The packaging was so enticing: 25 grams of protein! Cookie dough flavor! More chocolate flavor than ever before! All natural!
But then my kids starting pleading with me, “Momma, you’re taking SO LONG. Just decide!”
So I picked out my favorites (I’m a sucker for anything chocolate mint) and went on my merry way, kids in tow.
When I got home, I started looking at the labels. The range of calories, ingredients, and sugar was pretty astounding. But those bars were also pretty dang delicious.
It got me thinking: what if I bought a huge batch and compared all of the nutrients and taste into a big chart? I do love taste tests, and I do love an excuse to use Excel.
3 shopping trips, 4 weeks, and 40 protein bars later, here are the highlights of my findings.
- Added fiber: Ever heard of inulin? You might see it on the label as chicory root fiber. It’s a type of fiber, and many makers of protein bars use it to bump up the fiber. For those of you with autoimmune GI issues like me, take caution with this ingredient: it can be a rough ride. Here’s more info on inulin: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/05/05/what-is-inulin-chicory-root-fiber
- High sugar: The sugar levels—and the types of sugars and sugar substitutes—ranged wildly. On the low end was the golden child of protein bars, Quest. While there isn’t any sugar, there is Erythritol, which in small doses seems to not be too bad on your stomach. (Here’s a good piece on it: http://www.nutrientsreview.com/carbs/sweetener-erythritol.html)
On the high end was a protein bar made by Gatorade, which I found in my local supermarket. It’s called Gatorade Whey Protein Bar, and the chocolate mint crunch had 28 GRAMS OF SUGAR in it and 360 calories. Yikes. Here’s a good review on these bars: http://supplement-geek.com/gatorade-whey-protein-bar-review/ . Builder’s Bar was a close second at 22 grams of sugar for the vanilla almond flavor.
- Stomach woes: some of the bars had added fiber (see above), which my stomach did not like whatsoever. One example was the Think Thin Protein and Fiber bar. It was a shame that my stomach revolted because it was delicious, but just not worth the discomfort for me. Builder’s Bars were similar, and not nearly as tasty.
- A great alternative: I discovered some interesting alternatives to the widely available bars, and many of them were really tasty. Here is my favorite:
- RXbar: This is now my go-to protein bar. They’re basically like Lara bars (if you’re unfamiliar with those, they’re just dates, nuts, and other dried fruit) but with egg whites in them. My new favorite flavor is pumpkin spice. The only ingredients are pumpkin, almonds, egg whites, dates, and cashews. There’s only 12 grams of protein so you do lose a bit of protein when compared to Quest (20 grams of protein) but I will sometimes have it with some greek yogurt or turkey jerky to add some extra protein if I need to boost my numbers. Plus, you can buy them at Trader Joe’s where they’re only $1.99, at least at my store.
Here’s a quick summary of the results:
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