With the protein bar aisle being packed with possibilities these days, comparing bars can sometimes seem more time-consuming than cooking! So, here’s a crash course in the three key (and quick) questions to ask yourself to ensure that your nutrition bar is way more than a candy bar in disguise:
- Does it have at least 10g of protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient for everything from vitamin transportation to muscle building, and diets high in protein (and low in sugars and refined carbohydrates) are known to support healthy weight loss. One of the very best sources of protein is whey protein because it is a “complete protein” (meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids), or collagen protein, which is great for helping build firm and youthful skin, and strong, supple muscles. For plant-based eaters, nothing beats pea protein for its incredible taste and the huge amount of protein per gram for a vegan protein (typically over 80 percent).
- Does it have less than 10g of sugar?
If you’re looking for something healthy, one vital metric is to be sure that the amount of protein is always higher than the amount of sugar. An easy rule: make sure protein grams are always double digits and sugar grams are always single digits (no more than 9g — even from natural sources — is ideal). Studies show that sugar can cause inflammation, intestinal pain, and lead to weight gain. This means that even all-natural, ‘real food’ bars like RX bars should be ingested with a great deal of caution (a typical RX bar has a whopping 15g of sugar compared to just 12g of protein).
- Is it all-natural? (Or are there chemicals in the bar?)
If you’re looking for a healthy treat, make sure what you grab is completely all-natural — with no artificial colors, sweeteners or preservatives. Many seemingly healthy brands that promise high protein and low sugar (like Quest Bars) often pack ingredients, like the chemical sugar sucralose, into their products to enhance sweetness. Scientific studies have conclusively shown that chemical sweeteners lead to weight gain over time even though they have a negligent caloric impact. The specific physiological reasons behind this are not understood, but the lesson is clear: living naturally is the healthy choice.