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Energy Bars with Protein for Satiety

Don’t get me wrong, I love real foods…but I always carry “bars” with me, because you just never know what life will throw at you. Situations like when they book a meeting during lunchtime. Or your first flight is late coming in so you literally have to run to catch your connection. Or when you catch a ride to the hotel and their restaurant is already closed for the evening. Or when you’re surfing and the waves are so good you’re just not ready to take a lunch break – but you need some fuel.

There’s a wide assortment of bars to suit different taste profiles – and can be used in an array of scenarios. Keep in mind that most of the following bars contain at least 200 calories. That’s a lot of “fuel” for people who are looking for a snack but aren’t very active.

Of course, it depends on what else is eaten during the meals, but most people don’t need a snack containing more than 100-150 calorie bar for a quick pick-me-up snack.  So, you might want to eat just half of many of the ones listed below. If you can’t just eat half, choose one of the mini versions listed below.

More active individuals might need a 200+ calorie bar so I've listed some options below. 

I tend to reach for bars that contain around 10g protein. They tend to have more “staying power” than the mostly-carb containing bars. In other words, they tend to keep us satisfied longer so hunger doesn’t come back so quickly. But maybe 3-4g protein is enough for you?

Most have added sugars. I avoid the ones that are too sweet because overly sweet foods don’t satisfy me…they only make me want to eat more.  So before reaching for a bar, check the ingredients. Many bars are no more nutritious than regular cookies.

In fact, if I’m craving something that tastes like a cookie, I just make cookies. One of my favorite cookie recipes is “Quaker’s Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies” BUT with a few changes. I use a stick of real butter but substitute canola oil for the extra 6TBSP butter, cut out the white sugar completely, use just ½ cup brown sugar, and use half white flour and half whole wheat or buckwheat flour. BTW I’ve found that cutting the sugar in half in most dessert recipes is sweet enough.

Here’s the run-down of some of the bars – along with pros and cons of each:

Mini Energy Bars

Often referred to as "kid" bars, each of these contain about 100 calories each and are easy to carry in a pocket or purse. You can read more about their composition in the sections below:

  • Lara Minis
  • Luna Minis
  • Zing Minis
  • Rx minis
  • KidZ Clif bars

Simple Energy Bars

Looking for a simple bar with just a few ingredients? And less added sugar? Check these out:

  • Lara Bars (the Original Fruit & Nut Food Bar) – many, but not all, of the Lara bars consists of only fruit and nuts. I like the simplicity of that – and soooo many flavors. For example, their Cashew Cookie (one of my favs) consists of just cashews and nuts squished up together. The Ginger cookies are great, too. While there is some texture to the bars, you can’t see whole nut pieces. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free…around 200 calories with 4-6g protein and about 3-4g fiber. You can feel good about these bars because they contain real food.
  • Detour SMART Bars – I discovered these at Costco. They look a bit like PopTarts, though they're more filling and not overly sweet. Ingrediants include organic rolled oats, smart protein blend (whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein, soy protein. Gluten free, 130 calories, 10g protein, 3g fiber.

Bars with More Texture

  • Kashi Bars – These tend to be a little lower in calories, but lower in protein, too. I like the Chocolate Almond flavor. 140 calories, 3g protein, 3g fiber.
  • Quaker Real Medleys– starting with a base of multigrain cereal, Quaker adds nuts, fruit, sugar and syrups, and more…for a 170-calorie bar with 4g protein and 2g fiber. Soft and chewy with small pieces of oats, nuts, and fruit.
  • Truebar– like the Medleys, this bar is soft and chewy, and has added sugars (including brown rice syrup and cane juice). About 160 calories with 3g protein and 3g fiber.
  • Kind Bars – While very popular, I'm not a big fan of these. At around 200 calories (and not much protein or fiber), these bars also have the honey-like pull of the Truebars and Medleys, but the nut and fruit pieces are larger including larger pieces of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Yes, they ARE tasty, but I’ve found they are perhaps too sweet…making me want to eat more. What about you?

Higher Protein Bars for more satiety (fullness)

Carbs are great for a pick-me-up if a meal is just a couple of hours away, but additional protein will help you stay full longer. Even 10g protein will help.

  • Rx bars – Love these simple ingredients of egg whites, nuts, and fruit. About 200 calories, 3g fiber, and 12g protein.
  • Larabar Protein  Containing simple ingredients like nuts and fruit (along with pea protein), these bars contain 11g protein. Try their Lemon Blueberry Muffin flavor. 
  • Zing – With 200 calories, 10g protein, and 5g fiber, these tasty, gluten-free, vegan bars offer the same “squished up” texture as the Fruit & Nut bar listed above…but with more protein (rice protein and pea protein). And, the chocolate quality is fabulous (not chalky or fake flavored).
  • Bare Naked Bars – these bars are tasty but higher calories with 250 calories, 4g fiber, and 9g protein.
  • Balance Bars – most flavors are around 200 calories and 15g protein. The bars are called “balance” because they contain a 40/30/30 ratio (40% carbs, 30% protein, 30% fat) that offer a lower glycemic index – leading to a slower blood glucose response. Honey Peanut is my favorite flavor. 
  • Luna Bars – These bars have a sort of Rice Krispy texture. Many are in the 200-calorie range with 7g protein. Their protein bars have around 12g protein. They offer some interesting flavors including peppermint, lemon, and blueberry.
  • Nature Valley Protein Bars – These (more) inexpensive bars contain 10g protein (soy and whey) in a “crunchy chewy” (their words) format. My favorite is the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate with whole pieces of nuts with a slightly sticky pull…topped with dark chocolate. Contains 190 calories and 5g fiber.
  • Epic Bars – Tired of the same-old (mostly sweet) flavors in a bar format? Want something more savory? Epic bars are made with simple ingredients – but often very different ones such as bacon & egg yolks or turkey, almonds, & cranberries. Some are in the range of 140-170 calories, 9-10g protein.
  • Power Crunch – at 200 calories and 13g protein, this bar looks like a large creme filled wafer cookie (not one of my favorites, but popular with other people). They contain 10g carbs and just 1g fiber.   

Super High Calorie Bars

Ok, these might be good options for athletes or those of us who are participating in a long athletic event (like climbing a mountain or an all-day bike ride). Therefore, most people don’t need a bar in the 300+-calorie range but here’s one if you do:

  • Gatorade Recover Protein Bar– at 350 calories (and 20g protein), this bar is designed for the serious athlete who needs a quick source of calories and nutrients after an intense workout. Sure, a real meal is needed…but sometimes it’s just not available quite yet.
  • Perfect Bar – It might be organic but with 300 calories and 30+ ingredients, I’m not sure when this bar would fit. It has just 12g protein and 25g carbs so it’s not quite enough to help with recovery after a workout and way too many calories for most of us to snack on. 
  • Clif Bars – Take a look at the image on the packaging. That's a mountain climber. These high calorie bars were developed for athletes, not to be consumed by individuals sitting at a desk. With all the sugar and other carbs, sedentary people might experience rebound hypoglycemia and sleepiness.
  • Quest protein cookies - Each cookie contains 250 calories. Its also high in protein (15g) and fiber (9g). Some people love the taste, but I'd rather have real chocolate chip cookies with a glass of milk - for the same calories. 

Not Everyone Eats Bars…or wants them

Awhile back I was speaking to an international group of corporate VP’s about how to refuel your body for energy. Someone asked about packing healthful bars and I offered a list of my favorite bars including Lara, Kashi, and Balance.

Many of these attendees, though, had this look on their face like, “Huh?” because these very-American bars are often not readily available in their countries. And, they just didn’t understand why we eat them instead of "real food." 

If bars are not available, and you prefer not to find rotten fruit squished in the bottom of your briefcase, the easiest foods to carry are dried fruit and nuts. Select fruits that are naturally dried without added ingredients (dried banana chips are loaded with added sugar and coconut fat…very high in calories!). For nuts, vary it up…almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia, cashew, and pistachios.

Keep in mind that nuts aren’t as high in protein as many people think. For example, a quarter cup of almonds has just 8g protein (and 250 calories). For more protein with fewer calories, try jerky. Jerky can be purchased in small individual bags, too.

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