Nowadays, everywhere you go you see different variety’s of these bars being sold. Protein bars have become a popular meal replacement for active people and serve as a healthier snack for people looking to add a few extra calories. I prefer the ones from Natural Balance Foods.
Generally, there are two types of these bars out there and they are those that contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat, and those that contain mostly protein and fat, with very little carbohydrate.
The bars that are balanced with protein, fat and carbs are more of an energy type bar and are popular with active people. The bars that are mostly protein and fat are popular with people looking to lose weight and who are following a low carb diet. But, what are the benefits or the drawbacks of these bars and how can they fit into your diet as part of a healthy eating plan?
Energy bars have one main advantage, they are very convenient. They fit into your briefcase, purse or pocket making them easy to take with you anywhere and to eat anytime. A lot of them do have a good amount of protein without the high cholesterol and saturated fat contained in other protein sources. They are usually fortified with vitamins and minerals as well making them a healthier choice than a fast food option or a convenient store meal.
Despite popular beliefs, energy bars do not take the place of a well balanced, nutritious meal. While a lot of these bars are fortified with vitamins and minerals commonly found in fruits and vegetables, they don’t contain the phytochemicals, bioflavonoids and fiber fruits and vegetables have so their benefits are not quite the same. A lot of these bars also contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated palm oil, meaning that the saturated fat content of these bars can be as much as 50% of the fat content.
Some point to have in mind
You are better off with one of these bars verses a trip to the nearest fast food place, but they still don’t have the same health benefits as fresh fruits and vegetables and other whole foods. If you do like to use these bars, you can make them part of a healthier meal by adding a piece of fruit or a raw vegetable, as opposed to making the bar itself the meal. They are alright by themselves as a pre or post workout snack but always try to keep in mind that they should be considered a snack rather than a meal.
Look at the labels and choose bars that are low in saturated fat and have no palm oil or any hydrogenated fats or at least have very little of these fats. Look for bars that contain vitamins and minerals if you are using them for meal replacements from time to time to keep some of the nutrients sacrificed from the meal you are replacing in tact.
Protein bars are indeed a good thing if you choose the right ones and you always keep them in mind as a healthy snack more than an actual meal. When you use them as a snack, remember that a lot of them do pack a good amount of calories so be careful if you are trying to lose weight.