Diana Becker of Live Lean Eat Green recently wrote a great blog post examining the ingredientsin six of the most popular protein bars on the market today. She gave us permission to share her article here. If you find yourself reaching for one of these bars after a workout or while doing your weekly grocery shopping, this blog post is for you. Stay informed!
Until recently, I never looked at ingredients on bars. All I cared about was how many calories and how much protein were in them. So, I’ve actually had every single bar I go over in this post and completely understand why so many people get tricked into thinking these bars are healthy options.
I’m so thankful that my friend Ashley brought this idea to me. I was so inspired writing this and truly think this might be one of the most important and eye-opening posts I’ve ever done on my blog. We are living in a world where food manufactures disguise cheap, chemical filled foods with seemingly healthy slogans and creative packaging, like: “0g of sugar”, “20g of protein”…etc.
It’s up to us as consumers to learn about the dangers of consuming processed foods and the benefits of eating a diet based around real food. My goal for this blog is to draw attention to fake ingredients that can be overlooked when buying allegedly healthy foods, like these common protein bars
THINK THIN BAR (BROWNIE CRUNCH)
“0g of sugar contains a balanced mix of quality ingredients…”
- Gluten free, kosher
- 230 calories
- 20g protein
- 25g carbs (2g fiber, 0g sugar, 12g sugar alcohol, 9g other carb)
ingredients: Protein blend (soy protein isolate, calcium caseinate, whey protein isolate), maltitol, coating (maltitol, cocoa butter, chocolate, sodium caseinate, milk fat, soy lecithin, natural flavors, salt), glycerin, almonds, water, soy crisps (soy protein isolate, tapioca starch), alkalized cocoa, canola oil, soy lecithin, natural flavors, chocolate, sea salt
real talk: I use to eat Think Thin bars all the time because they tasted delicious and I loved the idea that the had 0g of sugar and 20g of protein. However, every single time I ate them I’d get an awful stomach ache. After doing some research I figured out it’s the sugar alcohol (maltitol) that was causing my stomach aches. Sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal discomfort and may even have a laxative effect AHH! Be careful when looking at labels when you see ingredients that end in an “-ol” (maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol…etc) they are more often than not a sneaky sugar alcohol.
rating: 5/10 Think Thin bars do taste good and have a good amount of protein with a relatively short ingredient list BUT are still filled with artificial crap and nasty sugar alcohols that can cause gastrointestinal discomfort. I recommend only having these bars if you’re desperate for a snack and it’s the only thing available.
QUEST BAR (COOKIES AND CREAM)
“…only 1g of sugar…only 3g net carbs…”
- Gluten free
- 180 calories
- 21g protein
- 4g *net carbs (20g carbs – 14g fiber – 2g erythritol) = 4g net carbs
ingredients: Protein blend (whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate), isomalto-oligosaccharides* (prebiotic fiber), water, almonds, cocoa butter, erythritol. Contains less than 2% of the following: cocoa powder, natural flavors, coconut oil, sea salt, sunflower lecithin, dextrin, baking soda, steviol glycosides (stevia), sucralose
real talk: I use to be OBSESSED with Quest Bars for the same reasons as Think Thin bars; they tasted incredible and what can beat the high amount of protein and low carbs. Well…as I started to care more about ingredients rather than calories or protein content I realized these bars may not be the best option out there. I’ll give it to Quest Bars their ingredients aren’t awful but they do contain sugar alcohols (erythritol) and a funky ingredient called isomalto-oligosaccharides which are naturally occurring plant-based fibers that can cause stomach issues. Oh and WTF are net carbs? Great question. Net carbs are the total grams of carbohydrates in a food minus its grams of fiber. Fiber is a carbohydrate your body can’t digest and doesn’t raise your blood sugar or trigger an insulin response. Net carb calculations are often used in low carb diets like Atkins and in Quest’s sake to make a nutrition label look much more appealing for the consumer looking for a “healthy” option.
rating: 7/10 Quest Bars are actually a pretty decent option for a snack when you’re too busy for real food. Obviously the ingredients aren’t perfect but the majority of them are made up of real foods you can actually pronounce and for only 180 calories and 21g of protein they’ve got my approval for an occasional snack.
CLIF BAR (WHITE CHOCOLATE MACADAMIA NUT)
“Made with organic rolled oats”
- 260 calories
- 23 Vitamins & Minerals
- 70% Organic Ingredients
- 41g carbs (21g sugar, 16g “other carbohydrate”)
- 9g protein
ingredients: Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Organic Roasted Soybeans, Organic Cane Syrup, Macadamia Nuts, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Organic Oat Fiber, Organic Soy Flour, Cocoa Butter‡, Organic Soybean Oil, Soy Flour, Natural Flavors, Salt, Organic Date Paste, Barley Malt Extract, Organic Vanilla Extract, Soy Lecithin, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant) Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), DL-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Beta Carotene (Vit. A), Niacinamide (Vit. B3), Ergocalciferol (Vit. D2), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vit. B1), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12)
real talk: Did you know ingredients on a nutrition label are listed in order of the greatest amount in the product to the least? That’s why the second I saw “brown rice syrup” listed as the first ingredient in Clif Bars I immediately wanted to puke. These bars like the others taste awesome but the ingredients are just not good despite their best efforts to market the “organic rolled oats”…please. Let’s get back to brown rice syrup though…it is technically a sweetener derived from brown rice. It’s made by exposing cooked rice to enzymes that break down the starches and turn them into smaller sugars. What is left is a thick, sugary syrup made up of 3 sugars (maltotriose, maltose and glucose). NO THANK YOU!
rating: 3/10 I hate the ingredients in these bars are would probably rather starve than eat one. Don’t be fooled by their “healthy” packaging, organic rolled oats and the fact that they contain 23 vitamins & minerals. These bars are nothing more than a candy bar.
KIND BAR (DARK CHOCOLATE NUTS & SEA SALT)
“ingredients you can see and pronounce”
- Gluten free
- 200 calories
- 6g protein
- 16g carbs (5g sugar –includes 4g added sugars)
ingredients: Almonds, dark chocolate flavored coating (palm kernel oil, chicory root fiber, sugar, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, natural flavor, salt), peanuts, chicory root fiber, honey, walnuts, glucose syrup, rice flour, unsweetened chocolate, sea salt, soy lecithin, sugar
real talk: FINALLY a bar that has a healthy first ingredient…Almonds! BUT there are definitely a few funky ingredients sprinkled into these bars for example, chicory root fiber. Chicory roots contain high amounts of naturally occurring fiber called Inulin. This fiber is popular with food manufacturers because of its ability to successfully mix with other ingredients without ruining their flavor all while boosting its fiber content. However, while other fibers are broken down more slowly in the body, chicory root is broken down quickly and completely by bacteria in the large intestine, which can cause uncomfortable symptoms like gas, bloating and cramps. Some people are more sensitive to chicory root fiber than others so if you don’t get any digestive symptoms consider yourself lucky because I sure do. Last point here… if you’re trying to boost your fiber by eating bars please consider eating real foods instead.
rating: 8/10 For acommon protein bar KIND bars in my opinion are the best ones out there. They use primarily whole food ingredients and really do taste great.
ATKINS BAR (CARAMEL CHOCOLATE PEANUT NOUGAT BAR)
“1g sugar and only 2g net carbs”
- 170 calories
- 9g protein
- 20g carbs (11g fiber – 1g sugar – 7g sugar alcohols) = 2g net carbs
ingredients: Caramel layer (fructooligosaccharides, polydextrose, palm kernel and palm oil, salted butter (cream, salt), water, nonfat dry milk, glycerin, soy lecithin, mono and diglycerides, salt, natural flavor, sodium citrate, carrageenan, sucralose), chocolate flavored coating (palm kernel oil, polydextrose, maltitol, whey protein concentrate, cocoa powder, whole milk powder, soy lecithin, salt, natural and artificial flavor, sucralose, acesulfame potassium), roasted peanuts (oeanuts, soybean oil, salt), protein blend (soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed gelatin, whey protein isolate), glycerin, peanut oil, olive oil blend (olive oil, maltodextrin, sodium casemate, mono and diglycerides, dipotassium phosphate), palm kernel and palm oil, clarified butter, soy lecithin, natural and artificial flavors, vitamin mineral mix (magnesium oxide, sodium ascorbate, ascorbic acid (vitamin c), dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e), niacinamide, zinc oxide, d-calcium pantothenate, vitamin a palmitate, thiamin mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin b6), riboflavin (vitamin b2), chromium amino acid chelate, folicacid, biotin, sodium selenite, phylloquinone (vitamin k1), cyanocobalamin (vitamin b12), salt, citric acid, sucralose
real talk: Okay WTF! Typing all those ingredients just took me 10 minutes and I don’t think a single ingredient is real food…just processed, sketchy, chemical filled shit! I’d rather eat a bar with 100g of REAL SUGAR than this garbage. I really have nothing to say about these bars other than the fact that I’m disgusted.
rating: 0/10 Seriously, starve before eating one of these!
PURE PROTEIN BAR (CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP)
“The right choice for your on-the-go lifestyle”
- gluten free
- 200 calories
- 20g protein
- 18g carbs (3g sugar, 5g sugar alcohol)
ingredients: Protein blend (whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate), chocolate flavored coating (maltitol, fractionated palm kernel oil, whey protein concentrate, cocoa [processed with alkali], calclium carbonate, natural flavors, soy lechithin, sucralose), hydrolyzed collagen, glycerin, soy crisps (soy protein isolate, tapioca starch, salt), milk chocolate drops (sugar, whole milk powder, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, natural vanilla flavor), maltitol syrup. water, maltodextrin, soy protein isolate, canola oil, natural flavors, cocoa powder, sucralose, xanthan gum, peanut flour, soy lecithin, almond butter)
real talk: People love Pure Protein bars because they are cheap and sold at Costco. BUT I just can’t get behind a food product that has directions and a warning label on their box. I’m not kidding…the directions state to drink water while eating these bars and the warning label tells consumers that the bars contain sugar alcohols, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort and may have a laxative effect. NO THANKS!
rating: 5/10 In a pinch I guess these bars are a decent choice. The ingredients aren’t awful but just be mindful of all the processed ingredients and those pesky sugar alcohols.
Have you tried any of these bars?
Do you get an upset stomach from sugar alcohols?