I remember biting into my first protein bar. It was chocolaty, sugary, and… What’s that?? “Healthy?!” I was hooked. Okay, so maybe I don’t remember the exact first time, but I do remember having a major teenage addiction to the convenience of grabbing a sweet Balance or Clif bar when hunger stroke. What I didn’t realize was, although it was healthier than reaching for a candy bar, it was by no means a viable meal replacement.
Okay, so here’s the scoop. There is a time and place for protein or energy bars and there’s also certain criteria for finding one beneficial for your goals. I’m breaking down the good, the bad, and the tasty for picking the best protein bars.
1. Keep sugar in check.
Many protein bars can be loaded with refined sugars and added sweeteners. Make sure your bar has 10 grams or less sugar. Unless you’re training for a marathon (or any other grueling athletic event), your body does not need more added sugars than this. Some of these bars literally have the same amount of sugar as a Snickers! You will also want to make sure the sugar comes from all-natural sources like dried fruit, fruit extract, Stevia, honey, or maple syrup. The major no nos? Refined cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
2. Protein does a body (and booty) good!
Make sure there is enough protein in your bar to keep you satiated and help build and repair strong, curvaceous muscles you’re working so hard to sculpt! I like my bars to have at least 15 grams of protein. The best way to gauge the proper macronutrients is to look at the fat, protein, and carbohydrates as a whole. I prefer bars with somewhere around 30-40% of calories from protein, 30-40% of calories from carbohydrate, and 20-30% of calories from fat.
4. Not all protein is created equal.
Yup, you got to pay attention to the types of protein in your bars! A lot of protein bars will cut cost by using more processed, low-quality proteins. I choose bars made with whey, brown rice, pea, egg-white, or hemp protein. The protein I recommend avoiding is soy protein or soy protein isolate. Processed soy found in soy protein/soy protein isolate can cause a lot of stomach upset and irregular hormone imbalances among other not so pretty side effects.
5. The ingredient list shouldn’t be a novel.
If you’re having to google search more than a couple ingredients in your bar, ditch it! For packaged foods in general, I go by the rule, 5 ingredients or less and/or you should be able to pronounce all of them.
Not sure where to start? Here is a list of my top three favorite protein bars!
1) I Am Bar
My latest addiction, the I Am Bars! This bar is made with grass fed whey protein and all natural ingredients. The Apple Cinnamon is definitely my favorite. It really tastes like an apple pie in your mouth! Especially if you put it in the oven or toaster oven under broil for a couple minutes until golden brown, soft, and gooey. Mmm mmm mmm. The macro nutrients are impeccable as well. They have 7 grams of fat (only 1 g of saturated fat), 25 g of carbs, 19 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein!
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2) Quest Bar
Quest bars can be dangerous. They just taste so da*m good! For protein bars in general, I like to limit it to 1 or 1.5 per day depending on my activity level and the rest of my eating choices. Yes, some of the Quest bars have sucralose in them, but only trace amounts. Macro nutrients for these babies are 8 grams of fat (3 grams of saturated fat) , 21 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 21 grams of protein.
3) NuGo Slim
If you like your bar a little less chewy and a little more chocolaty, NuGo Slim bars are your jam! I love the dark chocolate coating and cookie-like center. Now, this bar does have some soy protein. But I’m willing to choose my battles on this one because the protein is certified non-GMO and also mixed with whey protein. The rest of the ingredients and the macronutrients are on point! Macronutrients for these protein bars are 6 grams of fat (2.5 grams of saturated fat), 19 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.
What’s your favorite protein bar? I would love any new recommendations. Let me know in the comment box below!
Health and happiness,
*Disclaimer: I am an ambassador for IAmBar, however, all opinions are my own. I truly love these bars and support the company as a whole.