Protein as a word is thrown all over the place in every sentence by everyone today. You hear everyone talk about proteins and its benefits and how everyone should have more or less of it. Now we all know that proteins are essential for building bones and body tissues, which is why proteins are an inherent part of our diets.

With health becoming a priority with everyone today, the need to add proteins to all aspects of our diet has increased. In a fast-paced life that everyone leads right now, how does one ensure that they get their dietary requirements of protein? Enter… the protein bar.

Protein bars have taken the fitness world by storm. But with so many options in the market, choosing one isn’t exactly easy. They may be convenient, but are they healthy and good for you? Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Do You Recognize The Ingredients?

The chunkier the ingredients, the better. If you are able to see and recognize the nuts, fruits, seeds, veggies or even the primary grain used, it helps. How much can you distinguish from the various ingredients if they are all powdered into something?

Sugar: The Hidden Culprit

In a bid to make the energy bars tasty and acceptable to the palate, companies do tend to add a lot of sugar or sugar substitutes. Those are a big no-no. They do add on the calories and can nullify the purpose of having protein bars. They can very quietly increase and go over your recommended dietary allowance of sugar and there goes your effort of eating healthy.

Long Ingredients List?

Sometimes you have rows of ingredients mentioned on the bars and you don’t even know what they are. They almost sound like labels off a chemistry lab. The smaller the list of ingredients, and more identifiable the ingredients, the better the product.

Ingredients to avoid completely, per Goodman and Sananes:

  • Non-natural sugars (includes brown rice syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, dextrose, agave nectar, barley malt, fructose, caramel, sucralose, evaporated cane juice)
  • Sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol) and “fake” sugars
  • Ingredients that sound like chemicals
  • Dairy products like whey or casein
  • Partially hydrogenated oils
  • Artificial food coloring
  • Artificial flavors
  • Artificial preservatives
  • Carrageenan
  • Non-organic soy and soy protein isolate

What is the Protein Content?

Are you into high intensity physical activities or just someone more passive? Your daily physical activity forms the basis on which your daily protein requirement may be calculated.

The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight. This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man. 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. So use your discretion on how much protein you need based on the activities that you do in a day.

  • A bar with at least 5 grams of protein will provide you at least 10 percent of your daily value for protein, so that should be apt.
  • Be alert to see that your protein bar has more protein than sugars.
  • So basically keep in mind what you are eating a bar for; if you are a marathoner, then you may want to look for a bar that is high on calories and if you are someone who has a more sedentary lifestyle and is trying to eat healthy, then choose likewise.

The Verdict

Whatever may be the reason for you to choose protein bars, it all basically means that you have a fast lifestyle, which too, is not the best way to live a good life. So first and foremost, slow down. By doing that and living consciously, you will automatically find the time and energy to understand, see and make for yourself the things that you like to eat, that are good for you and can easily manage your health and life with simple dietary changes at home.

There are a lot of protein rich foods available naturally that can be introduced to make you a hearty tasty meal and that can keep you full and energetic too.

At the end of the day, bars are processed foods and there is no verdict out on whether they are great to be consumed daily. They’re great for times when you’re traveling or keeping busy, but if you’re close to home, then natural foods are the way to go.

Ask any nutritionist or dietitian and they will tell you that there is no substitute for practising mindfulness and intuitive eating during meals. Protein bars don’t have to be off-limits totally, it just doesn’t have to be a daily recommended food option. Many protein bars use sugar alcohols too as sugar substitutes and in the long run, they may not be great for your gastro-intestinal tract. Healthy means differently for different people and it all depends on your lifestyle. Whole foods are always encouraged and protein bars as a part of a healthy, well rounded diet.

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