The Great Protein Bar truth debate!


It’s been three months since my No Added Sugar revolution began, and less than a week in I realized I could never go back to my old ways. Being unaware is a choice, unaware of how much added sugar goes in to processed foods. There is no bigger culprit than the protein bar, aka energy bar, aka cereal bar, aka granola bar. I used to make an exception for this portable food, but no more. Protein bar truth is sneaky, chock full of hidden ingredients like sugar.

How can one go wrong with a nice protein bar? They’re only between 90 and 200 calories. A great anytime snack, right? The truth is, most of them are loaded with sugar!

If it’s not regular sugar, it’s high fructose corn syrup, or honey, or another sweetening ingredient you can’t pronounce. These bars, aside from some added vitamins, bare little difference from candy bars.


There was a time when I loved Power Bars. I LOVED them as a kid, eating a bar as a meal replacement. I’d have my 210 calorie Power Bar along with something light; perfect. Not so much. I was adding anywhere from 12 to 22 grams of sugar with that one bar. Well I quickly switched to Clif Bars, attempting to be healthier. I mean they’re made with organic oats. Not so much. Most Clif Bars are 250 calories with over 20 grams of sugar!

I evolved, trying out Quest Bars in my search for a decent bar. People rave about these bad boys; about how they’re healthy and nutritious with an old school Power Bar feel. Not so much. They’re certainly low in sugar, BUT they taste really sweet! Surprise, surprise, they’re sweetened by Sucralose and Lo Han Guo. We all know Sucralose is controversial, potentially causing cancer, but what is Lo Han Guo? It’s a natural substance, harvested from monk fruit and processed into an artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. Yes kids, two hundred times sweeter. That’s why that Quest Bar with only 2-5 grams of sugar is ridiculously sweet. There’s no way around it, you’re still eating a processed bar!


My next stop on the protein bar express was Think Thin Bars. Did we finally find something resembling a healthy snack? Not so much. They have no sugar in them, but again we’ve been played. Check out the ingredients lowdown here. When I first saw Think Thin Bars I thought YES no sugar, but how can these bad boys taste so sweet? Oh, just another artificial sweetener, this time in the form of Maltitol Syrup. Not cool!

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I finally tried the Kind Bar, hoping it was an honest, healthier snack. Right on the package it says no GMO sugar, a definite plus. Open one up and you can actually see whole nuts, oats, and fruit. They’re not ground up, processed, and formed into a bar, another big plus. Also, a handful of Kind Bars only have 5 grams of sugar, while many others still have 10-12 grams of the sweet stuff. The verdict; some are pretty good while others pack in the sugar.


It comes down to being diligent and reading labels when choosing a protein bar. Yes, you have to be that person. You also need to understand why you’re eating one of these bars. They are not a healthy meal, nor a meal replacement. All of these bars are a sweet treat, even Kind Bars. They’re not to be lived off of. They’re not the miracle food that’s going to help you to lose weight. They’re candy bars.

The most important thing we can do is be honest with ourselves, especially when it comes to what we eat and what we indulge in. Being aware of what’s inside your food is both important and pretty easy. Most of us choose to turn a blind eye, choosing to overeat sugar and processed ingredients. We don’t look and therefore don’t know.

Take control of what you’re eating. All of these protein bars, aka energy or cereal or granola bars, are just quick and mindless foods. Choose to exercise mindful eating and if you indulge in a bar every now and again, know that you’re indulging. Keep educating yourself and beware the false advertising all over the protein bar.



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