I recently gave a Cheat Sheet interview on Protein Bars, along with David Katz MD at Yale (a prolific writer, and head of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine) and Heather Mangieri RDN in Pittsburgh (sports nutrition expert and ADA spokeswoman. They did a great job in excerpting it, so I thought I’d include the full interview here, below.
1. What is your overall impression of packaged protein bars? Do they live up to their healthy image?**Largely glorified candy bars. Most people would be better off with a handful of nuts and an apple. Lots of unnecessary processing and preservatives for many popular commercial bars, too many of which are high carb, insulin spiking, and fattening.
2. When someone is considering purchasing a packaged bar, what ingredients or nutritional information should they be looking for on the label? (Amount of protein, sugar, fat, fiber, etc.) Also, is there such a thing as a bar that has too much protein in it?
3. On the flip side, what ingredients or nutritional information should cause concern?
4. Are there things men specifically should be looking for or avoiding?
5. Most people would probably agree foods prepared at home are better for us, but protein bars are a convenient alternative when we can’t make it into the kitchen. Is there a limit on how many people should eat? Per day? Per week?
6. Do you eat any of these types of products in your life?**Once in a while I will have a Santa Barbara Bar Coconut Almond Bar: it’s delicious, high in protein, low sugar, and minimally processed. And it’s local.
7. What does all that information on the label (healthy, all natural, etc.) really mean? Is it all just a marketing ploy? I know Kind bars came under fire earlier this year because they used the word healthy on their packaging but their high levels of fat caused concern.**Labeling is designed to drive sales, so it is about marketing not about education or data. To get the real scoop, you have to read the ingredients, and learn to read between the lines on labels.