Because you see them everywhere, I had to share my top 10 tips about protein bars here on my blog. I get it – you can’t make homemade Blueberry Cobbler or Pumpkin Cinnamon Pancakes everyday. Sometimes, protein bars are a good option but it can be overwhelming when you start shopping! Let me help you clear it all up and help you make the best choices for your body.
Of course, real food is best so I don’t recommend eating protein bars for every meal every day. That is just plain silly. However, I do understand that us women are busy and sometimes we need to have something in our purse to hold us over until the next real meal. This is reality. I do think that protein bars can be a great source of good energy to help us busy women get through our days. The trick is finding good bars made from real food. Therefore, it is important to understand that not all protein bars out there are created equal. Bars can be a great pick-me-up after a hard workout!
Below are my top 10 tips about protein bars:
- Check ingredients – When you go down the protein bar aisle of the grocery store, it can be incredibly overwhelming! There are so many protein bars to pick from. My #1 tip is to turn the bar over and look at the ingredients. Ask yourself these questions – Is this bar made from real food? Can I pronounce the ingredients? If you can, than it may be a decent protein bar to purchase. I also see if the bar is organic and free from genetically modified ingredients. I also love to support companies that make products with products that were sustainably sourced. Fair traded chocolate? Added bonus! GoMacro protein bars are some of my favorites!
- Watch the sugar – Some protein bars are filled with sugar! Even if a bar says “made with real sugar” it is still sugar. Sugar is so addicting and by far one of the most difficult “foods” to take out of our diets. Not only is it not good for you it makes you gain weight. So, try to find bars that don’t add much sugar. Ideally, fruit is what is sweetening the bars. If I have to pick a sweetener I would go with brown rice syrup instead of refined sugars. Aim for bars that are low in sugar.
- No artificial sugars – Artificial sugars are no better than refined sugar. Look to avoid aspartame. Many artificial sugars are downright dangerous to consume. They can actually cause weight gain and they don’t satisfy your sweet tooth so you just want more and more. Many artificial sugars cause headaches (ask me about my Diet Coke and migraine days back in college. UGH!), joint pain, depression and addiction to more and more artificial sugar. Keep these “foods” out of your diet. Avoid sugar alcohols as well. These can upset your stomach.
- Look for fiber and protein – When I am looking at food, I look for fiber and protein. Protein keeps you full and satisfied and fiber helps you poop! (I am not being shy here – us ladies need to go to the bathroom regularly!) When comparing protein bars, look for bars with both fiber and protein. Look for a minimum of 5 grams of protein per bar and a minimum of 3 grams of fiber.
- Check the calories – I try to consume no more than 150 calories for a snack. Therefore, sometimes I can only eat half of a protein bar for a snack at a time. No worries. Save the other half for tomorrow.
- Look for healthy fats – I look for bars that have natural sources of fat from nuts, chia seeds, nut butters, etc. Avoid bars filled with trans-fats. Omega 3 and omega 6 polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are especially important and healthy.
- Less ingredients is better – Less is more when it comes to the number of ingredients in protein bars!
- Use as a snack not a meal – Meal planning is crucial for both weight loss and weight management and overall health! When we have no idea where our next meal or snack is coming from we are much more likely to give up and reach for the Doritos and Diet Coke. I try to look for protein bars as a mid-afternoon snack around 3PM when I need a little pick-me-up. Snacking is a better approach than starving yourself all the way to dinner and then overeating. Incorporate healthy snacks with protein and fiber and I bet you will eat less calories in the evening.
- Timing is important – That being said, I recommend protein bars early in the day and afternoon not after your workout late at night! I try to eat the majority of my calories and carbohydrates in the morning and afternoon and less in the evening. Think about it – carbohydrates are needed for energy and you don’t need as much energy at night. Allow your body to rest at night and try to focus on protein and veggies for dinner.
- Switch up the flavors – One thing I do love about protein bars is that they usually come in a variety of flavors and I think that it is important to switch it up and not eat the exact same thing every day. Once you find a brand of bars that you love, look for a variety pack and try them all! I love the GoMacro Cherries + Berries protein bars. One of my favorites!