You’re in a hurry, you’re on the go, or maybe you’re just trying to keep full between meals. Truth is, we all reach for that protein bar. But have you ever taken a minute to read through each ingredient? How can you be sure what you’re reaching for isn’t comparative to a candy bar? What things should you be looking for? Especially if you’re in a hurry, you may be turning to a bar that tastes good, but may not have the best nutritional profile.
We’ve put together a few guidelines to help you follow next time you’re in a crunch.
It’s important to pay attention to the calorie count of your protein bar, as they can be highly variable. The sweet spot for a snack, according to Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is between 150-250 calories. Though we would also suggest you consider your fitness goals. Alyssa’s sweet spot is best geared towards the “calorie-conscious.” On the flip side, if your goal is to build lean muscle mass & you’re struggling to get enough calories in each day, a 250+ calorie bar may be heaven-sent!
Hands up if you’ve ever struggled to pronounce or make out certain ingredients …I can assure you, you’re not alone. Our best advice is to look for ingredients that mostly consist of whole foods- nuts, seeds, whole grains, & fruits. A lengthy ingredient list signals a highly processed food.
The best bars include at least 6 grams of protein, the same amount as a hard-boiled egg.
Look for bars that contain at least 3 grams of fiber. Fiber will help promote regularity, control sugar spikes, & help you feel full longer.
Ironically, many protein bars are loaded with sugar. We recommend reaching for a bar that has less than 19 g of sugar–mostly from natural sources, rather than added or sugar alcohols. You should also avoid refined sugars, such as sucrose, corn syrup, & high-fructose corn syrup.
Sugar Alcohols have gained popularity as sweeteners, because they have fewer calories & don’t impact blood sugar as much as table sugar, as they are not well absorbed. However, they do have a downside. While many people have no problem tolerating them, they can cause bloating & intestinal discomfort. Here’s a list of some common sugar alcohols so you can identify them,
Rx Bar: Our Top Pick
It’s exactly what it looks like & that’s why we love it! With the exception of “natural chocolate flavor,” all 6 ingredients are real foods: egg whites, almonds, cashews, dates, cocoa, & sea salt.
Did you know? Egg whites are a great source of protein and “less processed than some of the protein powders that are typically added (to bars),” says Alyssa Rumsey, M.S, RD. Since egg whites have fewer calories than egg yolks, they provide protein while keeping the total calories low, she adds.
The Next Best Thing…
Yes there are 17 grams of sugar in this bar. However, most of the sugar comes from the natural sweetness of dates, which contain 4.5 grams of sugar each. According to the Nutrition Journal, researchers found dates to be a low-glycemic food, meaning they don’t increase blood sugar levels after they are eaten.
tip- consuming natural sugars or sugars that occur naturally in foods, such as fruit, is a good way to give into your sweet tooth without overindulging.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find these? Airports, gas stations…we love how easily we can get our hands on one when we’re on the go. The Madagascar Vanilla is one of their best, with 7 grams of protein & only 4 grams of sugar. On the downside, this bar does contain soy lecithin, which can cause GI problems. However, if it doesn’t affect you, enjoy!
Here is a comparison chart for each of these bars.
If you want to increase your protein intake & aren’t sensitive to sugar alcohols, here are a few other bars you can try.
We’ve included the nutritional facts for each bar below.
Did we cover your protein bar? Which is your favorite?
XOXO, Denise & Emily
On the show, we discuss fitness, nutrition, and how to find a work life balance for the working professional. We interview other influencers and wellness pros that share powerful motivation and inspiration so you can hustle and achieve your goals! But most importantly we keep things real and we'll make you laugh so you can stay sane in the process.