Hi everyone! My name is Cameron Mottet and I am a Wellness Intern for Chartwells at the University of Arkansas this semester! I know how crazy and busy college life can be, so hopefully I can provide you with some good tips on healthy eating! One thing that I see a lot of us doing is eating protein bars! They are great to just throw in our backpacks and eat between classes! But we also need to take into account what exactly is in our protein bar. That is why I am going to discuss with you what to look for when choosing a protein bar!
When choosing a “protein” bar, the main source of nutrients you are looking for is obviously protein. That’s why you want to choose one with a decent amount of protein. This will vary from person to person because we all have different needs, but try to aim for at least eight grams of protein per bar. You also want to look at the source of protein. Whether the protein is coming from whey, casein, or a protein blend such as pea and rice protein. These proteins should be listed towards the top of the ingredient list. (We will get to more on this a little later.)
2. Carbohydrates (fiber and sugar)
Carbohydrates are also a very important characteristic when choosing a protein bar. When looking at protein bars you want to take into account the amount of dietary fiber and sugar. You want to aim for at least a few grams of fiber per bar. Consuming fiber will help you stay fuller longer and will help keep you regular, if you know what I mean!
When it comes to sugar when choosing the right protein bar, there are so many different types of sugars it can be overwhelming. But what is important to know is that all sugars serve the same purpose in our bodies. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) or a novel sweetener like stevia are going to have no calories, so they might be a good choice for somebody trying to watch their weight. On the other hand, your sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, and xylitol and natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and molasses are going to contain some calories.
Fats are good in protein bars because they make us stay fuller longer. Protein bars may contain quite a bit of fat, but what is important is to look at what kind of fat it is providing you with. You want to choose protein bars with the “healthy” fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These types of fats are going to be in nuts and nut butters primarily for protein bars. You also want to keep an eye out for the less healthy fats like saturated and trans fats. It is okay to have some saturated fat, but you really don’t want to have any trans fats in your protein bar.
When it comes to the calories, it really depends on the person and what your use is for eating the protein bar. If you are trying to gain weight or muscle you may be okay with consuming a higher calorie protein bar. But if you are trying to watch your calorie intake, protein bars may not be the best snack for you since they do contain quite a few calories. There may be better snack choices for you that have more volume, but less calories. With that being said, you also want to take into account the size of the protein bar compared to the amount of calories it contains.
5. Ingredient List
Reading the ingredients label is one of the most important parts when choosing the right protein bar. The ingredients are listed beginning with the main ingredient and descending down to the ingredient used least in the food item. And since we are talking about protein bars, one of the first ingredients listed should be the source of protein. This is also where you will find how the bar is being sweetened. And lastly, you want to try to look for a protein bar with the least amount of ingredients.
Some of my favorite protein bars are Perfect, GoMacro, NuGo Slim, and Square Organics protein bars. Also, some great options that you can find at our very own Club Red are Clif, thinkThin, and KiZE protein bars! So, if you ever get hungry on campus stop by Club Red and choose the perfect protein bar for you!