There are very appropriate times for protein bars, but those probably occur less than you think. Protein bars are great to those of us who lift weights — it’s hard to get all the muscle-repairing nutrients without eating steaks upon steaks. For those who are looking for a post-workout meal on the way to work. And for those that are replacing that rare meal after being caught in meetings or traffic — because a bar is better than fast food any day.
And that’s about it. Why? This is not any nutritionist’s idea of a healthy snack.
“There could be upwards of 250-300 calories,” says Jennifer Silverman, a New York-based nutritionist.
Furthermore, many of these bars are packed with fillers. Even if you are working out, “avoid any bars with added sugars or fake sugars such as sucralose, erythritol, and aspartame. Instead look for bars that have ingredients you can pronounce and natural sugars,” says Silverman.
What’s the ideal protein bar?
According to Silverman, the maximum level of sugar a protein bar should have is 14 grams per serving, plus some form of fiber, which will help you digest it slowly and release its energy evenly. If you are looking to shed weight, the maximum calories a bar should have is 200. Any more than that and you could be sabotaging yourself. If muscle gain is your goal, a bar should have at least 20 grams of protein.
With these guidelines, here are some of the best protein bars out there.
A bar that proudly lists its main ingredients on the front, so you know exactly what you're getting.
Pros: There are no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or fillers, plus most of the bars are gluten-free with no soy or dairy. The 12 grams of protein come from egg whites, something very few other bars offer.
Cons: Most of the protein bars contain nuts, so beware if you have allergies. And they’re very chewy.
From a mother-daughter run company, these protein bars are made from plant-based ingredients that will fill you up.
Pros: These protein bars are organic, gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free. They have 12 grams of protein that comes from peas and brown rice. All of the ingredients are sustainably grown, and you can choose between 14 flavors.
Cons: At 230 calories with 12 grams of sugar, they are on the high end if you are trying to lose weight.
A great-tasting bar that has 20 grams of protein that will fill up in the short term until your next meal.
Pros: There are only four grams of sugar in each bar. With six grams of fiber per protein bar, it should keep you feeling full for hours after eating.
Cons: Well, given the amount of fiber in it, it helps to be near a bathroom when you eat one.
From a trusted name in the nutritional bar world, this bar has got 20 grams of protein and you get selection of great flavors.
Pros: You won’t get more than 10 grams of fat per bar. The protein bars are also vegan-friendly, something that can be hard to find in protein bars, and taste pretty great.
Cons: They have been known to melt inside their packaging, so best to not take anywhere hot.
Pros: They are gluten-free and have only one gram of sugar per protein bar. Each bar is only 130 calories, so you can add mass while protecting your waistline.
Cons: The sweet cream flavor is an acquired taste, which means either you love it or not.
If you're a fan of peanut butter, these are for you.
Pros: Each protein bar has 20 grams of protein, and the low glycemic index means your sugar levels won’t spike and drop all over the place.
Cons: Every protein bar has 240 calories, so it’s not a great option for weight loss, and only three grams of fiber.
This bar has three, yes three, ingredients in it. Easy and simple.
Pros: It’s clean eating on the go. You get three ingredients and they are almonds, honey, and whey protein isolate. So there’s no need to get a chemistry degree before buying this protein bar. And you get 20 grams of protein per bar.
Cons: Let’s just say, picky eaters should probably look elsewhere.
This bar has 20 grams of plant protein, plus four grams of fiber and is made with chia and flax seeds.
Pros: This protein bar is made from plant-based ingredients, and you get omega-3 fatty acids as well, thanks to chia and flax seeds.
Cons: It’s got 17 grams of sugar. Yowza.
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