Protein bars, the grab-and-go savior to all moms near and far. But which ones are healthy, and which ones are faux? Here are my 12 tips when it comes to protein bars:
1. Can I pronounce the ingredients?
2. ARTIFICIAL ingredients?: Sucralose, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium and YES even stevia.
Products with stevia as an ingredient have isolated the sweetness (stevioside and rebaudioside) and process it with heat and chemicals. The very best option is using whole leaf stevia and you can grow stevia plant in your garden/pot or buy stevia leaf powder. Just note that this route is way less sweeter then its processed form, but is still sweeter than regular sugar. Personally, I am NOT a fan of stevia due to its bitter/licorice aftertaste.
3. Other sources of sweeteners: Monk Fruit, Dates, Honey, Tapioca syrup, Agave (higher in fructose so worse for you than regular sugar), or Brown Rice Syrup.
MONK FRUIT or Luo Han Guo: This is a fruit found in southeast Asia and is 150-200x sweeter then sugar and has 0 grams of sugar so it does not spike your blood sugar. If you decide to give it a try - many monk fruit products will contain Erythritol (sugar alcohol), so you may want to avoid if you have an intolerance to sugar alcohols (i.e. bloating, gas, cramping).
Tapioca Syrup is derived from Cassava - a starchy root vegetable. Tapioca syrup is an alternative to corn syrup.
4. Sugar Alcohols: Words ending in "ol" (xylitol, erythritol, mannitol, and sorbitol). These are not 100% digestible and therefore only spike blood sugar 1/2 as much as regular sugar. Since they can disrupt your guts environment (your second brain), you may experience bloating, gas and abdominal cramping. Also, many are derived from GMO (genetically modified organism) corn so be careful if GMO is not something you agree with.
5. Sources of Protein:
Plant-based - Pea, Brown Rice, Hemp, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds
Whey - choose those that state grass-fed to avoid GMO grains/corn and the pesticide Round-Up. No thank you!
Soy - a main GMO crop! There is quite a mix of reviews on whether or not soy is good or bad. The best version of soy is when its fermented such as tempeh or miso. The more processed forms of soy have been linked to affecting our reproductive hormones and may have a correlation with certain cancers such as thyroid, stomach and esophagus. Look for low processed soy (water washed soy protein) which does not use chemicals such as hexane to process the soy.
6. Lecithin or Soy Lecithin (they are both derived from soy) unless stated otherwise. Avoid this if GMO is not your friend and if you are on the fence about soy and health.
7. Sunflower Lecthin is Non-GMO. Lecithin is the fat derived from sunflower seeds and it is known to lower cholesterol and improve brain function and digestive system. The purpose of using this ingredient is that it acts as an emulsifier.
8. NON-GMO or GMO-FREE Labels: Important label to look for since it is NOT mandatory to provide genetically engineered labels on foods and I am not happy about that! Did you know that there are GMO apples and salmon and YOU would have no idea unless you ASKED!
9. Carbohydrates: Keep to 30 grams or less per bar unless you are apart of some rigorous exercise routine.
10. Protein: I aim for at least 15 grams and if its less...then I'll add more protein on the side such as a string cheese or hardboiled egg.
11. Fiber Names: (inulin/chicory root/oligofructose, soluble corn fiber, isomalto-oligosaccharide) - Be cautious with more then 10 grams because it can be an overload on your body and cause some distress. Fiber in bars are not the same as fiber from fruits and vegetables. Some may call them fake "filler" fibers and they okay in small amounts but consume majority of fiber from whole foods.
12. Please do not make protein bars a daily meal replacement. We are meant to eat REAL FOOD. I totally get it, they are easy and convenient and trust me, they too help me get through some busy days and that is why meal prepping is so important (More on that in my other posts)!
If you have any further questions on nutrition, please contact me.