellent choice compared to most, especially in this particular flavor if you or the person you are buying for is allergic to nuts.
Or better yet, you can always make your own bars! Here’s my favorite recipe from my blog, Healthy Wifestyle: Vegan Cookie Dough Protein Bars. These got so popular I started selling them locally here in Connecticut!
And don’t forget, we can keep hanging out during my free Food or Fiction Video Training Series. Watch this video and click here to join us!