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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My informal guide to protein bars

Last night I went out with a friend from yoga to catch up, and she had asked for my opinion on a few things. Our discussion led to protein bars - which ones are worth buying, when to eat them, and so on. She said she felt completely overwhelmed walking into a store and seeing the selection of various bars and had no idea which ones to buy. After we talked, she joked that I should write a blog post on protein bars for her reference. Well, here you go.

First of all, I just cannot imagine replacing an entire meal with a protein shake or a protein bar. I always have to supplement it with something else, whether it's a side of veggies, some whole grain cereal or chip, or fruit, depending on the size and macros of the bar.

My general rules for protein bars are this:

1. High fat and/or quick release carbs pre-workout

2. Low to moderate fat and high protein post-workout


Mmmm, pie
Larabars are some of the simplest, most natural nutrition bars that are widely available. I love that the ingredient lists are typically short, including fruit, nuts, and spices. Every flavor I've tried does a pretty good job of mimicking the taste of what the label says, especially apple pie and peanut butter & jelly.

I really enjoy Larabars, though I rarely eat them, especially during warmer months. They get sticky and melty in the heat...not my thing.
Kind bars

Kind bars have a huge variety of bars to suit individual needs and taste buds. My favorite line of Kind bars are the Nuts & Spices lower sugar bars. The sea salt dark chocolate is SO DELICIOUS. Any of their bars are perfect for pre-workout because of the natural sugars (especially in the fruit & nut line), higher fat content for satiety, and moderate protein. Again, simple, whole food ingredients.

I am intrigued by their new line of savory, higher-protein bars, Strong & Kind. I just don't know how I feel about a nut bar flavored like thai sweet chili. I'm also about savory/spicy, but it's just so odd to me.

I feel like I should also mention that Kind granola is bomb.

ThinkThin crunch
ThinkThin Crunch Mixed nut bars fall under the same guidelines as Kind bars for me. The coconut chocolate is definitely my #1 choice in this line.


Photo borrowed from here
ThinkThin bars aren't the most "natural" bars, but I like them a lot. Great flavors that taste like candy bars, and are especially yummy frozen in the summer or after hot yoga. With 20g of protein and no sugar in their high-protein line of bars (with chocolate covered strawberry as the exception with 15g protein), these bars are great for a quick protein boost and muscle repair.

ThinkThin has changed some of the flavors and added a couple of new lines, including a candy bar line and a protein & fiber bar. I won't lie, I'm dying to try some of the flavors in the protein & fiber line, like the chocolate peanut butter toffee and chocolate almond coconut. I've yet to find these in stores though :(

Of their original line, creamy peanut butter will forever have my heart. And I'm missing the lemon cream pie bars. Why, ThinkThin, did you discontinue this flavor?!

Quest bars are hands-down my absolute favorite protein bars. Ever. Yeah, yeah, yeah, another blog post raving about how delicious Quest bars are. Do you think Quest is getting tired of it? Doubt it. Therefore, I feel no guilt. The nutrition stats are fantastic: 19-21g of protein per bar, 5-10g of fat, high fiber, and 1-4g of sugar in any given bar. I love that the fat and calorie content varies in each bar based on nutrition needs. Some days I have trouble meeting my fat intake goals, so a peanut butter & jelly Quest bar gives me that little extra edge with 200 calories and 10g of fat as opposed to 160 calories and 5g of fat in the chocolate peanut butter. I also like that some flavors are sweetened with stevia.

I could eat these things every day. There is such a wide variety of flavors and I love them all. My absolute favorite so far are the coconut cashew, cookie dough, and white chocolate raspberry (my enjoyment of which was a true underdog story, I really had low expectations for this flavor).

Most bars need to be heated up a bit in the microwave to bring out the true dessert-like quality of these bars...sitting out by my mat during hot yoga also does the trick.

I have yet to try the cookies & cream bar, vanilla almond bar, and the Quest cravings cups. They need to get in my belly ASAP. A quest for Quest may be in order soon.

My friend mentioned that she started eating Clif bars, which, in my personal opinion, are sugar bombs. Yes, they are made with some decent ingredients, but the sugar content is out of control for what I would consider a snack. The only time I could see myself eating a Clif bar is during a lengthy hike or bike ride that requires quick-releasing carbs and protein for energy and muscle repair. Since I neither hike nor bike, Clif bars have no place in my snack box.

Thanks for the visual, Sugar Stacks.

Disclaimer: I am not a nutrition expert by any means. These are my personal opinions based on my taste preference and what makes me feel satiated and energized. If you enjoy Clif bars as meal replacements, more power to you. It's just not my thing. If you think protein bars and powders are a waste of money and an unnatural source of protein, I'm not saying you're wrong. I just happen to enjoy protein bars and powders for convenience and as a way to have a sweet treat without all the sugar and to get a protein boost.


  1. OH protein bars! My favorite = A piece of chicken!!! The best, ha ah!

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