What do you want in a "protein bar?"

Monday, June 24, 2019

The age old question... "what protein bar do you recommend?!" 

This comes up very often when people are traveling, sometimes when people have a planned busy day or late night, and all the time when we're talking about pool snacks and easy options to keep on hand to prevent a trip through the drive through lane!

There are a few things to keep in mind when you are scanning the shelves for a "good" protein bar option ((and these pretty much hold true whenever you're buying food that comes in a package instead of ingredients used to make food))

1. You want to try to get the least processed option possible. 
This probably means checking out if your grocery store has any protein bars in the refrigerated section! Most of these options should be stored in the fridge long term but actually (according to the labels!) will be fine for a few days at room temp as well.

2. You want to know what is in the ingredient label.
If there are ingredients you can't pronounce, or compounds that you're pretty sure don't grow from the earth via plants or animals, that's probably a red flag that it's not your best option.

3. You want to get some that you'll actually want to eat... but not TOO OFTEN. 
If you absolutely hate all things lemon, and the only option for the "best" bar is lemon meringue it's okay to grab a slightly less clean version that you'll actually enjoy. But here's the sticking point. We want most of our foods throughout the course of our week to be well rounded, produce based meals... and eating too many protein bars kind of gets in the way of the whole "eat real food" thing. So find something that will feel like an indulgence in a pinch... but don't plan your whole week's nutrition around them, got it?

4. When it comes to protein sources... if you care about what you're putting in your body... you're going to have to do a little bit of your own digging.
We try to stay away from bars that are made with Soy Isolate because it is super duper processed and there is a lot of differentiating research about it's actual healthfulness.
General consensus:
soy beans in their regular form (edamame) = good, soy extraction processes = not good

5. Remember that nutrient breakdown matters! 
Make sure you have a bar that has at least 12 g protein... otherwise it's just a granola bar and it is more likely to spike your blood sugar and then cause a quick crash again as well!
Something else to remember is that lot of protein bars contain A TON of processed sugar, and that can be an easy trap to get stuck in! It is recommended that an adult not get more than 25 g of added sugar per day, so if your protein bar has 22 g that's a pretty big red flag that it isn't ACTUALLY healthy!
This can be tricky when sugars are naturally occurring vs added because all produce has some level of sugar (carbohydrates) that are naturally occurring and not necessarily "bad."  A lot of labels are now including "added sugar" in addition to the "total sugar" which is helpful. Again, if the sugar is higher but the ingredients are all whole foods, that's a safer bet than if it's high in sugar and also a bunch of stuff you can't distinguish! 

((I'm not cool enough for anyone to pay me to sponsor this, so this is just my opinion...  If they link to an Amazon site, and you order them, I will earn something that doesn't cost you extra... because that's how the internet works in 2019... I think you already knew that)) 

ANYWHO-- let's cut to the chase! What should you buy?! 

Perfect Bars are the bees' knees, you guys! Whole foods, delicious, need to be stored in the fridge but can travel pretty well. They are most cost effective if your Costco or Aldi sells them, but I know that a lot of grocery stores are carrying them these days!

RX Bars  are a great "keep in your bag forever" option! They don't need to be refrigerated, and are pretty delicious... they're a little sticky in your teeth, but if the alternative is grabbing a junk snack I'll always take sticky teeth ;)

Epic Bars are the best of a couple worlds! Epic has varieties that are similar to RX bars, some that are "Performance" bars, and then they also have various jerky bars! I'm a big fan of jerky for an easy to keep on hand travel snack, and having individually packaged and sealed servings of different meats is seriously awesome! They have bison, venison, turkey, beef, salmon... all sorts of flavors and sources and all the ones that I've tried have been delish!

Beach Bars have one of the best calorie to protein to sugar ratio on the market, are super tasty!

This list could be a mile long because there are A TON of really great options out there these days... these couple of ideas are a reference point for how to check out the ingredient labels of the ones that you are looking at in the store or online ((and also, the first 3 are all available at Target! So when you're stocking up on all your other stuff, they're super easy to toss in your cart!)).

Lean into whole food ingredients. 
Make sure you recognize what's on the label. 
Don't rely on them for sustenance... but always have one on hand in case you're stuck somewhere and tempted to make a not so healthful choice!

Have questions about how to pack your best travel cooler?! Want to work toward your health, fitness, or general wellness goals this Summer?!
Let's chat! Fill out this form and I'll be in touch soon! 

Talk soon, 

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