What are you looking for in a protein bar? If you don’t know how to determine if your protein bar is healthy enough, then follow this rule-of-thumb – The fewer the ingredients, the better! Based on experts’ opinions, I researched the topic; I summarized for you the top 6 must-have items in a protein bar to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If you ensure that your bar has at least 5 of the top ingredients in protein bars, then you are on the right track. You are more health-savvy than 80% of people who consume protein bars regularly.
1. High-Quality Protein – a Must-Have Item in a Protein Bar
Why is protein an important item in your bar?
Based on nutrition experts, protein gives the body energy, regulates mood, and improves cognitive function. While protein is in many of the foods we eat, it can still be a misunderstood part of our diet.
The fact is, if you want to make the healthiest protein choices for your well-being, then the quality of the bar trumps quantity!
When it comes to protein bars, since you are not eating protein from whole-food sources, the protein in your bar must contain high-quality proteins from ingredients such as milk, whey or casein, and eggs.
If you follow a vegan diet, you may find soy to be a high-quality protein. Others may disagree, believing that soy products are too contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, and hormones. Even with organic soy, some may still prefer to stay away from any soy.
However, if you are a vegan who wants to avoid soy altogether, nuts, hemp protein, and brown rice protein are excellent replacements. Nevertheless, low-quality protein sources include collagen and gelatin, so choose your protein wisely.
2. Low in Sugar – A vital item in a protein bar
Did you know that some protein bars contain too much sugar? These protein bars are glorified candy bars! You don’t need sugar in your diet, and most of us actually should eat much less sugar than we do. If you are health-conscious looking to maintain a healthy weight and want your teeth to remain healthy, eat protein bars that do not contain added sugar.
Just be aware that manufacturers of food products use many different names for sugar, making it challenging to spot it on an ingredient list. I discovered some of the words readily used for sugar, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, and corn syrup. All these names mean too much sugar and processed sweeteners.
Why is sugar bad for you?
Health experts say that sugar disrupts energy levels, makes you hungry and sluggish. During my research, I discovered a clear relationship between sugar and numerous diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.
When I concluded this, I vowed to steer away from sugars as much as possible. I am sharing these results to keep you abreast of what research has uncovered in the last few years.
Sugar is empty calories that may give you a short-term energy boost, without any vitamins or minerals benefits for your body. Your body uses vitamins and minerals to digest sugar, which means you rob your body of essential nutrition when you eat sugar.
So, when looking for a healthy protein bar, try to select the one with the lowest grams of sugar.
3. Low in Calories – Desired in a Protein Bar
When you choose a protein bar, consider its total calorie count, especially If you want to maintain or even lose weight. If you consume a 400-calorie protein bar regularly, this will not do you much good. You are better off saving those 400 calories and enjoy foods like fish, brown rice, and vegetables.
However, if you build lean muscle mass and increase your caloric intake, a 400-calorie protein bar is appropriate. It is imperative to always look at the number of calories in each protein bar. There is so much variability between protein bars that warrant frequent inspection. Mistaking one bar for another provides you with a minimal benefit in building muscle, and it may undo any fat loss progress you have made for the day.
4. Low in Carbs – One of the Must-Have Items in a Protein bar
I highly recommend that you check your protein bar for its carbs content. The market is full of all the low-carb options available to consumers. However, if you are looking to lose fat, stick to bars with less than 30 grams of carbs. Nonetheless, after your workout, you can increase your consumption of carbohydrates a bit to help you replenish the carbs you spent during exercising.
Moreover, based on my research, I encourage you to look at the carb-to-protein ratio. You must make sure that the protein content is high enough to compare it to the carbohydrates content. If the bar has a low protein-to-carb ratio, it will not benefit your body if you eat this protein bar.
Nutrition specialists maintain that the best ratio of protein to carbs for weight loss is a 2:1. If you are looking to strengthen your muscle or are eating your bar as a post-workout recovery snack, they recommend a ratio closer to 1:2.
5. Healthy Fats, low saturated fats
Bars that contain some healthy fat will make the carbs release more slowly into your bloodstream, which will keep you satisfied longer.
Also, limit the amount of saturated or trans fat the bar contains. Ideally, try keeping those amounts at zero. A brilliant option for your protein bar is the one with a healthy dose of fat that will benefit your diet plan.
6. No Artificial Sweeteners – A must-have in a Protein Bar
Did you know that artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols have adverse side effects? I had experienced much bloating, diarrhea, cramps, and gas when I ate protein bars made with artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are not natural food sources. In fact, these additives confuse the body when it tries to digest them, thus the bloating, gas, and uncomfortable cramps.
I have been steering away from artificial sweeteners, not only in my protein bars but also in teas, coffees, smoothies, and carbonated drinks. I promise you will feel much better once you cut out these artificially made sweeteners.
My Final Tips
I highly recommend that you try to stick to the fewest ingredients bars. I urge you to aim for the naturally sweetened ones with ingredients you recognize, such as honey or dried fruit. Further, when you can, try to stick to low-calorie, low carbs bars. I promise you; you will be happy you looked for these 6 items in your protein bar to maintain your health goal.