Let’s talk protein bars today. Are they convenient? Yes. Are they tasty? Some are. Some are terrible. Can they be included in a healthful diet? Of course. Should we turn to them on a regular basis instead of whole food-based meals and snacks? No, no, no!
Do I use protein (or ‘energy’) bars? Occasionally. I have certainly promoted them as a food option on this blog before (exhibit A). So why don’t I consume them regularly? 1. I prefer eating whole foods verse a candy bar in disguise (let’s be real, some have a similar nutrition profile as a Snicker’s bar). 2. Volumetrics! Protein/sports/meal replacement bars generally pack a hefty caloric punch in a small package. This can be a great reason to turn to them if you require a VERY high caloric intake each day, are out backpacking, or in a variety of other situations. However, generally they leave me unsatisfied and wanting more!
I am frequently asked about recommendations for different protein/sports nutrition bar and often it is from people trying to lose weight! While I always give some suggestions, I put in the caveat of “use whole foods” first as much as possible. Doing so will keep you more satisfied and also supply you with more micronutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients for the same macronutrient breakdown. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to share with you a whole food-based meal/snack that is matched on grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat (and therefore total calories) as some popular protein bars.
BREAKFAST: CLIF Builder Bar (Chocolate Peanut Butter) vs. Oatmeal (1/3 c. dry), peanut butter (~1 Tbsp), blueberries (~1/2 c.), and egg whites (1/2 c. before cooking). Each come in at:
- 20 g protein
- 29 g carbohydrate
- 10 g fat
However, in the fiber department the oatmeal breakfast outshines the CLIF Builder Bar (6 v. 4 grams).
SNACK: Simple Truth Protein Bar (Double Chocolate) vs. 190 g Chobani Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt (~1 and 1/3 of the single-serve 5.3 oz. containers), almonds (~9), and ~1/2 a small-medium apple. Each contains:
- 21 g protein
- 16 g carb (2 g fiber in each)
- 4.5 g fat
LUNCH or DINNER: PowerBar Protein Plus (Chocolate Peanut butter – Reduced Sugar) vs. 3 oz. tilapia (baked), 4-5 cups Sesame Kale Salad (45 g kale, 45 g carrots, 45 g cabbage), with sesame-dressing (7g olive oil, 5 g sesame seed oil, 5g sesame seeds, 20 g rice vinegar), and 3 oz. sweet potato. Each contains:
- 22 g protein
- 30 g carbohydrate
- 9 g fat
Again, the meal wins in the fiber department (1 g v. 6g)
So…looking at them visually, which would you rather have on a regular basis – 1 protein bar or a more cohesive meal?