The U.S. food bars industry is worth billions of dollars and growing. Searching through the different bars available in the grocery store can make you dizzy. Cereal bars, granola bars, protein bars—which one should you pick?
Protein bars, which are especially popular with athletes, offer the best nutritional benefits for anyone on-the-go and looking to substitute a meal or replenish energy after an intense workout. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the daily recommended intake of protein for adult women is 46 grams and for adult men is 56 grams. You may need more depending on the duration and intensity of your workout, but do be careful. Too much protein can strain your kidneys and lead to serious health conditions.
So what's the recipe for a healthy protein bar? At minimum, it should have at least 10 grams of protein, a low amount of calories (up to 200 calories), less than 12 grams of saturated fat, and no more than 7 grams of sugar. And, of course, it should taste great.
To make your next supermarket trip a little easier, I sampled four popular picks: PaleoBar, QuestBar, PowerCrunch, and Luna Protein. Here's what I found:
The healthiest option of the group also leaves a lot to be desired in terms of taste. I could barely tolerate more than a few bites of this one. The texture and overbearing artificial vanilla flavor make it nearly inedible.
It's tolerable but dense. Halfway through, I was full. The QuestBar, however, is a better option than the PaleoBar, especially if you're seeking a meal substitute.
Surprise, surprise—this tasty bar has the highest amount of calories, fat, and sugar. Don't be fooled by the nutrition facts. It is the only bar that equals two servings. Good luck eating only half (I admit it was so good I ate the entire bar).
Of the four bars, I recommend the Luna Protein. It's dense with nutrients, tastes great, and is the most affordable. Though it's slightly smaller than the other options, it has a relatively moderate amount of calories (190) and fat (8 grams) and offers a good source of protein (12 grams). New to the bars scene? Let this one be your introduction.
Nutritionist disclaimer: Remember, nutrition bars offer quick energy, but they are just one small component of a healthy diet.