Protein bars can be a great snack for satisfying late night sweet cravings. They are healthier alternatives to candy bars, if you know how to pick the right ones.
Unfortunately, most protein bars are loaded with sugars, carbs and junk ingredients. Choosing a healthy protein bar can be overwhelming and confusing as there are so many brands and types out there. The key is to read the nutrition label and ingredients.
Here’s what to look out for…
Protein content: A protein bar should be high in protein and low in carbs. Aim for a protein to carb ratio of at least 1:1.
Protein sources: Milk/whey protein isolate is a good quality protein with very high amino acid composition. It contains a minimum of 90% protein, with very minimal fat, carbs and lactose. Suitable for those who are lactore intolerant.
If you are a vegan or do not take dairy, choose protein bars with vegan/vegetarian protein sources from hemp, peas, quinoa, seeds and nuts.
Avoid low quality protein sources such as soy protein isolate, soy protein concentrates and gelatin, which are often used to boost protein content.
Besides choosing a low carb high protein bar, you should scrutinise nutrition label for the breakdown of total carbs into dietary fiber, sugars, sugar alcohols and other carbs. Dietary fiber should form most of total carbs, while sugars, sugar alcohols and other carbs should be minimal.
Not all fats are bad. Healthy fats (from nuts, seeds and coconut oil) keep you satiated longer. They also slow the conversion of carbs into sugar and absorption into the bloodstream.
What to avoid: Trans fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
4. Sugars, sugar alcohols and other sweeteners
The amounts of sugars and sugar alcohols are listed under total carbs. You can find out the type of sweeteners used from the ingredient list. Some protein bars are naturally sweetened with dried fruits, fruit juices, nectar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia or luo han guo (monk fruit). Others are sweetened with low calorie sugar substittutes such as sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners.
Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. There are a type of natural occuring sugar that is low in calories and do not spike blood sugar. Since sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed in your body, some of them (such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol) can cause gastrointestinal upset such as bloating, diarrhea and gas when consumed excessively. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that does not appear to cause gastric distress.
Artificial sweeteners can leave an after taste or have a laxative effect. If you can’t tolerate them, look for protein bars that are sweetened naturally or with sugar alcohols.
What to avoid: high fructose corn syrup
What are the best protein bars for a late night snack?
We have reviewed various protein bars and here are the top 3 healthy protein bars to have as a late night snack –> What are the best protein bars?