Let’s face it, most of us are really freakin' busy. Oftentimes, this means food gets pushed to the back burner— or even eliminated altogether until it is 3pm and we realize we haven’t eaten a single thing all day. Thankfully, our modern food environment actually has our back on this one: BARS (No, not the place you lived at 4 nights out of the week in college #rip). But more specifically, protein bars. They are great for when we need something to hold us over and bring a boost of energy for another few hours until our next meal.
But because they’re so great and convenient, the market is, of course, FLOODED with options (Seriously, take a gander down the protein bar aisle on your next grocery visit and try not to have an aneurysm). Trying to choose the *better* option can be hard, but let’s try to simplify it. In order to do so, I recommend wasting no time: bypass the pretty, aesthetically pleasing packaging on the front (ladies, I know this one takes some willpower), flip and head straight to the Nutrition Facts Label. If you haven’t gotten your feet wet browsing the Nutrition Facts Label on the back of an item, well, now is the perfect opportunity to start. When picking a protein bar, there are 3 things we want to dig into so we can find the *better* option:
If you don't look at anything else, I recommend to focus on this one. Mostly because if this category is on point, there is a good chance the next item will be as well.
Ingredients in a bar should be real and WHOLE…so, think: fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
Common examples: dates, unsweetened dried fruits, whole wheat flour, oats, almonds, cashews, flax seeds, whey protein isolates, pea/brown rice protein blends, and eggs.
Ingredients to avoid: artificial sweeteners & sugar alcohols such as maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol. (all ending in -”ol”, do we see a pattern?) These can lead to GI distress (think: abdominal pain, bloating, gas, etc.) and possibly damage the gut when consumed all the time.
Next we're looking at fiber. Specifically, bars with at least 3 grams per serving of fiber is where we want to be (pretty straight forward).
But, why? Fiber keeps us full, for longer because it takes longer to digest in the stomach. Ultimately delaying that, "oh shit, I'm hungry again" signal from popping up. Along with promoting satiety, it has many other health benefits.
Bars with at least 8 grams per serving protein (also pretty straight forward).
Again, why? It is a similar idea to fiber: protein keeps us full, for longer with other health benefits.
A handful of bars aligning with what’s mentioned above:
You've probably noticed some emphases on the word *better*. And, as my favorite saying in the world of health and nutrition goes, everything in moderation– and yes, that includes protein bars. Protein bars should ideally only be consumed when in a pinch; when traveling or when you’re simply having a busy day. They are not meant to replace meals or to be eaten several times throughout the day. Real and whole foods are always going to be a step above in terms of nutrition. So, if you have the ability to make yourself a balanced snack, opt for that option instead (healthy snacking post coming soon!). And remember, protein bars will always have your back when you *truly* need it.