Walk into any grocery store an you will find a wall of protein bars. Now, which ones are good for you, which ones are like a candy bar dressed in fitness packaging and which ones are just plain junk? As consumers, we spend a lot of money on these bars with hopes of each bite making us stronger, more fit, recover quicker and thinner. Yet, how many of us really read the ingredient list, let alone understand where the protein source came from and how, and if, that source really does what it says it’s supposed to do. Here’s some questions to ask yourself before buying a protein bar:
- What is the protein source and is it clean? If it’s whey or casein, does it come from grass-fed cows? If it’s vegan, does it come from pea or rice and is it organic? If it’s soy, is it organic? To me, the source and it’s clean status are the most important factors.
- What sweetener is used in the protein bar? Is it sugar, stevia leaf, high corn fructose syrup, sucralose, aspartame, dates, bananas or monk fruit? Look for natural sweeteners that are low-carb, such as monk fruit or stevia, or better yet, sugar-free. I love dates, but they tend to drive up the sugar content.
- How many grams of protein per serving? A red flag to look for is if there are more sugars than protein in the overall bar. Look for atleast 20grams of protein per bar. Anything below 20 grams may not make you feel full and energized. Less than 10 grams, well, it’s a candy bar.
- How many total ingredients are in the bar? Reading a list of over 15-20 ingredients is to many. Aim for bars with simple ingredient lists, ingredients you can pronounce and know.
- How does it taste? If your serious about your protein bar then accept that you may taste and feel the protein powder in your mouth. I personally don’t mind it, but some people are bothered by the chalky taste or grainy mouthfeel.
In an attempt to reduce my overall protein bar costs (I have 5 kids, me and my husband), I created my own protein bar base that I can build off of to change up the flavors. I make a large batch at a time, cut them into squares and keep them in my refrigerator for us to grab as needed.
1 1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup
2 c. natural peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, Sunbutter(unsweetened)
2 c. vanilla or chocolate protein powder (I use MCT Lean brand)
3 c. rolled oats (gluten free) – not quick cooking
½ c. chia seeds(optional)
½ c. shredded unsweetened coconut flakes(optional)
½ c. cacao nibs(optional)
In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine honey or maple syrup with nut butter until well incorporated.
Turn off heat.
Add in protein prowder, oats and any optional ingredients.
Using your hands(I like to wear plastic gloves), mix all ingredients together.
Place mixture into a 9×13 pan and push down evenly to make a flat surface.
Refrigerate for a few hours to set-up.
Remove from pan and cut into squares.
Store in a plastic container lined with wax paper in between layers for easy grab and go.