While I’m constantly pushing the idea of whole food and cooking meals from home, I’m also a realist. Days get long. Days don’t go as planned. Sometimes work meetings plow through lunch. You get the idea. Having a protein bar stashed in your purse, desk or center console can make all the difference in bridging to your next meal successfully. That said the volume of choices for bars is completely overwhelming. As I was perusing some of the newest ones on the market at my local Sprouts today, I thought it might be helpful to share that process and how I evaluate what ends up in my cart. After a flavor or label catches my eye these are the steps I go through reviewing the labels.
- Protein. As in does it have at least 10g of protein in the bar. You’d be amazed at how many bars are actually all carbs and fat with hardly any protein.
- Calories. Does it have more than 250 calories? If it does, it will be a whole meal replacement and that’s just more calories than I want to eat in a bar, I’ll probably finish in six bites.
- Carbs. If it’s more than 25g of carbs, I better be buying it for a 50 mile bike ride. Anything less than that and it’s more carbs than I need from a bar.
- Fat. 7-14g seems to be pretty doable for a bar and it still taste good enough.
- Ingredients. This is the tricky part. First question is do I know the ingredients? If the list is longer than a tweet, I skip it. If I can recognize all the ingredients, then I start diving into specifics. I look at whether there’s added sugar or sweetner, artificial sweetners like stevia or erythritol and then look at the protein source. For me, it has to be dairy-free, but whey is fine for many people.
That’s all to get me to spend $1.50-3 per bar to even try it. Then comes the taste factor. I know some people have a really hard time with how bars taste. I get that, BUT for me personally, if they taste too good and too much like a candy bar, I will want to eat them like a candy bar and it becomes a battle of will power instead of convenient emergency food. It has to be palatable, but not too delicious either.
This approach keeps bringing me back to RxBars, which work really well for me and I like them well enough, but I keep looking and reading labels to see what else I can find for clients. Pictured above are some of my latest hauls from today, which I’ll be trying in the coming weeks.
So I’m curious, what’s your criteria for snack food and which bars are your go tos?