THE HEALTHIEST, BEST TASTING SNACK & PROTEIN BARS
First, let me share this unpopular opinion: I don’t love many snack or protein bars and I don’t typically recommend them to my coaching clients unless pressed. Why? Whole food-based nutrition is always going to be better than something that comes in a package with a paragraph-long ingredient list. Many snack and protein bars are either the nutritional equivalent of a Snickers OR they contain a boatload of low-quality ingredients, fillers, sugar, additives, preservatives and all sorts of funky highly processed stuff. Flip over a Clif Bar and read the label. Do you know what half of that stuff is? Because I don’t.
In a perfect world, snacks would be comprised of things like fresh vegetables and/or fruit, nuts and seeds, avocados, hard-boiled eggs, or my favorite: medjool dates stuffed with nut butter. (See more healthy snack ideas here). But I understand that isn’t realistic 100% of the time. Our busy lifestyles and travel schedules sometimes make bars a necessary alternative. They are compact and lightweight (as compared to a glass container of raw veggies and hummus), require no prep or cleanup and are easy to grab and go. They are often highly palatable (and oddly addictive) and they are a convenience food in an age when everyone wants convenience above all. So what to do? When looking for the healthiest snack & protein bars, choose bars that:
Are made of whole, real, unprocessed or minimally-processed foods (examples: dry-roasted nuts and seeds, oats, dates or honey, collagen or a one-ingredient protein, like hemp protein)
Have only ingredients you can pronounce and are familiar with (if you can’t sound it out and have never heard of it, chances are it’s an additive, preservative or filler you don’t want or need in your body)
Ideally have under 8 grams of sugar. Why? Because that’s just over 30% of your recommended daily maximum for added sugar. This goal will still leave you a reasonable amount of options on the shelves, and it's also low enough to keep your blood sugar relatively balanced (when combined with fat, protein and fiber). Keeping the sugar in your snacks moderate also leaves wiggle room for the inevitable cookie later in the day and/or other expected/common sources of added sugar (the bread in your sandwich at lunch, the drizzle of maple syrup in your oatmeal, the honey in your tea, etc), without exceeding that 25 grams of added sugar. If you consume a bar with 18 grams of sugar, you’re destined to far exceed the recommended amount for the day.
Ideally balance the sugar out with an equal amount (or more) of protein, some healthy fats and at least a few grams of fiber (at least 5 grams in a perfect world). Example: if a bar has 6 grams of sugar, you want it to have at least 6 grams of protein and healthy fat and a few grams of fiber. This slows the assimilation of carbohydrates and helps keep your blood sugar more stable.
If you can’t find ones that fit the last two criteria, start with bars that fit the top 2 criteria, like some of the MFW approved snack and protein bars below. Please also remember that eating when you’re hungry is important for blood sugar stabilization, hormone balance, a healthy relationship with food and most importantly, sanity, so always just do the best you can in any circumstance!
I’ve been testing bars for a couple of months now, and here are a few of my favorite healthy snack and protein bars. I feel good about eating these when I’m pressed for time and feel good enough about the ingredients to share them with family, friends and coaching clients.
Urban Remedy Cacao Chip Protein Bar $28 for a box of 7
Why I love it: Dark, delicious chocolate. Need I say more? Also, I’m addicted to the flavor and texture of these bars, I love the ingredients, appreciate that they’re lower in sugar than most protein bars and like the boost of plant-based protein without having to suffer chalkiness.
Yes! Bar Black Sesame Sea Salt $17.94 for a box of 6
Why I love it: This bar is the perfect blend of sweet and salty with a complex flavor and wonderful whole food ingredients. I love the quality, texture and taste of these bars. Many of them have more sugar than protein, but the sugar content is still always less than ½ of that in an apple and far less than most bars on the shelf. I like that the sugar is balanced with loads of healthy fats and fiber too.
OHI Coconut Macadamia Superfood Bar with Maca $24.99 for 8 bars
Why I love it: I can’t get enough of macadamia nuts or coconut, so this bar hits the flavor sweet spot for me. Loaded with healthy fats for sustained energy and still relatively low in sugar, this is a great snack to get me through an evening workout and tide me over until dinner.
Bulletproof Mint Chocolate Chip or Cookie Dough Collagen Protein Bar $34.95 for 12 bars
Why I love them: Although the texture is a bit crumbly (the bars are often broken) and some flavors leave an aftertaste of stevia (vanilla and chocolate), these two flavors are delicious and a good option for clients who have to manage blood sugar for health reasons.
Where to buy: online, Amazon (often on sale), Whole Foods and a lot of fitness studios
Sakara Detox Bar and Energy Bar $29.99 for 6 bars
Why I love them: The quality-of-ingredient standards are VERY high in these bars that contain only organic ingredients and nothing artificial. There is a wonderful balance of fat + fiber + protein balancing out low sugar content in both bars and I love the added superfood benefits. I recommend them to plant-based foodies and ingredient obsessed clients that are willing to pay a premium for perfection.
Where to buy: online and be sure to use code REF_MFW15 at checkout to save 15% off your purchase!