7 Tips To Choosing the Best Health Bar

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Let me start this first by saying that I always advise eating whole food first, but sometimes when you are desperate and starving having a bar on hand can be a lifesaver. That being said, the vast majority of protein bars on the market are nothing more than candy bars with some protein, and are loaded with sugar and artificial flavorings. This guide is meant to help you weed out the junk food and help you to find a high quality bar.

Below lists the top tips to choosing the best health bar:

1. Ingredients list

The ingredients list is always the first thing I look at when I check out a new bar. If there is a long list of chemical names or ingredients I can’t pronounce, I’m not eating it. I also try to only go for gluten-free bars whenever possible because gluten is a highly inflammatory.

I recommend you look for a bar with no more than 10 ingredients. Examples of healthy ingredients include: cinnamon, whey protein, dried apples, almonds, etc.

2. Net carbs

First of all, there is a big difference between “net” carbs and “total” carbs. We really only care about net carbs because net carbs means the total amount of carbs that will be absorbed into your bloodstream as sugar. You calculate net carbs by subtracting fiber from the total carbohydrate content listed on the food. This is because even though fiber is listed as a carb, it is not absorbed by your body and does not cause any change in blood sugar (meaning calories don’t count from fiber). Many foods are labeled with net carbs now, but if not then you should definitely count them yourself.

It depends what type of diet you are following in terms of how many net carbs to look for, but lower the better and I generally won’t eat a bar with over 10 net carbs because this usually means the bar is also high in sugar.

3. Check sugar

This goes along with net carbs, because sugar is also listed a carbohydrate just like fiber is, but sugar is 100% absorbed into your bloodstream and absolutely count towards calories and sugar.

Ideally sugar should be below 5 grams. Yes, this includes bars that are naturally sweetened with fruit – that’s just clever marketing. Sugar is sugar no matter the source, and once it is in your blood stream your body does not care where it came from.

4. Check fiber

As you can probably figure out from reading the above, more fiber the better! Not only is fiber not absorbed by the body, it also may cause your body to burn more calories. Read more about the top benefits of fiber here.

I recommend you look for a bar with at least 5 grams of fiber – there is no upper limit!

5. Check protein

You’d be surprised how many “protein” bars actually contain very little protein. I always advise higher protein bars because protein is what keeps you full and is what supplies the building blocks for muscle. Look for a bar with at least 15 grams of protein.

Generally the best and most bioavailable type of protein found in protein bars is whey protein. So unless you are a strict vegan or vegetarian, go for whey protein over rice protein or some other vegan variety.

6. Check fat

More fat the better! – As long as the fat is not coming from unhealthy vegetable oils or trans fats. Fats are satisfying, they taste good, and they keep you full. I’d be weary of any bar that didn’t have much fat or was labeled fat-free because that means something else was added to make it taste good – which usually means sugar and/or other artificial flavorings. 

I recommend at least 2 grams of fat, more the better.

7. Check artificial sweeteners

Most artificial sweeteners are not absorbed by the body and therefore do not contain any absorbable calories. That being said, there have been some studies that have found certain sweeteners being tied to increased cravings for sugar or increasing insulin. For these reasons, I recommend sweeteners that are the most natural which include dried fruits, stevia, and monk fruit.

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About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.