In recent blog posts, we've talked about the best foods for tournament weekends, how to hydrate and how to keep your energy up during a double header. One constant is the importance of "good protein". Knowing that Protein Bars by their very name should be a source of "good protein", we wanted to delve deeper into what the best bars are for game day.
So we reached out to BRUCE BOLT contributor Margaret Connor, MPH, NTP on to take a deeper dive into these this entire category and see what best protein bar is for game day.
Scroll to bottom to find our TOP 10 PROTEIN BARS for GAME DAY!
Protein Bar Guidelines
Here are some things to look for.
- Aim for at least 8 grams of protein per bar. Up to 20 grams is fine.
- Beyond 20g of protein, we are likely getting into the franken-food territory (ie. not coming from great, natural sources that the body can easily process and utilize).
- Minimally processed proteins like nuts & seeds
- Nut & seed butters
- Pea protein
- Hemp protein
- Whole soy
- Grass-fed meat
- Egg whites and rice protein are also popular sources but make sure they don’t make you feel bloated. (I’ve noticed they bug a fair number of my clients-but not all).
*Please avoid highly processed protein sources, often called “protein isolates”. These are a franken-food that doesn’t give you the benefits a normal source of protein might. Soy protein isolates are the most common isolates seen. Hard pass and skip the soy isolates!
FIBER & FAT
- Fiber and healthy fat in is a great component in any food and aim for 3-5 grams of fiber per bar.
- Aim to have at least 3 grams of fat per bar- this can be optional. Nuts and seeds all have naturally occurring fats that are the healthy kind - so enjoy.
- Please avoid fats in the form of “hydrogenated oils” or trans fats. They are not beneficial to your body.
- You don't necessarily HAVE to be concerned about calories, but it is worth keeping in mind. Your bar should be 400 calories or less.
- Aim to keep the sugars in your protein bar low no more than 10 to 15 grams of sugar per bar, the fewer the better.
- And to take it one step further, added refined sugars are worse for you than natural forms of sugar like dates, berries, monk fruit or other fruits.
- Added refined sugars include fruit juice concentrate, honey, any “syrups” or HFCS.
- Keep “added sugars” to low or no if possible. (You can see this number on the product’s nutritional facts)
- Please keep artificial ingredients to a minimum.
- There is a LOT of research emerging that suggests processed foods are more damaging to our bodies than we have previously realized. This means avoiding additives like food coloring.
- Anything with a # and a color after it equals food coloring and it keeps bad company (there are almost always unhealthy ingredients alongside it). That’s a favorite rule of thumb for any product you buy at the store.
- Once you’ve gotten these guidelines in hand, it may be time for some fun taste-testing!
- If you’re used to eating high-sugar breakfast bars, give yourself and your family time to readjust to the new flavor of a healthy protein bar. See who likes which bars and start there.
- Flavor is key while changing up your diet but also keep in mind how your body feels.
- If the bar causes bloating or a stomach ache, move on to a different type.
- There are some new ingredients showing up in protein bars that help increase fiber content and lower sugar content - all good things!
- However, they can create bloating for some folks.
- Fiber additions like chicory or cassava root fiber, soluble corn fiber, potato starch or inulin are ones to keep an eye on.
- Same with sugar alcohols such as erythritol and xylitol or ingredients ending in “-ol”.
EAT WHEN HUNGRY
- I have definitely noticed over the years that everyone offers my kids snacks during their day. You swam three laps? Here have some gummy fruit snacks. We finished painting in summer art camp? Let’s have a sugar treat.
- This reward system is not creating healthy habits. Protein bars are a common snack and even when they’re healthy - make sure your kids are learning and listening to their hunger cues instead of mindlessly snacking.
Finally, here is the list of 10 protein bar brands that typically satisfy the guidelines above:
- Vital Proteins
- Naked Nutrition
EPIC and Tanka both have very healthy “meat bars” I love which are a great source of protein. Not everyone enjoys a granola-type bar.
*Of course, there are many brands of healthy protein bars that are not on this list. These are my favorites for taste, ingredients and convenience!