What You Need to Know About Protein Bar Labels

Protein bars can be your best friends when you are in need of a quick and powerful pick-me-up. However, protein bars may do more harm than good if you choose the wrong one. A simple way to prevent this is by being able to accurately decipher the nutrition label.  

Protein bars can be a healthy, nutritious snack, but not all of them are created equal; some are actually not much healthier than a piece of candy. When I was reading the labels, I was astonished that although they were high in protein, some had just as much, if not more, sugar than candy. {This is why you can’t fall prey to the outside claims on the labels!!}

Here is how I learned to read the label on a protein bar to make sure I was eating something that truly was good for me:

How to Read the Label

First of all, what is the bar made of? The ingredient list should including things like oats, seeds, nuts and nut spreads, or pea protein, for instance. A good rule of thumb is the fewer ingredients, the better.

Next, check the sugars. Many protein bars are stuffed with sugar disguised by different names. Keep in mind that dark colored rice syrup, maltodextrin, agave, nectar, maple syrup, and anything that ends with an “-ose” (like fructose or maltodextrose) is sugar.

Try to pick a bar with less than 10 grams of sugar for every bar {and 1 serving should be equal to 1 bar; be cautious of that, as well}. If the bar contains a lot of organic product, such as dates or apricots, the sugars will be higher, but so will the fiber; moreover, these are naturally occurring sugars, as opposed to refined. Make sure the bar contains at least 4 grams of fiber to compensate for the natural sugars.  

Be aware that  “sugar-free” or low sugar protein bars are frequently sweetened with sugar alcohols, which can be difficult for the digestive tract to assimilate. They can cause stomach issues like swelling, gas, and loose bowels.

You may be wondering about the protein content. To be completely honest, it’s more about the proportions than the correct measure of protein. That is, the proportions of protein to fat, protein to general calories, and protein to sugar. It also depends on the size of the bar. A little bar may have less protein but fewer calories and may be a better choice than a bigger bar with over 30 grams of protein but more than 300 calories. 

Note that a vitality bar and a protein bar are not the same. Vitality bars are supposed to support recovery from high-energy activity, for which a 4:1 ratio of sugars to protein is ideal; for a protein bar, you want a 1:1 ratio. At the end of the day, it’s always best to get your protein from whole, all-natural food sources like eggs, nuts, tofu, and dairy, over protein bars. For when snacking is necessary, just make sure you read the label!

Please feel free to schedule a one-on-one strategy session, or snag my FREE guide to Healthy Eating on the Go here.


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