How to Choose The Best Protein Bar – 5 Easy Tips

Protein bars are one of the best in-between meal snacks. Whether you’re dealing with that post coffee lull or that afternoon slump, protein bars are an easy and convenient fix to keeping you going no matter what kind of day it is.

But how do you choose the best protein bar? How do you know what you need? Where to start? Or what to look for? There are so many options!

Here are five quick tips to look out for when making your selection!

 

  1. THE AMOUNT OF PROTEIN MATTERS

Protein is vital to keeping our bodies healthy and strong.

It is the building block of our muscles, our bones, our skin, and our blood. Heck! It’s in our hair and our nails too. So when you’re in the protein bar aisle making your decision, look out for what TYPES of protein are in the bar, and HOW MUCH protein is in the bar.

The best protein bars have a complete source of protein. Protein is made up of amino acid chains. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids in those chains and our bodies can only produce 11 of those amino acids on their own. We must replenish our bodies with those other nine amino acids through our diet. If your goal is overall health and well-being, choose a protein bar with all nine amino acids found in one single source.

Complete protein:

  • Made up of all nine amino acids
  • Typically found in animal products, quinoa, and soy

Incomplete Protein:

  • Made up of less than all nine amino acids
  • Typically found in spinach, peas, nuts, and seeds

In addition to choosing a bar with a complete source of protein, it is also important to find a bar with at least 10 grams of protein. A minimum of 10 grams is key because protein is the essential nutrient that fuels our bodies. It even assists with reducing cravings and late night snacking. So, whether you’re filling your gym bag with the best post workout protein bars, or packing your pantry with the best protein bars for weight loss, make sure to look at how much protein your bar contains.

 

  1. CLEAN INGREDIENTS

When it comes to the best protein bar ingredients, keep it simple and keep it clean. And good news! Looking out for these clean and simple ingredients is pretty dang easy.

Check the bar label for ingredients that you can both recognize and pronounce. This should include ingredients you can easily point to in a grocery store….like….Fruits! Vegetables! Eggs! Nuts! Oats! Fiber! Flavor! You want to KNOW what you’re putting into your body.

Conversely, stay away from ingredients you cannot pronounce or that sound unwelcoming. Things like high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and strange sounding fillers are definitely ingredients to avoid. Some of the common ingredients to avoid include saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. These additives are counterintuitive to fueling our bodies with the nutritious fuel we need and do not support a protein bar diet you want to get behind.

 

  1. QUALITY IS KEY

How are protein bars ranked? One of the quickest ways to check how one protein bar compares to another is by the certifications it has. It is common to mistrust the food industry because everyone preaches that certain products are better and healthier for you than others. However, the certifications that a product has are the only way to guarantee the quality of what you are eating is true.

Certifications are earned and regulated to ensure that the company upholds the promises they make about their products to the consumer. So, what certifications should you look out for?

One BIG TIME certification that the best protein bars have is Gluten Free Certified.

Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) prides itself on protecting all consumers. In order to receive a Gluten Free Certification, the organization conducts an expensive and lengthy process where the entire production facility is examined. The examination first starts with ingredient sourcing, then proceeds into employee training and practices, and finally leads into overall operational management with end-to-end testing. Needless to say, completing this program successfully and obtaining the GFCO stamp of approval is a significant testament to the high quality of the product.

There are two types of Gluten Free standards:

 Gluten Free

Gluten Free Certified

Lowest level of a gluten free claim a product can have

“Gluten Free” is only written on wrapper and doesn’t contain the GFCO logo shown on the right.

Secondary standard of testing

Highest level of a gluten free claim a product can have

GFCO label printed on wrapper

Validates highest standard of testing

Under 20 parts per million of gluten

UNDER 10 parts per million of gluten

 Gluten Free

Lowest level of a gluten free claim a product can have

“Gluten Free” is only written on wrapper and doesn’t contain the GFCO logo shown on the right.

Secondary standard of testing

Under 20 parts per million of gluten

Gluten Free Certified

Highest level of a gluten free claim a product can have

GFCO label printed on wrapper

Validates highest standard of testing

UNDER 10 parts per million of gluten

In addition to looking for certifications when exploring how protein bars rank, being NON-GMO is another key indicator that verifies the high quality of a product. What is GMO?

GMO (genetically modified organism) is an organism that has had its DNA altered in some way, shape or form. Therefore, in order to obtain NON-GMO status, a product must ensure that that products' ingredients are not genetically modified in any shape or form and or altered during production. If a product is NON-GMO, it will state this claim on the packaging.

Why wouldn’t all “clean” ingredient bars have NON-GMO on the wrapper?

Sadly not all companies make bars with the consumer’s well-being in mind. The cost of using all NON-GMO ingredients and flavors is significantly more expensive. That is why checking for this claim, especially when sweeteners, fibers, and flavorings are used is essential!

 

  1. CALORIES

Count 'em Up! But keep it under 250 please...

In addition to having a solid amount of protein, the best protein bars keep their calorie count under 250. A protein bar’s purpose is to be your in between meal and your healthy snack. So no matter what your fitness goals are, the best protein bars for weight loss and muscle gain keep their calorie count under 250 in order to guarantee that the bar will meet your dietary goals and not leave you hungry throughout your day.

 

  1. AVOID ARTIFICIAL SUGARS & SUGAR ALCOHOLS

Have you ever wondered why some protein bars claim to be “low sugar” yet still taste so sweet?

This “low sugar,” “sugar free,” or “low-calorie” claim is typically because as an alternative, the product will contain fillers like artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Therefore, when observing how different protein bars rank up to one another, it is important to understand how different types of sugars rank too. Two of these most deceitful sugars are artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.

Artificial sweeteners are manipulated when they are created so that they will taste one hundred times SWEETER than what regular sugar actually tastes like. As a result, when we consume products with artificial sweeteners in them, the sugar receptors in our brains become overstimulated.  Unfortunately, this overstimulation causes actual nutrient dense foods like fruit to taste less sweet to us and lead to unhealthy patterns like overeating and more sugar cravings. Yikes.

Common Artificial Sweeteners

● Saccharin

● Acesulfame

● Aspartame

● Neotame

● Sucralose

Sugar Alcohols are also a deceitful type of sugar. They are a threat to our gut health and a dangerous additive to be aware of when searching for the best protein bar. Our gut is like the brain of our digestive system and our gut also has a difficult time digesting sugar alcohols. When you consume foods with sugar alcohols, the food first passes through your small intestine but then the sugar alcohols in those foods fester in your large intestine. This festering can lead to stomach pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Ultimately, these digestive issues can also be linked to overall immunity, cognitive function, chronic illnesses, and emotional stress. Talk about a gut check! Therefore, look out for protein bars without sugar alcohols in order to maintain your gut’s microbiome.

Common Sugar Alcohols

● Erythritol

● Maltitol

● Isomalt

● Sorbitol

● Xylitol

So when you are looking for the best protein bar, it’s common to think that some of the most important qualities to look out for would be best organic protein bars, the ratio protein bars hold of sugar, or simply a label that claims “no sugar”. However, it is ultimately most important to make sure that the bar’s sweetness is coming from natural sources like dates, honey, maple syrup, agave, or other fruit-based ingredients.


 

Now that you’re a protein bar pro, build a box that checks off everything on the list!