Dear Leah Renee,
What’s your take on protein bars? Love them or hate them? Are they healthy or not? ~Alice, CA
Oh, protein bars. They’re everywhere. I remember when there were a handful of companies that made them, and people only used them for long hikes or camping trips. Now? People are eating them as meal replacements or snacks, even when they have access to other real-food options. I get it, it’s convenient – I certainly grab them when I need to too. It’s a quick fix. But a quick fix is rarely quality. Everything is next best to real food. Our bodies are so old school. The closer to nature the better. Our body doesn’t care about the convenience factor. It doesn’t care about pretty packaging. Joe Cross said it well:
I’m not going to lie that many of the protein and energy bars out there are super tasty. Unfortunately so many of them are just a candy bar in disguise.
While some protein bars contain quality ingredients like mainly just nuts and seeds, there are others which contain ingredients that are just plain crap. Some of those bad ingredients are hydrogenated oils, GMOs, processed commercial proteins, “natural flavors”, high fructose corn syrup, and any other ingredients you can’t even pronounce. If it says it’s “sugar free”, that typically means there’s something else worse in place of it. You’re better off with the real thing. A lot of harmful ingredients are used just to extend the shelf life. Does that mean it’ll stay in our stomachs even longer? Just kidding.
Here are the reasons why I think they can be good:
- Quick, easy, and energizing if you get the right kind
- Certainly better than grabbing a big mac and fries
- They can be a great travel companion when there isn’t anything reliable to eat
- A good way to add some superfoods in your diet if they contain ingredients like chia, hemp, spirulina, or goji berries. (You can even make your own hemp bars or matcha balls!)
- Most things are OK in moderation
Here’s why I think they’re worth passing on:
- Commonly used ingredients like soy, gmo’s, fractionated oils, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) are just not worth having
- If they contain too much sugar (over 10 grams per bar)
- If they contain artificial sugars (sucralose, maltitol, sorbitol) many brands use in place of natural sugar. If the sugar is solely from dates, it is definitely better since our body recognizes that as real.
- If you’re not looking to put on weight, it’s best to find a bar that’s 150 or under as a snack
- I love chocolate as much as the next girl, but a balanced meal doesn’t usually include it. So if your bar does….well 😉
1. Uber by Lara Bar. All of these bars contain whole, real ingredients. Most of the line has 10 grams of sugar or less. They’re gluten free and non-GMO.
2. KIND Bars. KIND came out with bars containing 5 grams of sugar, which I was very happy about. They recently introduced savory bars such as jalapeno, honey mustard, and smoked BBQ all packed with 10 grams of protein made up of easily digestible pea and hemp proteins. I tried the jalapeno and I’m obsessed (I tend to enjoy savory more than sweet though). No artificial ingredients. Gluten free. Yes, some contain some chocolate, but not too much.
3. Elemental Bars. These are probably my favorite. I love these and are a great meal replacement bar when I travel. They taste fantastic. They are raw, vegan, organic, gluten and GMO free. Made with quality hemp hearts and full of superfoods. There’s not much explaining to do here–these bars are just about as clean as they come and made with love!
4. Gnu Foods. These are great for those who are not gluten free. They have quality wheat proteins and whole grains naturally high in fiber, are non-GMO, soy free, with good quality ingredients.
5. Chia Bar by Health Warrior. I love these little things. I take them with me when I am on the road, or going to be out for a long time for in between meals. They’re 100 calories a piece with all the nutrients of healthy chia seeds–and only 4 grams of sugar. They don’t contain a ton of protein, but pack a lot of fiber and omega-3s, which is why they’re the perfect snack. Gluten free, vegan and GMO free.
The bottom line: Protein bars are convenient but not a substitute for real food when it’s available. When in a bind, traveling, or out for a long time, they are a great way to stay on track and keep you from reaching or binging on something bad for you.
What do you think? Do you love protein bars? Have them often? What are your fave ones?