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How to Choose a Protein Bar



Protein bars are one of the items that we suggest as a snack between meals or as a meal replacement to aid with weight loss and to help with stabilizing blood sugar.  There are many benefits to protein bars:

  • They are nutritious, because they contain up to 20 grams of protein per bar, plus some fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  • They are usually low in calories (about 175 to 230 calories per bar).
  • They do not spoil easily, and there is no need to refrigerate them.
  • They are readily available, easy to store, easy to bring around, and can be eaten quickly.
  • They can make you feel full and can help reduce appetite for sugary snacks.
  • Many come in indulgent flavors to satisfy your sweet tooth while avoiding blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes.
  • They can help reduce overeating between meals.
  • Protein bars that contain soy and whey can help build lean muscle mass.
  • They are good diet supplements that increase  strength during workouts.

Protein bars can be very hard to shop for!  I have a lot of patients who tell me that they get too confused when shopping for protein bars because there are so many varieties. It’s hard to know what to look for when picking one out.  It can get very overwhelming!

Here’s some information to help you decide:

  • When picking out a protein bar, it is important to read the nutrition label because many that seem “healthy” contain a lot of sugar and fat but are low in protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
  • Most protein bars contain anywhere from 150 to 250 calories each.  I suggest picking one closer to 100-150 calories if you are using it as a snack between meals, or 200-250 if you are using it as an actual meal replacement (such as lunch).
  • Most bars are made from either soy or whey protein, or a combination of both.  I have no preference when it comes to this but many people do.
  • When comparing carbohydrates, subtract the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols  if there are any (from artificial sweeteners) from the total carbohydrates.  This will give you the amount of “net carbs”.  This number should ideally equate to less than 10g.
  • Look for a bar that has at least 5g fiber.  This will help keep you full.
  • Look for a bar that has 10g protein or more
  • Look for something that has 5g or less of sugar.

It’s extremely difficult to find a bar that fits all these recommendations so you may need to chose the components that are most important to you and go with it.  Here are some protein bars I recommend with their nutrition content to compare:

W= Whey, S= Soy



(W) Detour Simple Salted Caramel Cookie Dough: (snack size) 110 cal. 10 g protein, 11g carb, 3g fiber, 4g sugar
Net Carbs: 11g total carbs – 3g fiber= 8g net carbs

The Detour Simple bar is a smaller size bar, the perfect amount of calories as a snack between meals for someone trying to lose weight.  It is on the higher end of the net carbs but it does not use artificial ingredients which is a plus.

(W) Detour Lower Sugar Caramel Peanut: (regular size)170 cal, 15g protein, 17g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3g sugar, 12g sugar alcohol

detour-lower-sugar-caramel-peanutNet Carbs: 17g total carbs – 2g fiber – 12g sugar alcohol= 3g net carbs

The Detour lower sugar bar is a good option, a little lower calories than some of the other larger bars.  It has low net carbs, which is good for diabetics or carb watchers, but not as much fiber as I would like, and it does contain quite a bit of artificial sweetener.


(W) Quest Cookies and Cream  bar: 180 calories, 21g protein, 22g carbs, 17g fiber,  1g sugar, 2g Erythritol
Net carbs: 22g total carbs – 17g fiber – 2g Erythritol= 3g net carbsquest-cookies-and-cream-supplement-facts

The Quest Bar is great tasting and has great stats, although at 190 calories I don’t recommend more than one a day unless you are using it as an actual meal replacement.  It has low net carbs because it has a lot of fiber, which is great.  Each flavor varies quite a bit on nutritional stats, so make sure to read the label.  Some quest bars have a small amount of artificial sweetener, and some do not.

(S+W) Nature Valley Protein bar: 190 calories, 10 g protein, 14 carbs, 5 g fiber, 6g sugar
Net carbs: 14g total carbs – 5g fiber = 9 g net carbsnature-valley-best-protein-bars-pg-full

The Nature Valley Protein bar is slightly higher in sugar and carbs, but still has decent stats and is a lot less expensive so that is something to consider as well.  It does not use artificial sweeteners.


These protein bars are only a few of the many options out there, but hopefully this article will help you with your decision!  The bar I would recommend really depends on the individual: are you trying to lose weight, have this as a meal replacement, use it with a workout routine, restricting carbohydrates, watching sugars, diabetic, etc.??  These are just some of the different scenarios that might affect my decision.  If you need help deciding what protein bar is right for you, schedule an appointment with me at Dr. Liu’s office!  I’d love to help you with your decision, or even incorporate one in a customized meal plan for you!