Busy lives call for easy decisions, including what we eat every day. Many people turn to protein bars to provide nutrients and an energy boost while they’re on the go—but as with most processed foods, they aren’t created equally. And while some are full of doctor and nutritionist-approved ingredients, others are packed with so much sugar, they don’t do much for our health. Before you decide to eat a protein bar every day, consider the insight of trusted experts who explain the 101 of these snacks and how they impact our bodies.
Here’s what happens to your body when you eat a protein bar every day, and for more healthy eating tips, make sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Protein bars need to have the right vitamin content.
With the popularity of protein bars and the plethora of choices on the market today, it is important to read food labels and look at ingredients to compare products, according to Allison Curtis, MS, RDN, the director of Integrative Nutrition at the STRATA Integrated Wellness and Spa at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club.
If you’re not sure what to look for, don’t sweat it. Curtis says to focus your attention on protein, fiber, iron, sugar, and calcium, as well as vitamin A and C. Then, answer these questions:
- Does it provide at least 10% of the daily values for these nutrients?
- Does it have less than two grams of saturated fat and under 15 grams of sugar?
- When looking at the ingredients list, do you see whole foods or highly processed ingredients?
If you’re not sure what to grab, check out our list of 15 Best Healthy &; Low-Sugar Protein Bars in 2020, According to Dietitians.
Protein bars can help us get the protein we need.
There’s a difference between not being deficient in our protein—and getting enough to make day-to-day activities easier. As certified nutritionist and Performix House coach Lance Parker explains, we may need more protein than we realize, especially if we are exercising consistently, on our feet 24/7, or going through hormonal changes, like breastfeeding.
If you wonder about how much you really need, ask your doctor or consider hiring a nutritionist to access your diet. If you’re lacking, whole foods should be your first tactic, but if you don’t find that successful, Parker says protein bars could be an alternative.
“Depending on your goals, you may find that many healthy protein bars meet the balance of protein, carbs, and fat that you are looking for,” he says. “You will also find that due to the fiber content in most bars, along with the inherent fact that your body has to take more time in breaking down solid food, bars can help you feel more satiated for longer.”
More of a fan of protein shakes? Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Drink Protein Shakes Every Day.
Protein bars can fight against “hanger.”
We’ve all been there: your meeting ran long, you didn’t have time to eat, and now you’re so hungry you can barely speak. “Hanger” isn’t just a funny meme or joke; it’s a real, biological feeling when our blood sugar levels are running low. That’s why registered dietitian and nutritionist Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDE, CDN says it’s beneficial to keep a protein bar stashed in your backpack or purse, so if you have a hectic, unpredictable day, you have a nutritious and affordable snack on hand. Then, you won’t have to apologize to your co-worker, spouse, or pal for getting snippy or impatient due to hunger.
You could also have one of these 19 High-Protein, Low-Carb Snacks For Weight Loss as well!
Protein bars could be a smart choice for fitness lovers.
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, says the best candidates for daily protein bar consumption are athletes—or avid fitness-goers. How come? They are a quick and convenient option to take in muscle-building protein after a workout. When you have protein following a sweat-sesh, you help your muscles regrow and meet your physical goals.
“If you’re sitting at your desk and looking for an afternoon snack to nosh on, you can probably opt for a snack bar, rather than a protein bar. Protein bars tend to be higher in calories and protein because they are meant to help with post-workout recovery,” she says.
Protein bars shouldn’t have more than 200 calories.
A quick Google or Amazon search of “protein bars” and you can scroll for hours, trying to figure out the best one to buy. To make it easier, Kaufman says to aim for a bar that doesn’t go above 200 calories, max. Because this is the ideal snack serving size, it’s a straightforward metric to follow. Rizzo also says to cut out any bar that has more than six or seven grams of sugar added. The goal is to find one that has tons of protein, fewer carbohydrates, very little sugar, and some fiber.
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Protein bars shouldn’t be overused.
If you are an active person or someone who doesn’t have much time to meal or snack prep, a protein bar could carry you throughout your day. However, Parker says never to eat more than one a day.
“While getting in plenty of high-quality protein each day from whole food sources can be difficult at times, it should always be our goal,” he says. “if you are choosing to eat a protein bar every single day to help supplement your overall protein intake, be sure to experiment with different bars at first and find the one that your body responds to the best.”
Why not make your own with these 16 Healthy, Homemade Protein Bar Recipes?