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Are Protein Bars good for you?

Everyone is always on the hunt for a nutritious little energy boost. We try to avoid white sugar and over processed crackers and cookies full of gluten, so protein bars seem like the perfect healthy snack on the go. There’s a whole shelf full of them at the grocery store promising Protein! Vitamins! Minerals! Energy! Protein bars seem like the perfect snack, but buyer beware.

Unfortunately, that peanut butter, caramel and chocolate chip protein bar you had on the way to work? Well, let’s just say that nutritionally speaking you may have been better off eating the candy bar “that really satisfies” (and probably at a fraction of the cost).

When things sound too good to be true, they usually are. The problem with the majority of protein bars on the market is that they contain (in varying degrees) too much sugar, artificial sweetener, trans fat, highly processed soy protein isolate (a poor quality protein), artificial flavor, color, additives, excessive calories, and other unpronounceable chemicals. It’s all the very same ingredients found in highly processed junk food.

If the first ingredient in a protein bar is corn syrup, that’s a big red flag! The sugar content is high because they are trying to mask the flavor of fibre or other healthy ingredients. But, sugar in all its forms, wreaks havoc on your body and actually drains your energy. Add it to all of the other chemicals in these bars, and you’re doing your body more harm than good with this so called healthy snack.

Of course, using processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners is cheaper and easier for the manufacturer. After all, it’s a multi-million dollar industry. Due to loose labeling requirements from the FDA, companies can easily label their protein bars as “health food” or “nutrition bars”. Consumers are eager and willing to buy them by the boxful thinking they are making healthy and nutritious choices.

If you want to find the needle in the haystack of protein bars with actual nutritional value, not just glorified junk food, you need to spend time reading the ingredients on the back of each bar. As with any other packaged food, the less ingredients the better. And all the ingredients should be recognizable to you.