Are Protein Bars as Healthy as You Think?

Elizabeth Vennefron - Kroger RD

by | Updated: October 14th, 2020 | Read time: 3 minutes

There are protein bars that cater to just about every diet out there… but are they even healthy?

Healthy Selection of Protein Bars Available at Vitacost | Vitacost.com/Blog

An easy-to-consume source of additional protein, these bars started out as go-to fuel for athletes who struggled to consume enough calories via meals throughout their day. In recent years, considering the fast-paced world we live in, protein bars have become a staple for the average person for on-the-go breakfasts, snacks and post-workout recovery fuel.

Because of supply and demand, there are countless amounts of protein bars on the market to choose from – and trying to find the healthiest option can surely be tricky. The following information should help you feel more confident when it comes to purchasing the most nutritious and delicious protein bars.

Are protein bars healthy?

Not all protein bars are created equal. There is an increasing demand for convenience foods that drives the protein bar market. To get consumers to buy their bar, marketing teams will put a variety of phrases on the package to draw you in. Some sayings include “Eat Protein. Be Lean.”, “Protein is the Building Block for Life” or “Protein. Re-Imagined”. Yes, protein is a building block, but eating one or several protein bars does not mean you’re achieving optimal health.

The body uses protein to build and repair tissue, make enzymes and hormones and build bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. It’s important to make sure you consume an adequate amount of protein per day.

How much protein do I need?

Consuming too little or too much protein can be harmful to the body. Too little protein can result in muscle wasting, brittle bones and increased appetite. Over-consuming protein can lead to kidney damage, heart disease and poor bone health. So, before picking up a protein bar, one should know how much protein they need daily.

Protein needs are based on body weight and composition, physical activity and age. Most protein bars on the shelf contain on average 8-20 grams of protein coming from egg whites, whey, casein, soy, pea and brown rice. For those looking for a vegetarian or vegan protein bar, anything soy-based or a combination of pea and brown rice protein will ensure you receive all nine essential amino acids. What makes these nine amino acids essential is that they must be consumed through food, as our body does not make them.

Protein bar pros

Other than essential amino acids, protein bars can be a good source of other nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals. Fiber is not only beneficial for digestion, but it can help prevent overeating at meals.

  • Weight-loss support
  • Weight and muscle gain
  • Snack or meal replacement solution

Protein bar cons

Whether you’re looking for a plant or animal-based protein bar, the amount of protein should not be the only thing to pay attention to. Some protein bars can be high in calories, added sugars and fat. Over consumption of these nutrients can increase an individual’s risk of weight gain.

  • Some varieties can be expensive
  • Many are made with highly processed ingredients
  • Too much protein
  • Certain types are made with hard-to-digest ingredients

Protein bars can be part of a healthy diet, but only a part. The majority of nutrients should come from whole foods. Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and free from any additives or artificial substances.

Your body will thrive more when consuming balanced, nutrient dense meals that include all food groups. So, while protein bars may seem like a great catch-all snack or meal replacement, it’s encouraged that you’re aware of your personal protein needs. Determine your needs by scheduling a call with a Kroger Health registered dietitian. An RD can also help you select the most optimal bar for you based on your lifestyle and offer advice for the best ways to incorporate bars into your routine.

Click here to browse healthy protein bars at Vitacost.com.

Elizabeth Calvalege

Elizabeth Calvelage, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian who graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree from the University of Cincinnati. Elizabeth completed her supervised practice through the University of Cincinnati Coordinated Program. In 2016, she received the Outstanding Dietetic Student Award from the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Her interests include weight management, sports nutrition, diabetes, pediatric nutrition and oncology. She is currently working for Kroger as a Retail Clinical Dietitian within The Little Clinic. There, she combines clinical and nutrition education in a hands-on experience. She provides patients with the tools and confidence needed to make healthier choices, to live an easier and happier life. Outside of work, Elizabeth is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Dietetic Association and holds the position of Secretary Elect. She also enjoys participating in half-marathons, baking, playing with her dog Daisy and watching Buckeye football.