Protein bars are convenient and portable, and can stand in as a snack or or even a meal in a pinch. And there’s been a recent explosion of new varieties on shelves, but not all are as nutritious as they may seem. To help sort through the labels, we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on her top picks and worst bets for newer protein bars on shelves!
The SKINNY on PROTEIN BAR LABELS:
- Protein content – what the numbers mean:
20 grams protein = 3 oz meat. 14-15 grams protein = 2 oz meat. 7 grams protein = 1 egg worth of protein
- Sugar: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. Look for bars with more protein than sugar.
- Artificial sweeteners: Ideally avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium
- Fiber: usually less important. Most are “isolated” fibers without health benefits of real, whole-food fiber
- Sugar alcohols – erythritol and maltitol are most common; maltitol in particularly may cause GI upset in sensitive individuals. Sugar alcohols have a lower caloric value than regular carbs or sugars.
All-natural, very low sugar, good-to-excellent source of protein
No Cow Bar by D’s Naturals – Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan, GF
- 170 cals – 19 grams fiber – 1 gram sugar – 4 grams sugar alcohol – 20 grams protein
- Made with vegan protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein), isomalto-oligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber), glycerine, erythritol, almonds, monk fruit extract, stevia.
EPIC Bar – Dairy Free, Soy Free, Grain Free, Low Sugar, GF
Nutrition stats vary with type, e.g. Bison, Beef, Chicken, Bacon, Turkey, Salmon, Venison, Lamb
- Calories: 50-150 calories per bar
- Sodium: 190-400 mg per bar
- Saturated fat: 0-3 grams per bar
- Nearly all have zero added sugar (sugar-cured bacon in Bison Bacon bar is minimal)
Chicken Sesame BBQ EPIC Bar: Chicken, golden raisins, sea salt, lactic acid, hemp seeds, spices
- 120 calories – 290 mg sodium – 5 grams carb – 3 grams sugar – 15 grams protein
Good protein & low sugar, but still contain added sugar:
Oatmega Bar – Low sugar, high protein, high fiber, GF
- 190 calories – 21 grams carbs – 7 grams fiber – 5 grams sugar – 14 grams protein
- 300 mg omega-3’s – equivalent to approximately one ounce salmon/tuna (from sustainably sourced cold water fish)
- Made with grass-fed whey protein, chicory root fiber, oats, organic brown rice syrup, vegetable glycerin, almond butter, fish oil (anchovy, sardine, tilapia), monk fruit extract.
Orgain Protein Bar – Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan, GF
- 140 cals – 20 grams carbs – 6 grams fiber – 4 grams sugar – 4 grams sugar alcohol – 10 grams protein
- Made with vegan protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein, chia seeds), organic tapioca syrup, tapioca fiber, organic almonds, erythritol, glycerin.
High protein & low sugar, but artificially sweetened:
- 240 calories – 25 grams carb – 0 fiber – 5 grams sugar (3 grams added sugar) – 20 grams protein
- Made with milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, maltitol, glycerin, chicory root fiber, isomalto-oligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber), sucralose (artificial sweetener).
High sugar, including significant added sugar
- 200 calories – 20 grams carbs – 5 grams fiber – 9 grams sugar – 10 grams protein
- Ingredients include almonds, soy protein, peanuts, brown rice syrup, sugar, tapioca syrup, cherries (with added sugar), dried cane sugar, sweetened with stevia
Vega Sport Protein Bar – Dairy Free, Vegan, GF
- Still a great option for kids/athletes who can benefit from the extra calories, carbs + sugar
- 250 calories – 29 grams carbs – 4 grams fiber – 19 grams sugar – 15 grams protein
- Made with vegan protein blend (organic sprouted whole grain brown rice protein, pea protein), organic tapioca syrup, organic brown rice syrup, organic cane sugar, organic peanut butter, palm kernel oil, organic peanuts, Vega SaviseedTM (sacha inchi) oil, inulin (from chicory root), brown rice crisps, organic agave syrup, sea salt…
PRO BAR Meal Bar – Dairy Free, Vegan, GF
- Contains more brown rice syrup than any other ingredient
- 370 calories – 47 grams carbs – 6 grams fiber – 23 grams sugar – 10 grams protein
- Ingredients include brown rice syrup, oats, peanut butter, dates, nuts + seeds, dried cane syrup, dried fruits, rice syrup, wheat grass, barley grass, alfalfa grass, oat flour, molasses…
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