Protein Bars: Healthy Option Or Diet Disaster
If you’ve been doing your reading about proper nutrition, you likely know already that one thing you must be focusing on is getting more protein into your diet. Protein is important for keeping your hunger stabilised, your blood glucose regulated, for promoting fast recovery from any exercise you might be doing, and for ensuring that you are giving your body all the structural building blocks it needs to generate various body tissues. All in all, it’s the most important nutrient you need to be eating. This said, many people struggle to get enough protein into their plan. To help make it easier, you may be considering a protein supplement of sorts – namely, protein bars.
Let’s give you the low down on what you need to know about protein bars.
The first thing to keep in mind is the fact that calories do count. Make sure that you check the calorie content of any bar you’re thinking of eating as you might just be surprised to find that it contains just as many calories, if not more, than a chocolate bar. Some protein bars can contain upwards of 300 calories or more, making them a poor choice for a healthy snack. If your bar is 450 calories, you might as well just eat a full meal.
Remember that you likely won’t feel as satisfied eating the bars as you would the meal, and when it comes to fat loss, satiety is key. If you look around however, you should be able to find a bar that’s around 200-250 calories, making it a far better option.
Check The Macros
Next, also consider the macros of the protein bar. Ideally it should contain at least 15 grams of protein per serving, ideally closer to 20-25 grams. If you can aim for 10 grams per 120 calories at minimum, you’ll be eating a good bar.
Then you also want to look at the fat component. Don’t shy away too quickly if you see that it contains 5-10 grams of fat as long as the fat is healthy fats, which most protein bars are, this will be okay. Better to have a little more healthy fats than too many carbohydrates. Here again, you’ll want to aim for a bar that contain somewhere between 3-5 grams of fat per 120 calories in the bar.
Finally, you’ll also want to look at the carbohydrate count, or more specifically, the sugar content. If the bar contains more than 3-4 grams of sugar per 100 calories, it’s time to reconsider that bar. This is by far the biggest thing that you have to watch as it’s very common for many of these protein bars to contain upwards of 20 or more grams of sugar per serving. This means they can contain just as much of this harmful substance as a regular candy bar.
You might also come to find a number of ‘low carb’ bars on the market, which contain very few carbs at all. These can be an okay choice, but do watch those calories. As they will contain more fat to make up for the carbs, this often means the fat, and therefore, calorie content may be higher. Also check for any sugar alcohols. Some bars will replace the normal sugar carbs with these sugar alcohols, which will make the bars lower in carbs, but have other unwanted side effects. Eating too much sugar alcohols can cause serious digestive strain in some people, proving to be very problematic.
Finally, look at the fiber content. Some of the better bars on the market are now using fiber syrup to sweeten the bar so they don’t need to use sugar. This also adds additional fiber to the nutritional line-up. As far as satisfying you and keeping the bar healthy, this is a very good thing.
So all in all, some protein bars can be good options, but you do need to choose wisely. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a bar that’s anything but healthy and only takes you further away from your healthy diet plan. Always remember as well that these bars should never be used as a regular meal in your diet, but instead, used when you just can’t get in the otherwise healthy food you would be normally eating. When chosen properly, a protein bar can be more satisfying than a protein shake would be, making them a better option for many people.
Consider Preparing Your Own
Finally, you might also consider simply preparing your own bars. They can be fast and easy to make and going this route will also save you money as well as most bars are pricey.
Here are a couple delicious homemade protein bar recipes to consider. Keep in mind you can add additional mix-ins to these as desired such as dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or other flavors of protein powder.
Coconut Chocolate Protein Bars
½ cup whey protein (chocolate or vanilla)
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup dried coconut
¼ cup almond milk
2 squares chocolate
Combine all ingredients but the chocolate squares together in a bowl. Shape into four balls and then melt the chocolate in another bowl in the microwave on medium for about 30-45 seconds or until melted.
Dip the bars into the chocolate, one by one to coat. Once finished, place in the freezer for 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Makes 4 bars
PB-oat Chocolate Bars
¼ cup vanilla casein protein powder
¼ cup peanut butter flavored whey protein (or vanilla)
1/3 cup oats
2 tbsp. peanut butter
1/8 almond milk
2 squares chocolate for coating
Combine all ingredients together except the melted chocolate. Once mixture is formed, create bars and then dip in melted chocolate.
Once finished, place in the freezer for 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge until serving. Makes 3 bars.