I get this question from my clients a lot! What do I really think about protein bars and meal replacements? If I am being completely transparent, I am going to tell you that I don’t have a short answer for this. So I’m going to break it down into my “pros and cons” and ask you to make your own decision.
First of all, let me say that not all bars are created equal. Some bars are packed with whole foods that I can stand behind. While other bars have a long shelf life, suggesting that they are packed with sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and nasty protein fillers. I’m sure you can guess which option I would prefer that you choose. Of course I am going to stand behind the whole food protein bar choices. However, I understand that sometimes that doesn’t line up with your taste buds, macronutrient need or other deciding factors you may have.
So let me make this a little easier for you! Here we go!
Pro: They are ultra convenient when trying to live a healthy lifestyle on the go.
Con: Whole food/real food is always the better option because they aren’t processed. Not to mention wrapped processed bars are expensive at 2 to 5 bucks each!
Pro: Easy pre and post workout meal!
Con: Protein bars usually have a decent amount of fat, which slows the digestion of nutrients. After your workout, you need something quick moving. So grab a protein shake instead if you don’t have a whole food option, as it normally has very little fat.
Pro: They can be super yummy and satisfy your sweet tooth!
Con: About 90% of the protein bars on the market are packed with nasty ingredients that do more harm than good with long-term and even short-term health. Not worth the taste, trust me.
Pro: There are some “healthy nut protein bars” on the market that claim to be good for you. They have SOME healthy ingredients.
Con: They also usually contain an immense amount of sugar, bad-for-you oils/fats and protein fillers that are terrible for your body.
I hope these “pros and cons” have helped you answer any questions you may have about the use of protein bars in your nutrition plan. If not, email me and I can help answer further questions.
Long story short… know your ingredients. What are you putting in your body! If you need help reading labels, I’m a pro so just ask. I want to stress how important ingredients are to your health. Yes, the amount of calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat are important! But where are those numbers coming from? The ingredients!
So here is my solution…
Make your own protein bars! It takes 10 minutes and it takes minimal ingredients that are easy to find in the store. The recipe does call for protein powder. I suggest that you find one that you have researched and feel good about. Enjoy the recipe!
German Chocolate Protein Bars
- 4 cups walnuts
- 4 scoops protein powder (I used zero to no carb chocolate)
- 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded PLUS 1 cup for coating the bars.
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups pitted dates
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Water, as needed
- Coconut flour, as needed
In food processor, add all ingredients (except sea salt, water and coconut flour) and pulse until smooth. This may take awhile and you may have to smash down the ingredients several times in order to get it to smooth out. Add 1-2 tbsp. of water at a time if the ingredients are not coming together (I typically use about 6-8 tbsp. of water). If you add too much water, that’s ok! Simply add 1-2 tbsp. of coconut flour to dry it out a little bit until you like the texture. Your goal is to incorporate all ingredients and make them as smooth as possible.
In medium bowl, add the other cup of shredded coconut or flakes. Spoon protein mixture on top and bring together in a ball. Turn the massive protein ball around in the bowl until it is completely covered with coconut. Transfer ball onto a piece of parchment paper and shape into a square about ½-1 inch thick. Wrap up with the parchment and place in freezer for one hour to harden.
After the protein bars mixture has hardened, open the parchment paper and cut into small 2×2 inch squares. Store in container and keep in fridge or freezer. Enjoy 1-2 at a time for your snack!