Mindful Mama

Thirteen Years and 13+ Bars Later: My Quest for the Best Healthy Protein Bars

Picture and reviews - I've tried 13+ protein bars consistently over the past 13 years to help balance my blood sugar and insulin throughout the day. I used to rely heavily on Quest Bars. Now I'm more likely to eat RX Bars, Primal Kitchen paleo collagen bars, health warrior chia bars and most often, Organic Larabars.

I’ve been keeping snack bars, energy bars, meal bars, protein bars and granola bars in my purse steadily for the past 13 or so years to ensure I’ve got nourishment with me in case my blood sugar gets to low. But my preferences, needs and tastes have changed significantly over time, and I imagine they will still.

You’ll notice many of the bars I have tried over the years contain lots of soy. I used to just think “a little bit” was no big deal. But my doctors really want me to avoid [processed] soy products to protect my thyroid – now that I’m being more mindful of it, I’m realizing processed soy is just about every almost all processed foods. By eating fewer processed foods I’m definitely eating less soy which I believe is helping my thyroid.

Glucerna Nutrition Bars Review

This was the first snack / meal / nutrition bars I started eating about 13 years ago. I had just been diagnosed with insulin resistance, had just started taking Metformin and was finally not having hypoglycemic episodes every day and I needed something to balance me out. This seemed like the right choice…it was somehow supposed to “balance” my blood sugar between meals and it was in the diabetic section in the Rite Aid, so it seemed like the best fit. These used to be much larger – I would eat a meal bar as a snack in high school while waiting for lunch. At the time, I remember thinking it tasted OK. Now, now that I eat more real food, I stay far away from these and similar bars.

What’s not great about these to me now: lots of dairy ingredients, lots of artificial ingredients, lots of artificial flavors, likely hydrogenated oils, soy protein and other soy lecithin.

Clif Bar Reviews

Overtime, I cleaned my act up a bit more. My next main energy bar were Clif Bars. The upsell: slightly organic (they are made with organic oats). Man I wore the chocolate peanut flavor out. Chocolate brownie was always a consistent winner though, especially after I out-peanutted myself. And while Clif Bars do have more protein than Glucerna bars, they do have a good bit of sugar – in the form of processed sugar from brown rice syrup and cane syrup. They did give me the energy I needed and certainly helped quench my hunger. I also love oats – they agree with me so I ate these a lot for a few years.

What’s not so great about these to me now: roasted soybeans, soy protein and soy lecithin.

Zone Perfect Bar Reviews

The more I learned about nutrition over the time, the more I realized I may need to focus on my carb to protein ratio more. For a time in my life I was helping a doctor research a book (about a specifically male dysfunction topic…yes it was an interesting time in my life) and he very much advocated the Zone method. I read the Zone diet books and they made sense to me – fairly similar in concept to the Insulin Resistance Diet book. Soon after I restarted trying to balance cars, proteins and fats more. Relying more on Zone approved bars seemed like a logical choice, right?

I’ve eaten so many Fudge Graham flavored Zone perfect bars in my life – just seeing them in a store makes me gag a little.

What’s Good About Them: A much better protein to carb ratio than the previous bars.

What’s not so great about these to me now: soy protein, fractionated oil, soy lecithin, diary ingredients and lots of corn syrup.

Go Macro MacroBar Review

I started trying these when they became more readily available in health food stores and regular grocery stores. I liked that they were raw – I was trying to get into that for a while and I loved that they are Non-GMO. I was finally eating a more organic bar and I could tell the difference. These were delicious and I felt good after eating them. They quenched my hunger like Clif Bars, but over time I felt I could feel the difference between having less protein in these bars than with the Zone bars, and it was a little too sweet for me with the brown rice syrup. Every now and then I will pick one of these up, but it’s not my go-to.

Think Thin High Protein Bars Reviews

OMG. ThinkThin bars. I ATE SO MANY OF THESE. IN EVERY FLAVOR. I even got my Dad hooked on them when he realized he needed to watch his blood sugar. I ate the most of the Chocolate Almond and Brownie Crunch flavors until I found the Chocolate Strawberry flavor and later the Salted Chocolate.

What’s supposed to be great about them: lots of protein (almost equal protein to carbs), “no sugar” and no gluten. Also “low glycemic” which always catches my eye.

What I don’t like about them looking back now: soy protein and soy lecithin. “Natural flavors”, dairy and malitol sugar alcohol. I really couldn’t handle these any more especially after I stopped drinking diet coke. I also noticed when I would occasionally have one, it left my stomach in knots – likely from the soy lecithin and sugar alcohol.

Picture and reviews - I've tried 13+ protein bars consistently over the past 13 years to help balance my blood sugar and insulin throughout the day. I used to rely heavily on Quest Bars. Now I'm more likely to eat RX Bars, Primal Kitchen paleo collagen bars, health warrior chia bars and most often, Organic Larabars.

I’ve tried 13+ protein bars consistently over the past 13 years to help balance my blood sugar and insulin throughout the day. I used to rely heavily on Quest Bars. Now I’m more likely to eat RX Bars, Primal Kitchen paleo collagen bars, health warrior chia bars and most often, Organic Larabars.

Clif Mojo Dark Chocolate Almond Coconut Bars Review (Sweet and Salty Trail Mix Bar)

This was bar was a major player in our household when we moved to San Diego! These were readily available at our local grocery store. It was a brand I remembered and loved for a while, and this version was non-GMO and made with organic dark chocolate, and supposedly “low glycemic”. I had originally gotten these for my husband and then I got addicted too. I loved the oats in them but there were still a few things that still don’t always agree with me: brown rice syrup, soy protein and you guessed in – soy lecithin.

Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar Reviews

Seeking a bit more protein, I tried these bars as a recommendation from the personal trainer I found when I first moved to San Diego. News flash: THESE ARE PRETTY DELICIOUS. But also a bit fake tasting, obvi. They reminded me of those old-timey wafer vanilla cream wafer cookies a grandmother would keep at her house. One clear reason these may not have been the best choice: The service size is “1 cookie” :).

The good: These have an protein to carb ratio – almost double the protein than carbs.

What I don’t love about these now: soy lecithin, lots of different oil mixes and why protein.

Quest Bars Protein Bar Reviews

I was getting more serious about protein again, so my next protein bar venture was Quest Bars. Lot’s of [at first] tasty flavorful bars like Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and my personal favorite for a long time: Cinnamon Roll. It seemed to me that the protein makeup (mostly whey) and sweetener type varied by flavor. Cinnamon Roll has lots of cinnamon, which I love but also stevia which although “natural” can also make things take very chemically. I stopped eating these around the same time I stopped drinking Diet Coke – these just started to taste gross now that I was ridding my palate of added sweeteners. (Read more about my Diet Coke journey). At least there was no soy in these!

Kind Bars Nut Bars Review

I’ve been on and off of a Kind Bar kick for the past year and a half. There are actually a lot of different flavors. When I’m being good, I try to stay away from the ones with added chocolate or lots of syrup sweeteners. I love nuts and almonds so Kind bar’s are a good choice for that, but the calories can sneak up on you if you don’t watch it! My latest favorite flavor is Thai Sweet Chili. I keep these around every now and then to spice things up. Ingredients vary by flavor – I just try to make sure the ones I eat don’t contain soy lecithin. I could also do without all the “syrups” they add to the bars. My husband is still a huge fan though – he’s hooked on the Blueberry Vanilla Cashew flavor and now the Cherry Apple Chia Pressed by Kind flavor.

ProBar Meal Bar – The Simply Real Bar Review

I’ve picked ProBars up on occasion at Whole Foods – almond crunch flavor is pretty good. It’s like an upgraded Clif Bar with even more organic ingredients. This flavor at least doesn’t have any soy. It’s vegan and dairy free. However it is way too overly sweet and the carb to protein ratio is pretty outrageous due to all of the added syrups – rice syrup, molasses and dried cane syrup! It’s difficult to taste the natural sweetness of the cashews from all of the added, unnecessary sweeteners. It already has dates….why would you need to add more sweetness?

Perfect Bar Review – Made in San Diego!

Occasionally I will also pick up and try again Perfect Bars – my favorite flavor is the coconut peanut butter. I got a little to into peanut butter a few years ago so now I tend just to reserve that peanut flavor as a treat and not a regular addition to my daily diet. Perfect Bars have a lot going for them – all organic ingredients, no chemicals, no preservatives and refined sugars. However, there is SO MUCH HONEY in these. Way too much. No matter what flavor I get, that’s all I can taste. Honey and me don’t mix…it’s way to sweet. Maybe too much fructose? I’m still not sure.

I LOVE that they try to sneak in greens and other vegetable powders into this. These Perfect Bars (which you find in the refrigerated section actually) have a pretty strong protein to carb ratio.

The peanut butter flavor in this Peanut Butter Coconut version is excellent. It also has added protein from egg powder and nonfat milk. If you are looking for an organic bar to try and you don’t mind honey, this could be a good option for you.

Pictures and reviews of organic superfood Larabars with hazelnut hemp and cacao are my favorite nutrition and protein bars right now. Perfect Bars - made in San Diego! - are OK but they have too much honey.

Organic superfood Larabars with hazelnut hemp and cacao are my favorite nutrition and protein bars right now. Perfect Bars – made in San Diego! – are OK but they have too much honey.

RX BAR Chocolate Sea Salt Review

For a the past few years if I’ve been using protein powder I use Jay Robb egg white protein powder. I used to use the vanilla flavor but the stevia was way to intense so I switched to using the unsweetened unflavored version – it’s hardly detectable in food or shakes. It was also good to add to oatmeal (but if you microwave for too long then it starts changing the texture because it is just powder egg whites).

Trying the RXBars was a natural next step for me – and it contains no soy, no dairy, gluten or added sugar. They have a decent protein to carb ratio. I love the simple list of ingredients: dates, egg whites, cashews, almonds, cacao, cocoa, sea salt and natural chocolate flavor. If you close your eyes, they almost take like a brownie. I could do without the “natural” chocolate flavor though – it leaves a funny aftertaste.

Ultimately I’ve hardly been eating eggs lately to keep my TMJ and tension away, so I don’t eat these to much anymore.

Dark Chocolate Almond Primal Kitchen Grass-Fed Collagen Protein Paleo Bar

I started trying collagen protein last year and I think I respond well to it. I’m always on the lookout for a good collagen protein bar or recipe (I make a pretty good one with coconut butter, dates and lemon zest). I found these paleo-approved bars at Whole Foods a few months ago – I like that they are soy free, dairy free and gluten free as well.

There are some pretty mixed and harsh reviews of these online – they really don’t taste as bad as the reviews you read. Especially if you’ve eaten your fair share of protein bars. They only leave a little bit of an after taste. They are however very very tough and chewy which ultimately makes my jaw tension worse sometimes haha so I don’t eat these too often.

Health Warrior Chia Bar Review

I started getting majorly into chia seeds about 2 years ago. I love making healthy chia pudding and I even have my husband added to Chia kombucha! I frequently stock Health Warrior dark chocolate cherry bars in our house as a treat or when I feel like my blood sugar has suddenly gotten low. These soy free, dairy free, gluten and vegan bars are very tasty….probably because of all the added sweetening syrups like brown rice and agave syrups. The other flavors are OK, but too sweet.

I’ve tried the protein bar versions by Health Warrior…and they are truly awful. At least compared to these smaller chia bars!

LaraBar Organic Hazelnut Hemp and Cacao Superfoods Bar Review

Finally….down to my favorite and most consistent bar! I carry this flavor with me every where, at all times.

I started trying LaraBar’s again about a year and half ago after my friend Erika’s suggestion (yes the wondrous candle maker 🙂 ). Not all flavors are created equal – or should I say many of them are way way way too sweet. The chocolate chip cookie dough for example, is amazing the first go-round…and then you just want to puke. I got a little to into the carrot cake flavor as well.

But this Organic hazelnut, hemp and cacao version is so perfect. It’s only sweetened with dates which really jives well with me. It’s my preferred sweetener (I should have listened to my acupuncturist a while ago!). I choose this over honey, agave or maple syrup any day. A delicious blend of almonds, hazelnuts and hemp seeds provide protein, while cacao nibs added just an extra kick.

The protein to carb ratio is pretty low, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to affect me. I think because this is just made…with real food! And that’s what my body responds best to the cleaner I eat. I hope this flavor doesn’t go anywhere any time soon, because I’m obsessed!

The real food aspect of this bar really makes it work – just a few bites for me does the trick. I might only eat a half of one each day. That combined with eating real foods at meals and trying to follow the adrenal reset diet helps my insulin and blood sugar stay more balanced throughout the day – and keeps me less hungry.

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