Protein bars: to eat or not to eat?

by Khushboo on July 18, 2012

Hola!  I opened up my blog earlier and saw that this is my 403rd post.  I remember when my friend suggested I start a blog about my passion for fitness & nutrition, I told her I would have nothing to write about.  Apparently somebody’s chattier than she thinks ;)!

In between sets yesterday, my personal trainer and I were discussing our opinions on protein bars.  Although certain bars are marketed as being “high protein”, “energy”, “nutrition” bars, one look at their ingredient list just confirms it: these “health” bars are ultimately glorified candy bars.  Fortunately this isn’t the case with all protein bars available:

Why I do eat them: The primary reason why I would opt for a protein bar is purely down to convenience. For 150-250 calories, it’s easy to get my protein fix on-the-go. Some of my current favorites are Cliff Mojo Bars, Luna Bars & Think Thin Bars, which can each rack up to 12g of protein per serving. While I can get almost twice that amount with a piece of chicken or a few eggs, sometimes I rather not lug it around.  I’m all for eating wholesome food but on days where it’s just not happening (for whatever reason), these bars are great in a pinch.

I’d be kidding if I said that taste didn’t factor in either.    There are so many delicious flavors on the market these days like Peanut Butter Pretzel, Cookies “N” Cream, Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts and so forth.  I’m all for indulging when the occasion calls, but sometimes I’d rather curb my sweet tooth with a somewhat nutritious food…sorry fruit doesn’t always cut it.

Why I don’t eat them regularly: That being said, I do try to limit my intake of them to a couple of times a week.  Nutritious or not, protein bars are heavily processed.  For that reason, I try to buy bars with minimal ingredient lists that contain pronounceable ingredients.

In addition, no protein bar is pure protein; all of them contain carbs & fat.  Whether it’s listed as brown rice syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, sugar alcohols, protein bars do contain an added sweetener…and probably more than you would expect.  Not only that, protein bars work out fairly expensive at about £1.75 per bar.  Because I’m a math wizard geek, I’ll do the math for you: eating a bar a day for a month works out to over £50 (~$90)..errr no thanks!

My overall take: Of course protein bars score points in the protein department, but like any food you can’t look at that macronutrient in isolation.  On most days, my go-to portable snack is almonds & raisins, which are 100% unprocessed. It’s not the most protein-rich option, but I think the rest of my meals provide me with enough protein.  However I will continue to eat protein bars in moderation, especially as they are already on my “To Buy” list for when I’m in London next month.

What’s your favorite protein bar?

Why or why don’t you eat protein bars? 

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Min July 18, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Great post, Khushboo! I don’t eat protein bars often, but when I do, I eat Pure Protein Revolution bar..And it most certainly has to be the chocolate peanut caramel flavor! I eat them for the convenience factor. It’s quick and I can leave it in my backpack all day long w/o worrying about spoilage and TDZ.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Thanks, Min! That protein bar flavor sounds so yum- kinda like a Mars & Snickers bar in one! I always keep a protein bar in my handbag- never know when it’s going to come handy!

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Alex @ therunwithin July 18, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Great post for sure. I actually never eat protein bars, for me they just don’t sit well in my stomach. I am more into bringing other types of snacks. That being said, i think they are definitly a great thing for convenience if you like them!

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Protein bars are good but I’ve never found one that are worth the stomachache- glad you’ve found alternatives!

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Tara July 18, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I never eat protein bars. I’m not completely against them necessarily, but I would rather have a chocolate bar 😉 I think the last time I had a protein bar was in October, when I got a stash to last me through a long work conference and got my boss hooked on them! haha

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I’m with you about having the chocolate bar…nothing beats the real deal!

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sprint2thetable July 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

I am like you – I keep them around for “emergencies” but I find eating whole foods fuels my body much better. There is so much sugar in them (with the exception of Think Thin)… it kills me that people will eat them thinking they’re a health food.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Haha same here- and I feel bad to burst their bubble…which I’m sure this post did for a few ;)!

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Krystal@Ms.Random July 18, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I do have Cliff bars occasionally but I am kinda concerned about the amount of sugar in these bars. But on the other hand they are supposed to be healthy…right and filling because I get really hangry when I am hiking.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Especially as you’re eating them while hiking, the high sugar content works in your favor- instant energy!

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Errign July 18, 2012 at 11:22 pm

I LIKE protein bars like luna and clif mojo, but I don’t eat them often because of the price and all the sugar.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Those are my faves too, especially the cookies ‘n’ cream luna bar and peanut & chocolate cliff mojo bars!

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Tessa Merrick (@Tessa8m) July 19, 2012 at 4:27 am

Hahha that is funny that you put the picture of the Snicker’s “energy” bars on here.. I just had one the other day! I know they do contain zero true healthful ingredients, but they are slightly better than a regular snickers bar, and sooo tasty lol. But I agree with you, I go for Clif, Luna for healthier ones… Quest and Vega bars are great too!

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:40 pm

They do look good from the picture. I’m a huge Snickers fan so I gotta ask- do they taste anything like the real deal?

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Corrie Anne July 19, 2012 at 9:48 am

I don’t eat a whole lot of protein bars. Mostly because I don’t want to pay for them, also the sugar and calories tend to be a little higher than what I actually need. Some of them seem like candy bars. But I could definitely use more protein in my life. I did try a Simple bar and liked it. I think that was the name. Lol.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I hate the conception that bars/shakes are the only way to get adequate protein- totally doable through diet alone!

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Sable Weisman (@SquatLikeALady) July 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I completely agree with you!! Protein bars are great in a pinch, but definitely not something I’d want to eat with a great deal of frequency. You bring up a good point – they are very expensive. Making homemade protein bars could solve that problem though, and I’ve done that in the past.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Homemade bars sound great- do you have any recipes on your blog?

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Jess July 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Really balanced view you have. There are definitely some delicious ones out there. But I don’t think that they are really all that healthy.

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Khushboo Thadani July 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

They are definitely “sugar-coated” as being healthier than they really are!

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Asmita (@FoodieAsmita) July 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Hi Khushboo,
I don’t like protein bars much as they contain a high level of sugar in them. I enjoy protein shakes with an added fruit to it. I find that healthier.

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:35 am

I agree- I’ve been using Sunwarrior for the past 6 month and although I limit myself to one scoop a day, I don’t feel bad about taking it- the ingredients are great!

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Living, Learning, Eating July 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I love protein bars because I have such a sweet tooth and they’re absolutely delicious! I’ve definitely been guilty of over-eating bars, though (like having 3 a day everyday!) and try not to do that because whole food is just better.

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:41 am

Some of them are so tasty, I’m not surprised you are often eat multiple a day :)!

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Meenakshi July 19, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Hey thanks so much for sharing this, Khushboo! It’s been really informative. I sometimes eat protein bars like candy, to avoid grabbing a Snickers bar 😛

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Meenakshi!

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Dixya July 19, 2012 at 11:31 pm

i cant agree with your comment more..there are days and times when it is just not possible to get your meals on time and these bars do come handy 🙂 but at the same time we all need to realize its probably not the best thing to do a regular basis!!!

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:48 am

As cliche as it sounds, they’re ok in moderation 🙂

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Brittany July 20, 2012 at 1:11 am

I’m pretty sure we are the same person. Our views are the same on basically everything! I keep my protein bar consumption on the low side, but I am not against the ones you’ve listed such as the think thin, mojo bars (amazing) sometimes even cliff builder bars..all of those are vegan friendly too!! I like to get my protein from the main source, but on the go I love a tasty snack!

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hahah all I’m saying is great minds :)!

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Honey,What's Cooking (@honeywhatscook) July 20, 2012 at 10:18 am

Completely agree with you. I do love these bars, but I do limit my intake to about 2-3 times a week. I don’t eat breakfast everyday, remember. The day I work from home and weekends, I eat toast – LATE. My favorite bar is KIND, you have to try it, it is AMAZING!
Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate.
Dark Chocolate and cherrry.
They are all just soooooooooooo good.

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Khushboo Thadani July 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

Ah I love KIND Bars! I’ve only tried a handful of flavors but I especially love Blueberry & Pecan! PB & Dark Choc sounds RIGHT up my alley :)!

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Sig July 23, 2012 at 6:19 am

I used to really like them when I was doing weights regularly – basically 1) because of the convenience and 2) they were in yummy chocolate flavours that I could eat without feeling guilty I was eating chocolate. But I kinda stopped when I realised I could make my own with much better ingredients and I started drinking a lot more smoothies and real food so I didn’t need them any more. But I do love the sound of those bars you mentioned!

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Khushboo Thadani July 23, 2012 at 11:19 am

Ohh do you have any recipes for those homemade bars? Would love to try making my own!

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forgottenbeast July 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

I enjoy the occasional protein bar–maybe one a week (or one like you say–emergency meal or snack when there isn’t time to put some whole foods together). I love the Clif Builder bars, but I eat them like they ARE a candy bar–as in, as a treat (since they’re all chocolatey and caramel-y), just a treat with a good protein boost as well.

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Khushboo Thadani July 24, 2012 at 3:44 pm

That’s a great mindset- to treat them as a candy bar rather than kid yourself that it’s a healthy option….that sounds like a protein-rich Mars bar :)!

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