Best and Worst Protein Bars

Best and Worst Protein Bars

Have you ever found yourself out and about, hungry and just craving a quick snack? Sometimes, NutriBlasts just aren't available on hand when you're feeling hungry and need a lasting boost in your energy. This is usually when protein bars enter the scene and, while we may all think they're healthy, many options on the market today are no healthier than your average candy bar.

When hunger hits and you're faced with the countless options at the grocery store, it becomes challenging to make the healthiest choice. But fear not! We're here to help you navigate through the chaos!

Choosing a Protein Bar

Don’t get tricked by clever marketing techniques and pretty pictures. Words like Organic and All Natural can be decieving. Make sure you read ingredients and nutrition facts to fully understand what types of ingredients are in your bars. Go for the bars that are low in sugar and saturated fats and that are packed with whole food ingredients that you can read and identify.

A good rule of thumb is to look for the following when making a selection:

  • At least 3g of fiber
  • Less than 12g of sugar
  • Less than 300mg of sodium
  • Less than 3g of saturated fats
  • 6 - 8g of protein for a snack bar, 10 - 15g of protein for a meal bar
  • Should be able to read and identify all the ingredients as foods

Best Protein Bars

1. LaraBar Uber Roasted Nut Roll

Fourteen grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein and an ingredient list full of real foods makes this a go-to on my list. You can usually find these at most gas stations, Targets and Walmarts, which means you will always have a healthy option wherever you go.

2. Vega One, All-in-one Nutrition Bar

With 250 calories, 15 grams of protein, a greens blend and probiotics, this bar will not only give you a healthy dose of fuel, but will also make your GI tract smile! The addition of a probiotic helps balance the gut flora and regulate digestion. Probiotics are not only good for the GI tract, but can decrease inflammation and boost the immune system.

3. Health Warrior Chia Bars

With chia as a main ingredient, these bars are a great food to eat. Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids that decrease inflammation throughout the body and promote concentration and brain health, and with only 4 grams of sugar and 13 grams of carbohydrates, this bar is great to grab when you're out and about.

4. Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars, Raspberry Chocolate

While this bar is a little higher in sugar and carbohydrates, 13 grams and 23 grams, respectively, the ingredient list is spot on. There are no preservatives, chemicals or dyes added to this bar and it may be just what your body needs to hold you over until your next meal.

Common Bars Mistaken for Healthy

1. Clif

Packed with enough carbohydrates to fuel you through a 3+ hour workout, most of us would be better off not picking this bar up at all. Unless you're going on an all-day hiking extravaganza, make a different choice. Over 42 grams of carbs and more than 22 grams of sugar, this bar should be reserved for endurance athletes only. The first ingredient is brown rice syrup, not something we're looking for! The main sources of protein are soy protein isolates, which may have negative health implications when eaten over a long period of time.

2. Luna

Luna bars contain soy and vegetable glycerins that will be more likely to slow you down than boost you up. With a laundry list of ingredients, its best to put this bar down and pick another option.

3. ProBar Superfood Slam

With 46 grams of carbs and 30 grams of sugar, this bar is more of a candy bar than a health food. Did you know your average Snickers bar has 33 grams of carbohydrates and 27 grams of sugar? Looks like the Snickers bar may be a better option... This bar is a perfect example of how you can be tricked into thinking something is healthy - the fresh packaging and use of keywords like Superfood can quickly make you think you're making the right choice. Remember to always read nutrition facts and ingredients on prepackaged foods.

4. Balance Bars

The concept for these high protein bars is fantastic, but the ingredients leave more to be desired. Corn syrup is the second ingredient on the list, meaning that after their protein blend, it's one of the most prevalent ingredients in the mix. There is also high fructose corn syrup, Dextrose, Fractionated Vegetable Oil (Palm Kernel Oil = TRANS FATS) and soybean oil. Steer clear of these bars and choose a bar from the healthier options list above!

I am a big fan of choosing whole fruits and vegetables over prepacked goods, but sometimes reality is not on your side. When I have some free time, I like to make my own bars to stock pile at work or carry with me. Check out this recipe for making healthy bars at home!

Healthy Homemade Snack Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package of pitted dates
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of peanut butter
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries or raisins

***Add a scoop of your favorite protein powder for an added punch!

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients except cranberries to your Tall Cup.
  2. Extract - you may need to add a little water to get things moving.
  3. Add dried raisins or cranberries at the end and pulse for 5 seconds.
  4. Roll into balls and place in the freezer.
  5. Enjoy!

Do you have any recipes or bars that you like? Be sure to share your tips and tricks!

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics


Comments
Comment by JavaManOne
September 07, 2014
I completely disagree with the author on the "soy isolate implication." Show me some written, well documented and very reliable scientific proof. This is bunk! And the author fails to mention Clif regular or Builder protein bar? The numbers provided are off, and please - read the label on sugars. This isn't white processed sugars, the sources are much better than that but you don't mention this. I work out, heavy 3 days per week and moderate to heavy 3 days per week. You need 0.6 - 0.9 grams of complete protein each day per every pound of body weight. Exercise will require you to fulfill these numbers if you are going to properly rebuild muscle, reduce fat. If your trying to get healthy and not exercising than that too is a problem. I not a complete vegan, I do eat chicken breast and other sources of high protein, non-red meats to ensure enough protein. Powders are great supplements in smoothies. I use GNC Soy Isolate and have thoroughly check this brand up against other before selecting this one. Perform your due diligence and don't believe all you read in these very incomplete, undocumented articles. Carbs are important if you're having good weekly workouts. If you want to be healthy without routine exercise than your "healthy equation" won't balance out. Here is one current article: http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/ask-diet-doctor-last-word-soy-protein-isolate - I would also suggest reading The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esslestyn who sources some studies over 20+ years of diets in China by experts from the US. He also refers to studies at the Cleveland Clinic Cardiovascular group. We certainly can trade articles for both arguments but consider the authors, the expertise and documentation. You might also wish to read this http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/08/06/how-soy-can-kill-you-and-save-your-life/#close
Comment by aviciana
August 20, 2013
Ditto many of the other comments: Love the KIND bars! Of course, they are definitely a 'snack' in my book and not meal replacement ;)
Comment by ashropa32
August 16, 2013
Hi I just tried making this and my dates won't blend completely. I added a little water but that didn't help and now it's hard to try and make them into balls. Please help!
Comment by Falker
July 26, 2013
Any comments on the Atkins protein meal replacement bars? I use the Atkins bars as my go to bar but on days when I want more protein I have a CLIF Builders 25 grams of protein bar with a boiled egg and a large apple, I'm full for hours.
I personally don't like the Atkins protein bars because they are filled with so many processed ingredients like maltitol (a processed corn sugar), glycerin, hydrolyzed gelatin, soybean oil (high chance this is GMO), palm kernel oil (trans fat). When I look at these ingredients vs the ingredients I would use if I made it myself, I always go for the more food based option. Try making the date ball and using a scoop of protein powder in the recipe. I promise you they are super tasty! Honestly, plain oatmeal would be a good go-to with the hard boiled egg and apple or grapefruit or raisins or even a quick Blast in the morning.
Clif bars are at least non-GMO....but, it takes me ALL day to eat just 1!! I also like Nature's Path rice bars - very satisfying without the weighing down - AND, they're also non-GMO!!!
I like Clif Bars when I am doing backcountry camping and need a high dose of energy. I will have to check out the Nature's Path rice bars. Thanks for the info!
Sarah: I hesitate to ask, but I'll ask anyway: How does the KIND bars rate in your book?
The KIND bars are not bad, I have them every once in awhile and they are full of real food ingredients. They are more of a sweet treat in my opinion but still a good healthy alternative to most bars. My only issue with them is they can be high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which may not keep you feeling full long enough. I suggest grabbing the Blueberry Pecan + Fiber as it has the lowest amount of sugar (12g) and a decent amount of protein. Great question!!
Reply by Jalacci
July 27, 2013
KIND has a few new bars that have 4-5 grams of sugar. Cashew & Ginger spice, Madagascar vanilla almond, dark choc nuts& sea salt, dark choc pecan cinnamon
Comment by Bethchud
July 19, 2013
Can you provide the nutrition facts for this? How many servings for this recipe? Thanks.
This recipe makes about 6 servings. Each serving has 153 calories, 24g of carbohydrates, 6g fat, 3g protein, 16mg sodium and 17g of sugar. This does not include the optional protein powder.
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