Protein bars can be an easy, nutritious way to hit your health goals, especially when you're on the go. But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which ones really stack up nutritiously? Here's a simple guide to choosing the right protein bar for you.
Think Protein First
If you're shopping for a protein bar, you probably already understand the value of a high-protein diet. Turning to a protein-packed bar to keep hunger at bay between meals is a great way to keep energized all day long.
Abby Sauer, RD, MPH, registered dietitian with Abbott, says "if you are looking for a bar to have as a snack, choose one that has at least 10 grams of protein to satisfy hunger and give you an energy boost." Something like a ZonePerfect nutrition bar is a great option — it contains between 10 and 15 grams of protein, depending on flavor, while ZonePerfect High Protein Bars contain 20 grams of protein.
Calories from protein bars can be considered fuel, and the amount you need is dependent on many factors including your age, size and activity level. If you are working out vigorously your caloric needs are higher than if you are working in the office. A good rule of thumb is to choose snacks that have between 150 – 300 calories.
Don't Fear (Natural) Fat
A high-protein diet is great, but don't disregard other sources of nutrition. Fat is a necessary nutrient that aids in satiety, provides energy and helps the body build healthy cells and use vitamins and minerals. The key is to seek whole, natural sources like nuts and nut butters over processed trans fats like partially hydrogenated oils.
Remember Vitamins and Minerals
A snack is about more than calories, carbs, protein, and fat. Check the nutrition label, paying close attention to whether or not there are essential nutrients like vitamin C, calcium, iron, and others. Then make sure your protein bar has a good balance of vitamin and minerals.
Take the Taste Test
A bar can be jam-packed with nutrients, but if you don't actually want to eat it, then it doesn't do you much good. Choose a bar that tastes delicious so every snack is a small indulgence that you look forward to. With so many fun flavors out there like salted peanut butter chocolate chip and banana nut crunch, you won't be tempted to reach for those cookies in the breakroom.
Know Your Restrictions
If you have any dietary restrictions or food allergies, make sure to read the bar label for ingredient and allergy information. Many protein bars contain almond, egg, milk, peanut, soy and wheat ingredients, and may be manufactured in a facility that processes other tree nuts.
Protein bars are a convenient way to fuel up on the go, but they're not created equal. To make sure your snack works for you, it's important to know exactly what you're getting.