With so many “healthy” products on the market, it can be challenging to decipher what’s truly beneficial for your body. If you’re shopping for protein bars, you likely want something energizing, low-fat, and low-calorie, yet still tasty.
But unfortunately, there are a lot of not-so-great options lining the grocery store aisles. Many protein bars are packed with sugar or provide more carbohydrates than protein. Next time, whether you’re shopping in-store or online, stop and consider the following factors before dropping just any protein bar into your cart.
Identify What Type of Protein You’re Looking For
When choosing a protein bar, don’t just look at how much protein the bar contains; you also need to understand the protein source. There are many protein types used to make protein supplements, and depending on your diet and the protein source, each has different benefits.
- Casein Protein– One of the most common options for protein powder users, casein protein is a complete protein that digests slowly. Like whey protein, casein protein comes from milk.
- Egg Whites– Within an egg, the egg white has the highest concentration of protein. Egg white is a complete protein and contains high levels of leucine, which plays an essential role in building muscle mass.
- Nuts and Seeds– Often included in protein bars in whole form, nuts and seeds are natural protein sources. However, consumers should be aware that some nuts have a significant amount of fat.
- Pea Protein– Made from yellow split peas, pea protein has all the essential amino acids but isn’t considered a complete protein because, by itself, it doesn’t contain enough methionine cysteine. However, pea protein does include a lot of fiber.
- Soy– Derived from soybeans, the soy protein used in protein bars has very little fat and doesn’t contain any cholesterol. With all nine essential amino acids, soy is a complete protein.
- Whey Protein– When cheese is made, the liquid that falls away from the curd during the process is called whey. The body can digest whey protein quickly, and whey is a rich source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
Does the Protein Bar Provide Fiber as Well?
When searching for the right protein bar, try to find an option packed with fiber. High-fiber foods are extremely filling, making high-fiber protein bars ideal if you eat them as meal replacements. Fiber also helps with digestion and may even help you lose weight, as its “energy dense.”
Take a Look at the Calorie Count
Especially those with more carbohydrates, some protein bars have a lot of calories. If you’re counting calories but want the energy that protein bars offer, look for options with 200 calories or less, unless you use it as a meal replacement. In that case, bars around 350 calories should suffice.
Are There Any Artificial Sweeteners?
Like all packaged foods, many protein bars, unfortunately, contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners. When picking a protein bar, check the labels, and avoid products that contain sucralose, advantame, and saccharin. Instead, opt for protein bars that use honey, fruits, or maple syrup for sweetness.
Are There Any Trans Fats?
With protein bars, as with everything you eat, you want to stay away from trans fats. These manufactured fats can raise “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, increasing heart disease risks.
Does the Protein Bar Fit Your Dietary Restrictions?
If you have allergies, follow a specific diet, or have other dietary restrictions, you may have trouble finding an ideal protein bar. However, you do have options.
- Vegetarian– Vegetarians can opt for protein bars that use egg whites, whey, or casein as their primary protein source.
- Vegan– If you don’t eat animals or animal products, look for a protein bar that uses nuts, seeds, soy, pea proteins, coconut oil, fruits, and whole grains.
- Keto– If you’re looking for a keto protein bar, you’ll have to choose a product without grains. For example, this keto friendly protein bar option is packed with collagen protein and has added MCT oil to help satisfy hunger.
The Perfect On-the-go Protein Source
You should be able to rely on your protein bar for energy and satiation. Plus, a protein bar shouldn’t detriment your health with added sugars, artificial sweeteners, trans fats, or empty calories. Especially if you eat a protein bar every day, it’s worth taking the time to consider what’s in it and if there’s a better option out there.