So we know we're not meant to chow down on them daily, but protein bars can offer a super convenient options when you're hungry on-the-go. But let's be honest, there are a few good reasons they're not stocked next to the kale and blueberries at your grocery store. Don't get me wrong, I've eaten them all - even the really crappy ones. When it comes to a choice between them and a bar of Cadbury's, I totally get it. Read on to make better choices when it comes to your protein hit.
What to look for:
The healthiest bars have a calorie range of 150 to 250 calories -- the sweet spot for a snack. The ingredient list includes mostly whole foods like nuts, seeds, whole grains and fruits. The best bars also include at least seven grams of protein (about the same amount in a hard-boiled egg), at least three grams of fibre and less than 10 grams of sugar per serving - from real food, not added sugars like honey or syrup.
Chief Bar is made from 100% animal-based protein. They’re a delicious alternative to the usual sweet bars with no chemicals, preservatives, gluten, dairy and are low sugar. Using natural 100% grass-fed meat, nuts and a little dried fruit – they're a great option and suit paleo eaters too!
Cave Foods protein bars are designed to fuel your body with high quality, gluten-free, natural ingredients which are ethically sourced and predominantly raw. I had the pleasure of meeting these guys in a shared commercial kitchen, while whipping up my very own @fit_mixes. They're just bloody lovely guys using honest ingredients, and the Mocha bar rocked my world.
Health Food Guys Raw Protein Bar
Another delicious, all-natural option when you're short on time. Made with brown rice protein rather than the usual whey, it goes easy on digestion. A great one to try if you're prone to bloating and all that lovely stuff. With 16.1g of protein, it tops the charts for muscle-building power too!
Blue Dinosaur Paleo Bars
These bars rank high for the best texture. Crumbly, and kinda melt-in-your-mouth, it's not dissimilar to an ANZAC biscuit (I know, right?!). They're made primarily of heart-healthy nuts along other premium, natural ingredients too. They're vegan, paleo (of course), dairy free and damn tasty. Tip: the Ginger Nut flavour is sweetened only with apricots, and has the lowest sugar content of their range at 9.2g per bar.
Aussie Bodies 'Naked' 100% Natural Protein Bar
These little bars are great for that 3pm slump. Small enough not to break the calorie bank, but just enough to fill you up until dinner. I'll be honest, I'm not entirely sure why 'Rosemary Extract' is on the ingredients list, but the rest is made up from things in my very own pantry, so it gets a big tick for that.
What to avoid:
Don’t be fooled by the buzzwords “green,” “superfood” and “energy.” Always check the sugar content. Many are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients and are hiding tons of sugar and additives that can cause digestive distress and prevent absorption of important nutrients.
Sugars are dressed up in a number of ways - so look out for these guys on the ingredients list:
Here are some of the worst offenders:
ThinkThin High Protein Bar
While this bar does have 20g of protein, it's paired with canola oil and "natural" flavours. Also, the "caseinate" ingredients can actually suppress mineral absorption. In addition the sugar alcohols (when consuming a lot) will upset digestion, make you gassy, and cause diarrhoea. Yuk.
I used to have these so regularly before I knew what the ingredients meant! *cringe*. They contain soy which may affect hormone levels, a whopping 23g of sugar (just slightly less than a Snickers) and flavours to make them so darn tasty. Steer clear.
Possibly the worst of all, these fellas contain PARABENS (a preservative found in cosmetics) and artificial colours. They also come with a helping of white sugar and corn syrup, along with those nasty sugar alcohols. When an ingredients list takes 10 minutes to read, and is predominantly un-recognisable, it's time to say 'oh no'.
Remember: you can get everything you need from wholesome fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and grains. Opt for these where possible.