By Gina Beretta; Photography by Stock Snap
Are you just eating a candy bar in disguise?
Let’s face it — with their promise of all-natural ingredients and carefully calculated macros on the labels, it’s super easy to assume that all protein bars are good for you. Newsflash: the reality is that they could be blocking you from achieving your #BodyGoals.
The biggest factor that people overlook when it comes to these bars? That they can be a healthy snack option or meal replacement, so it’s vital that you look at the nutritional information on the label to find out if you’re reaching for a quick nibble, or something you could actually sub for lunch.
Below, we reveal the three most common protein bar mistakes many people make — and how to choose a better bar.
MISTAKE #1: You ignore the kilojoule count on the label
Protein bars can be damn delicious (like who wouldn’t be down to eat a healthy chocolate cookie dough snack?!)… and that means they’re easy to gorge on, too. By mindlessly chowing down, you might just overload on kilojoules without realising it.
So before you grab a bar in the health section at your local supermarket, check the kilojoules on the label. If you typically eat around 8,000 kilojoules a day, then consider the 1200-kilojoule mark the limit for a protein bar (if you’re eating one as a meal replacement).
Just snacking? Then start thinking lower. You should generally stick to 400 to 800 kilojoules, so that you don’t overdo it before your next meal.
MISTAKE #2: You don’t check the protein percentage
FYI — The label might say it’s a protein bar, but here’s the facts: Sometimes, a ‘protein’ bar doesn’t really have that much protein in it. And without sufficient protein, that bar you just grabbed won’t actually satisfy your hunger for long which means you’ll start reaching for more snacks. Duh.
Oh and btw, if your bar is loaded with twice as many carbs as protein, you’re in for a killer blood-sugar spike. The insulin surge and sudden drop that occurs after eating a bar loaded with carbohydrates can just leave you feeling ‘hangry’ and craving more carbs. Not exactly ideal for weight-loss, is it?
READ MORE: 5 Foods With More Protein Than An Egg!
If you’re going to grab a protein bar, make sure it has at least 15 grams of protein (20 grams is ideal) and no more than half as much fat as protein. So, let’s do the math — for every 20 grams of protein, the bar should only have 10 grams of fat. You also need to make sure that your bar contains no more than 1.5 times as many carbs as protein.
And lastly, don’t forget your fibre! Go for a protein bars that has at least three to five grams of fibre. High-fibre foods keep you feeling satisfied and aid digestion, which is always good if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight.
MISTAKE #3: You don’t listen to your stomach
Keep an eye out for inulin and oligosaccharides (they improve the taste of the bar and add lots of fibre) but can also cause bloating, gas, and cramps. We all know that no matter how much weight you lose, bloating won’t exactly help you fit into your clothes. And if you end up with an upset stomach? Skip bars that include those ingredients.
In a nutshell, if you’re short on time or traveling, protein bars can be an ideal snack or even hold you over until your next healthy option. But just make informed choices by keeping an eye on what your bar actually contains, so you can stay on track with your eating plan.
Looking for more? Here are three protein-packed breakfast that taste like dessert (yes, really!)