Many packaged foods, such as cereals and even chips, make absurd health claims. Protein and meal replacement bars are frequently the biggest offenders. People eat them in between meals thinking they are doing something good for their bodies because the packaging is covered with claims and ingredients that sound healthy. Let’s take a look at some slogans/health claims and break down the just top ingredients from some of the most popular bars. The listed ingredient is followed by what it really means in parenthesis.
Clif Bar (Apricot) – Nutrition for Sustained Energy: brown rice syrup (sugar), ClifPro® (soy, starch, sugar), soybeans (soy), rolled oats (starch), toasted oats (starch), dried apricots in cane juice (sugar), more cane juice (more sugar).
- This bar has 44 grams of carbohydrate which includes 24 grams of sugar. I guess sustained energy actually means sustained high blood sugar.
PowerBar (ProteinPlus 30g) – Power to Push: PowerBar trisource protein blend (soy), evaporated cane juice syrup (sugar), chocolatey coating (sugar, soy, sugar, sugar, soy), glucose syrup (sugar), canola oil (at least partially hydrogenated oil), fructose (sugar).
- This bar has 33 grams of carbohydrate, 30 of which are sugar. You would get less sugar from an Iced Vanilla Latte from Starbucks. Power to Push must mean power to push your body closer to diabetes and heart disease.
ThinkThin (Tangerine Cremesicle) – Deliciously Natural Nutrition: protein blend (soy), “coating” (sugar alcohol, sugar, soy), glycerin (converts to glucose when metabolized), maltitol (sugar alcohol), soy crisps (soy), ground peanuts (hey a real food!), canola oil (at least partially hydrogenated oil).
- This bar has 22 grams of carbohydrates, none of which are sugar as they use sugar alcoholos. But, the majority of the ingredients are genetically modified and man made products. What was that about natural nutrition?
SpecialK™ (Chocolatey Chip Protein Meal Bar) – A Good Source of Fiber: soy protein isolate (soy), sugar (duh), corn syrup (sugar), chocolatey chips (sugar, partially hydrogenated oil, sugar, sugar, synthetic wax, soy), fructose (sugar), inulin (basically sugar but this must be the fiber they claim to have), rice starch (starch). A good source of
- This bar has 26 grams of carbohydrate, 15 of which are sugar.
Odwalla (Blueberry Swirl) – Nourishing Food Bar: brown rice syrup (sugar), rolled oats (starch), dried sweetened blueberries (sugar, at least partially hydrogenated oil), oat flour (starch), date purée (sugar), oat bran (starch), soy “coating” (sugar, soy), plum purée (sugar), cane juice (sugar).
This bar has 41 grams of carbohydrate, 19 of which are sugar. Which part do you suppose is the nourishing part, the sugar or the sugar?
As we can see, the predominant ingredient in most meal replacement bars is sugar. If you are eating these bars for a healthy snack, or to replace a meal, you are probably doing more harm than good with the insulin spike your body will experience.
While I advocate eating real food whenever possible, there are times when you need a meal or a snack on the go and a protein bar is a convenient choice. If you are going to have a meal replacement or protein bar, make sure you read the ingredients very closely so you know what you’re eating. Look for bars that use whey protein and/or milk protein isolate rather than soy (cheap, low quality protein), are gluten free, and have no added sugar. Don’t believe the health claims prominently placed on the packaging. These companies aren’t out to make you healthier. Their only goal is to get you to eat more of their bars so they make more money.Nutrition