FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Are Protein Bars a Healthy Choice?

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Peanut butter is a semi-solid and can therefor...

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The sales of protein and energy bars have skyrocketed over the last decade and the industry now is estimated to generate over a billion dollar each year. The marketing for these bars include women, men, elderly, children, and athletes.

Back in 1980 when they were introduced, their appeal was that they provided a portable quick energy source for long-distance or endurance athletes. Other claims made were that these bars helped to build muscle due to its relatively high protein content.

Protein needs can be met by simply eating a balance of protein throughout the day.  Most of us do not need that much protein, for example, a person who weighs 150 pounds only needs about 54 grams of protein a day.  That amount can easily be met by eating a bran cereal with milk in the morning (15 grams), a turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch (30 grams), and chicken breast with brown rice for dinner (30 grams).  That adds up to 75 grams which is more than enough for most people.

What advantage could a protein bar provide?  Portability and convenience is a plus, but another choice could easily be a peanut butter (PB) sandwich that also meets this criteria. Neither needs refrigeration and can travel everywhere.

Compare two fairly comparable choices:

Peanut butter sandwich (1 T. on 2 slices of whole-wheat bread.)

Calories: 234

Protein: 9 grams

Total Carb: 29 grams

Total Fat: 11 grams

Saturated Fat: 2 grams

Sugars (tsp): <1

Fiber: 5 grams

Cost: 25 cents

Clif Luna  (Nutz over Chocolate)

Calories: 180

Protein: 9 grams

Total Carb: 24 grams

Total Fat: 6 grams

Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams

Sugars (tsp): 3

Fiber: 4 grams

Cost: $1.40

Which one is the better choice? On average, the PB sandwich is a bargain compared to many of these bars that cost more $2.50 each. Some bars provide up to 7 grams of saturated fat and some can contain up to 7 teaspoons of sugar. The bars with the most sugar tend to have the least fiber.

It’s so important to compare the nutrient fact labels on the many available bars on the market.  But next time, don’t forget the simple PB sandwich as a much less expensive as well as a healthy alternative.

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