By Sam Davis, BHS, CPT, FNS
There are a couple of things we need to watch when it comes to our health and nutrition these days: high protein & low sugar.
You have to make sure your muscles recover properly after you break them down day in and day out, especially if you’re an avid weightlifter. When you don’t get enough protein, you are actually just breaking your muscles down—and keeping them down. In other words: no growth. So what’s the point?
Simply put, sugar seems like it’s in everything—but you should stay away from it when you can. Read some of our tips to cut out sugar from your diet, as it’s one of the best ways to see results; sugar is usually the one factor people miss when they are trying to figure out why they aren’t breaking through their plateaus. Too much sugar over time will promote insulin resistance, which in turn causes the pancreas to work harder. When an organ is overworked, it fails early. Too much sugar in our diet also puts us at risk for weight gain, which leads to obesity and diabetes. Protein bar companies will often stuff a ton of sugar along with 20 grams of protein in a 7-ounce bar to make the whey protein taste good—so be careful about your protein bars. (Even if you find them in the “healthy” aisle.)
Most of us, however, don’t want to carry around 6 containers of chicken, brown rice, and egg whites, so the next best recovery option is often the protein bar. They’re easy to carry, easily accessible, and convenient, especially for fitness lovers who are always on-the-go. So here are three protein bars that’ll get the job done—without compromising your health with loads of sugar.
KIND really has taken their products to the next level by making their protein bars with 100% whole grains, gluten-free ingredients, no genetically engineered ingredients, added super grains, and very simple, whole foods. You’ll find 12 grams of natural protein, and only 8 grams of natural sugar in each protein bar. I recommend Crunchy Peanut Butter.
The best part about Luna Bars is their flavor. I recommend chocolate peanut butter as one of their best-tasting protein bar flavors. (Do you see a pattern here?) They have some decadent flavors that will be sure to curb your sweet tooth in a healthier way since they’re a low glycemic option. They are gluten-free, made with no corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, contain zero grams of trans fat, and have no genetically engineered ingredients. These bars contain 12 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar each.
These bars have become increasingly popular over the last couple years because of their very short, natural, and pure ingredients list. This brand discloses exactly what’s in the bar—and that makes it easy to trust there aren’t any unnecessary hidden ingredients. The Coffee Chocolate Bar is my favorite flavor, as it is loaded with the healthy stuff while maintaining a decadent taste. You’ll find 12 grams of protein and 12 grams of sugar in each bar.
The name is deceiving. The bar contains 20 grams of protein and is “sugar-free”—but it actually comes with 22 grams of sugar alcohols. It contains maltitol, which has been proven to create abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloat. Pass on this one.
We are so sad to see Nature Valley on this list because they taste so good! If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. With 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of sugar, this looks like a wonderful option—but the kicker? It’s highly processed. The protein and fat you see in these bars comes from soy protein isolate and palm oil. In other words: fillers.
Shocked to see this one on the worst 3? Us too. The packaging is so convincing. QuestBar claims to have real ingredients and whole foods in their bars, but when you turn the bar over and look at the ingredients list you’ll notice there isn’t any whole food to be found except almonds. It’s low sugar (1 gram sugar, 2 grams erythritol) and high protein with 21 grams, but it’s pumped with fillers, chemicals, and additives, which aren’t healthy for our bodies.
This is a plant-based protein bar with 11 grams of protein, 9 grams of natural sugars, and 5 grams of fiber, and only 200 calories. It’s like a dessert, with more benefits than downsides.
We love our KIND bars! Unlike some of the alternatives, you won’t need to sugar detox after eating one. This is one of the best all-natural bars with the lowest amount of natural sugar, at only 4g. With only 210 calories, this all-natural bar gives you some protein and just a tiny amount of natural sugar, but it doesn’t slack in flavor or good fats.
If you don’t trust the processed food industry, you can always make your own protein bars at home with all-natural products. This is the most effective way to find “clean” low sugar, high protein bars—but you’ll be stuck calculating all the nutrition facts per serving. Just pick out the type of protein powder to fit your needs, and use it in your protein bar recipe. If you’re not ready to do that, stick to our top 3!