Although eating protein bars on a regular basis is not ideal, at times we all need a quick grab and go snack/meal. Choosing the best protein bar for you and your family can be daunting especially since there are so many options on the market. But don’t get side tracked just because a bar is gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar free, soy-free, vegan, or paleo, it does not mean it is healthy.
First, lets talk about the nutritional facts. What should you look at?
- Sugar: You want the sugar count to be as low as possible. If the protein bar you are looking at has 0 grams of sugar, chances are it is filled with artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. I recommend looking for a bar with less than 8 grams of sugar.
- Carb to protein ratio: Now this varies depending on your fitness levels and wellness goals. If you are somebody who is trying to lose weight or build muscle I recommend choosing a bar with a carb to protein ratio somewhere around 1-2:1. If you are an endurance athlete and exercising for over 90 minutes, you need closer to 3-4:1.
- Fiber: I recommend finding a protein bar with roughly 5 grams of fiber to help slow down digestion, stabilize blood sugar, and help you feel full longer.
Ingredients that you should ABSOLUTELY stay away from:
- High fructose corn syrup: This is found in a number of protein bars because it is cheap and widely available. Eating this on a regular basis could lead to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even liver dysfunction.
- Artificial sweeteners: splenda, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose are all artificial sweeteners that can cause headaches, mood swings, digestive dysfunction (cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea), and blood sugar instability.
- Soy Protein Isolate: Whether soy is good or bad for you is highly controversial. Organic, non-GMO soy may be okay for you in moderation. However, soy is a common allergy/intolerance that can cause a number of symptoms when consumed in large quantities and not to mention the majority of the soy used in the US is genetically modified. However I am not referring to organic, non-GMO soy or even better a fermented soy, I am referring to soy protein isolate. The way this ingredient is manufactured is highly toxic. First of all, key nutrients found in soy are stripped through the process to make it nearly carbohydrate and fat free. It has also been found to contain aluminum, hexane and nitrites.
- BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene): This is a preservative that is added to some protein bars to help increase its shelf life. This chemical has been found to be both carcinogenic (cancer causing) and an endocrine disruptor (causes hormonal imbalances). Therefore, I recommend avoiding at all cost.
So what bars can I eat?
I would love to (at some point) develop the perfect protein bar because there are very few bars that are absolutely 100% clean. If you prefer to not purchase any pre-wrapped goods, check out Landria’s Super Paleo Snacks cookbook for make ahead protein bars or snacks that I just know you and your kids will love. But here is the list of the ones I have found to be the best.
- Primal Kitchen Collagen Bars: This company has several flavors including dark chocolate almond bars, coconut cashew bars, and chocolate hazelnut bars. While they are chewy and at times exhausting to eat, they have a good nutritional profile. Food is fuel right? They are gluten, grain, dairy, and soy free for those of you that have food intolerances. They also contain as much (if not more) collagen than bone broth. The total sugar count is low at 3 grams per bar and derived from honey rather than high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. The bars contain 6 grams of fiber so they will keep you full longer and balance blood sugar. Finally, these bars have a 1:1 carb to protein ratio so they are excellent for those watching carbs and trying to lean up.
- Oatmega bars: This company has about 8 different flavors so starting with a variety pack may be smart. These bars are rich in omega 3 (derived from Responsibly-Caught Fish), high in fiber (about 7 grams derived from chicory root), and only 5 grams of sugar. These bars are gluten-free and non-GMO however they contain dairy (from whey) and small traces of soy lecithin (although it is organic). The carb to protein ratio is 1.5:1 so great for those tracking carbs.
- Raw Rev Glo: I personally love supporting this company because it was started by a nurse (bias I know). These bars are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO. However, they do contain peanuts and small traces of soy for those with allergies/intolerances. I like these bars because they contain a large amount of healthy fats from coconut oil, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. These bars are high in fiber and they contain a prebiotic to feed the good bacteria in your gut.
Based on these 3 bars, here are the awards I would give:
Best taste: Raw Rev Glo
Best nutritional profile: Primal Kitchen Collagen Bars
Most creative: Oatmega Bars
Remember no protein bar is perfect, however it is important to read food labels and nutritional facts to know what you are eating. Stay away from high sugar and artificial protein bars. When given the choice, I always recommend cooking and eating whole foods. However, I know life gets busy and sometimes that is just not an option.
Do you have a healthy protein bar that you absolutely love? Leave a comment and I would love to look into it.