I’m all for trying to match my eating to my workouts and to be honest I don’t mind saying that sometimes I can really struggle. I know what I should eat and how much but I find it really hard to fit it all in with my work schedule being so topsy turvy! So I decided to have a look at some protein heavy snacks I can carry in my bag for a quick fix when I am running short on time. Just to be clear, I am not recommending you replace good nutritious food with any form of processed snack but I thought I should let you in on the surprising/shocking things I have learnt during my research for the perfect handbag hero snack!
Ok so how do you choose the best bar??
Ok this may seem like an obvious point but I was really surprised by how many people I spoke to who regularly eat protein/health bars who hadn’t ever checked the overall calorie count! Mind blown! There seems to be a misconception that because a bar says “protein” on the package that is automatically healthy! If you are on a quest to lose weight then using up 300 calories of your daily count on efficiently a small snack isn’t a great choice.
After the overall calorie count you need to look at the actual protein content of the bar. To make it worth your while try to select a bar that has at least 20grams of protein. Branding is sneaky and some so called “protein bars” may only contain 2-3 grams of protein which is less than a glass of milk! Most bars use Whey protein which is considered by many to be the highest quality but some companies do dilute it down with some forms of soya so just double check the label! (This could be a whole post on its own, Im not saying that I think Whey protein is the best but it is the most widely used particularly within protein bars so for the sake of this post when I say protein I mean Whey!)
Depending on whether you are following a low carb diet (like Atkins etc) this varies in level of importance but generally you want you bar to have less net carbs than grams of protein (this isn’t clear on the packaging so I’ll explain how to calculate this in a sec). The type of carbs are also important (warning this can get a little confusing so here goes…). Many bars contain sugar alcohols which can impact on gastrointestinal health for some people, they can also hide hefty amounts of artificial sweeteners/sugar (watch out for things like honey, glucose and syrup) so your “healthy” protein bar can start to look a little more like a mars bar!!
If your bar contains fibre you may be onto a winner! To work out your net carbs (the ones that matter!) you need to do a little calculation of total carbs minus the grams of fibre. So if the net carbs are less than the grams of protein then your bar might just be a keeper! Generally bars with 1-5grams of net carbs are a safe bet.
The less ingredients the better
The most important tip I can think of is the less ingredients in your protein bar the better! It almost goes without saying that if there are any ingredients you can pronounce then set the bar down and back away slowly! Some well known brands have over 20 ingredients while others have only 3! Im sure you can guess which might come out on tops in terms of health!
Best on test!
In the name of research I have nibbled my way through a few of the top selling brands (note I did NOT eat them all, a few bites was often way more than enough!)
Bounce balls cacao mint (specifically!!)
A firm WH favourite, these tiny balls of nutrient-dense goodness are the perfect 3pm pick-me-up. Not only are they gluten-free but unlike any other protein bar on our list, they’re totally nut free as well!! With more protein than a full bag of spinach and less sugar than 3 tablespoons of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, these balls are a serious contender.
Quest bars (Cookies and Cream)
There seems like an endless list of flavours available to try but I am partial to the Cookies and Cream version (note: some are seriously hard and chewy so watch your teeth!) These bars are huge in the States and are starting to grow a following here in the UK but are still quite hard to get your hands on. Lets look at the vital stats
Cals : 190
Protein : 21g
New kid on the block and suddenly all over your Instagram feed, for obvious reasons! Does it taste good? Hell yes! Although it is a little sickening, but then again I am the same with a normal Mars so could just be me!
Phd Nutrition Protein Flapjack
A very different texture to the rest of the bars on the list which is great, this one really does taste like an actual flapjack! Theres a few flavour options including apple and raspberry, forest berry and peanut butter, I went for the peanut butter option!
The list could go on and on!!!
Do your research and make sure whatever bar you choose does’nt send your goals out the window!