They’re an easy, go-to snack that keeps hunger at bay. You can pick them up at most supermarkets and have them handy whenever you want – plus, the wrapper says ‘high in protein’. So, aren’t all protein bars good for you?
Not always, is the honest answer. Follow this checklist when you’re picking a protein bar and you should end up with one that’s both satisfying and healthy.
Sugar in protein bars?
You should always check that your protein bar is low in sugar if you’re trying to lose fat. High sugar levels will mean your energy is more likely to spike and then drop, leaving you with less energy (and often more calories) than a low-sugar protein bar.
Sugar is listed under ‘carbohydrates, of which sugars’ on the label. However, carbohydrates and sugars themselves are not necessarily always a negative thing. They provide the energy to take on a full workout (or just tackling the rest of your day in the office) and replenish glycogen stores after a workout (stored carbohydrates within muscles). So, take into account what you’ll be doing with your day when you’ve had a protein bar.
High-calorie protein bars
Make sure the protein bar you choose fits in with the calorie intake you’re aiming for. Some protein bars can be relatively high in calories, and if you’re all about the mass gains, this might be a plus for you. If you’re restricting your calories, however, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.
A low-calorie protein bar, however, is a great way to stick to your diet plans whilst staying full.
Stuffed with salt?
In a similar way to sugar, some protein bars contain way too much salt. Salt in the diet is essential, however, too much of the stuff can lead to high blood pressure (and further complications if it goes on for too long).
As anyone who has actively tried to reduce their salt intake will know that this sneaky seasoning can turn up everywhere. So, just check out the back of the pack and aim for a low amount of salt.
Filled with fibre?
Fibre provides plenty of benefits to the body, for example, it helps to keep us feeling fuller for longer – a key reason you should select a high-fibre protein bar if you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
In addition, fibre helps to regulate the body’s water intake, so it can help prevent feelings of being bloated. Make sure you look for a high-fibre protein bar for maximum health benefits.
Why not make your own?
Prepping your own protein bars can be a great way to control exactly what you’re putting in your body. Protein powder, oats, nut butter, desiccated coconut and dried fruits all make great ingredients for easy snacks that are high in protein. Of course, make sure you consider each ingredient’s nutritional content and measure out your portions so you can avoid the same protein bar pitfalls!
Try our High-Protein Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies for a seriously delicious snack...
High-Protein Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies | World’s Kitchen
We took a classic American sandwich filling and made these irresistible PB & J cookies.
Check out our favourite healthy protein bars…
Best chocolate bar swap: Layered Protein Bar
If you’re looking for a snack with a bit more bite, this hefty protein bar delivers a decadent chocolatey wafer hit – keeping on top of cravings and contributing to maintenance of muscle mass, too.
Boasting 20g of high-quality protein and only 2.4g of sugar per bar, Layered Protein Bar hits the supermarket alternatives out of the ball park.
Best informed-sport protein bar: Protein Bar Elite
Every batch of the Protein Bar Elite is certified by the Informed-Sport Supplement Testing Programme, providing the very highest level of assurance for athletes.
With flavours like Toffee Vanilla, Dark Chocolate Berry and Caramel Hazelnut – all covered in crunchy toppings and sweet milk chocolate with a soft centre – you’ll find it hard to believe these bars are actually good for you.
Best low-calorie protein bar: Lean Protein Bar
The Lean Protein Bar, which comes in Chocolate and Cookie Dough or White Chocolate and Raspberry, is super-low in calories and contains just 1.2g sugar per 80g bar.
Soft and sweet on the inside and covered in milk chocolate, this protein bar satisfies the sweet cravings while packing a massive 18g of high-quality protein.
Take home message
Protein bars can be a healthy snack to help fuel your muscles after a workout, keep hunger at bay or simply as a healthy treat. However, select your protein bar based on your goals – if you’re trying to lose weight, go for a low-sugar protein bar that fits into your daily calorie allowance, or if you’re looking to refuel after a workout, go for a protein bar that contains a good amount of carbohydrates, too.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.
Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.
Find out more about Claire’s experience here.