Why I’m taking a break from protein bars

Protein bars have been a staple in my pantry for as long as I can remember.

They’re a great way to get an extra serving of protein in your day and oh-so-convenient for those times when you need a quick snack to avoid falling for a pastry at Starbucks. There’s lots of variety in taste, texture and ingredients out there; really, a bar for everyone!

I’ve tried pretty much every brand and flavour available at my local grocery store and have recently fallen hard for Luna bars. I’ve been known to buy them by the box when they’re on sale. (Have you ever tried S’mores? My absolute favourite!). But Caramel Nut Brownie is pretty great too 🙂

calories in protein bars

But I’m not particular. I also enjoy Atkins, Vega, Lara and Kind (technically, the last two aren’t protein bars per se, but I lump them in with the others as they serve the same between-meal function for me). Give me fruit, nuts and protein wrapped up in a layer of chocolate and I’m a very happy girl.

calories in protein bars

Perhaps too happy.

Alas, protein bars are one of my ‘trigger’ foods. Eating one makes me want another. Right away.

And given that most weigh in at 200+ calories (not to mention the relatively high sugar load of the chocolate covered varieties…kind of like the chocolatification of cereal that I wrote about last week), one is all I should be eating between meals.

In addition to triggering my sweet tooth, I don’t find that they satisfy my hunger the way ‘real’ food snacks do. And even when I resist having a second, I end up feeling hungry way before it’s time for my next meal.

What about home made bars? I’ve experimented with lots of protein bar recipes and found the best tasting ones to be those with a hint of sweet, either from dried fruit or honey or chocolate. Problem is, they too don’t feel like enough of a between-meal snack and tend to be rather heavy on the carbohydrates-from-grains.

calories from protein bars

So, I’ve decided to take a break from protein bars of all types and re-focus my snacking on lean protein and raw veggies.

The more I pay attention to my body, the more I realize the effect of sweet and starchy carbohydrates on my appetite and eating habits. (And weight; did you know that when you’re at a good, lean weight and you cut way back on exercise, but not on food, your pants don’t fit as well any more? Here’s hoping that those intercostals heal up quickly and I can get back to my usual workout frequency and intensity…)

Fortunately, there are no S’mores Luna bars in my cupboard; I couldn’t bear to throw them out.

Hubby can work his way through the last box of Chocolate Coconut Lara bars; he likes them well enough and seems capable of stopping at one (but just because he’s saving room for his favourite vice; ice cream!).

Do you buy protein bars?

If so, do they satisfy your hunger or leave you wanting more?



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  1. I stopped eating bars around…12 years ago?
    no matter the bar
    no matter the ingredients
    there is/was simply NO SATIETY THERE for me.
    MIzMiz recently posted…Six steps to clean eating.My Profile

  2. I used to buy all my protein bars & was always on the lookout for better ones since they never met what I wanted in one. A couple years ago I started making my own. Yes there are grains in them BUT I put more protein powder in mine than most & if they need extra moisture, I was liquid egg whites. I eat a Luna bar once a week before my outside run & that is it…. I really don’t crave store bought anymore.

    We all have to do what is right for us! Sounds like you are… I HOPE your intercostals heal soon!
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & Just GratitudeMy Profile

  3. I try to avoid them because they can really pack the sugar in. I’ve switched to snacking on natural protein sources, or even making my own bars! I keep a couple around in case of “emergency,” but I’ll have one maybe 1x a month.

    Great post – good luck with the “break.”
    Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table recently posted…‘Choking on MondayMy Profile

  4. Hey Tamara!

    I buy protein bars sometimes and I usually do so when I am out and about and I’m hungry.

    They usually don’t satisfy my hunger and yes, I want to snack on other stuff afterwards that’s not so healthy.

    So, I don’t make it a habit of eating protein bars. It’s an every now and then thing for me.

  5. I’ve done the same. I used to be a Smores Luna Bar ADDICT! But now I try to do canned tuna, veggies, apples and AB, or even chicken and avocado and I am held over SO much better and my sweet tooth doesn’t go into high gear. Good luck!

  6. I needed to be reminded of this. At first, I used them as a “just in case” bar, keeping them in my purse as a viable option if I went somewhere where I didn’t want to eat the food available because I didn’t see it as part of my “diet”. But then I relied on them too much, enjoying them like my candy almost. I love the s’mores bars as well as all of the other luna bars…but I need a better option. I know I can make a better option. I’ve known this for awhile, but didn’t want to admit it. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Katie @wishandwhimsy recently posted…Planning “Clean” Meals & Giveaway Reminder!My Profile

  7. Exactly the reason I don’t eat bars (except in an emergency, being a vegan this a true event, when there is no other food that I can eat and I need something). Other than that, they add 200+ calories, do nothing to satisfy my hunger, and they are too sweet.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted…No Sweat SundayMy Profile

  8. When I look at the ingredients list on protein bars I always want to eat real food instead but end up getting caught going to starbucks! Costco carries something called “Vel” bars and they are seeds and nuts and a little honey. They are still 9-12 grams of fat and I find they don’t stay with you even though they are loaded with protein. They are definitely a healthy choice if you want to stay away from from food additives.
    The pic of Jane Fonda is on the cover of Hello Canada bottom right.
    Also Tamara have you heard the latest on high fructose corn syrup? Apparently our bodies just think it is plain old sugar and it is not as bad as originally thought. And since everything we see on TV is true, maybe you could look into this and let me know what you think.

    • Real food rocks!
      Thanks for the reference to the Jane Fondo pic; I’ll have to look it up online.

      And no, I hadn’t heard the latest on the HFCS story. I know that there’s been a bit of a battle between the white sugar and the corn sugar associations about which is worse for you. I’ll ask my hubby. He’s the authority (in our family!) on this one and actually wrote a post for me last January that generated a lot of controversy over on Facebook (you can find it by looking under ‘Explore fitknitchick’ at the top, last January or February)
      Tamara recently posted…Why I’m taking a break from protein barsMy Profile

  9. I can’t remember the last time I bought a protein bar. I used to be sucked in by the association of being a “protein bar”…but then when I educated myself on the ingredients that are used on 70% of them, I quickly stopped.

    I would buy them for convenience if I found a brand that used whole natural ingredients with whey isolate protein.

    I also agree, I don’t find they really fill me up.
    Brad Gouthro recently posted…Quick Fat Burning Breakfast or Snack RecipeMy Profile

    • Yes, reading labels and self-education is key. Especially when brands are allowed to use words and slogans on their products that might fool people into thinking the product is healthier than it really is.

      I haven’t found a brand that meets your standards yet Brad ; )
      Tamara recently posted…Why I’m taking a break from protein barsMy Profile

  10. I went through a protein bar phase years ago, but now I prefer just to grab a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit (though the latter lacks the protein) when I want a snack. Less calories and more satisfying, I think.
    crubin recently posted…Return From The Allure Of The SeasMy Profile

  11. I’ll eat them if I NEED them. I rarely reach for them when I have other options, but more when I omg-need-to-eat-something-and-all-I-have-is-a-protein bar type of situations 😉
    Paige @ Your Trainer Paige recently posted…Move it Monday: {Anything but a} Walk in the Park WorkoutMy Profile

  12. I keep protein bars in my gym bag as emergency snack, but not in my cupboard for the reasons you and the others give. Happy weaning.
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Push-Ups: Right & Wrong WayMy Profile

    • I’m on a search for alternative emergency snacks. I’ll definitely be posting about what I come up with!

  13. Luna bars are my favorite too. I used protein bars and GUs as fuel for long runs and bike rides. About a year ago I realized that I could choose other things that work just as well and aren’t a bunch of chemicals. For long bike rides I take dried apricots now. Eating 3-4 of them every hour or so keeps my strength and energy levels up for long miles!
    Lisa Eirene recently posted…King TutMy Profile

    • Love dried apricots! They are one of the only, readily available dried fruits out there without added sugar (unless you go to a health food or organic store). I believe they also have lots of good things in them. Off to look at nutrients!

      • I have noticed such a huge change from what I used to do before. I feel better, my energy is leveled out, I get that little sugar pick me up without feeling gross…
        Lisa Eirene recently posted…King TutMy Profile

        • I experienced that very feeling last time I did a no-sugar challenge. Maybe I need to challenge myself again…

  14. Forgot to say that my own bars/muffins – protein – are for more satisfying! 🙂
    Jody – Fit at 54 recently posted…Gratitude Monday & Just GratitudeMy Profile

  15. hmm…i might have to join in on this one! i really only eat parts of bars when i want something sweet. they’re almost like a candy bar substitution for me.
    Lindsay @ Lindsay’s List recently posted…it’s over already?!?My Profile

    • Join me Lindsay, I’d love the company!
      I can’t say that I’ll only have one once in awhile; they’re either in my cupboard (and my belly) or not in the house at all!
      Like you, I’m an extremist…

  16. Yep, I’m with you. I have such a sweet tooth, eating one of those bars just makes me want MOAR CANDEE NOW!!!! I would love to hear what your substitute snacks are. I can’t not have a little mid-morn & mid-afternoon snack, I get hangry otherwise.

    • Sarah, I really need my snacks too. I tend to be starving about 2 hours after a meal and if I don’t eat, end up grumpy and shaky and not entirely in my own head. Today, I subbed a banana and almonds for my usual bar. Filled me up and tasted sweet enough that I didn’t feel terribly deprived.
      I’m working on the ‘alternatives to protein bars’ post now!

      • I packed edamame & a cheese stick for one snack, and an apple and almonds for the other snack today. I’m an abstainer, not a moderator, so I think it will be better for me to stay away from sweets altogether, when possible.
        Sarah recently posted…Colorado/Wyoming 2012My Profile

        • Great on-the-go ideas! I’m really working on finding some new ’emergency’ snacks, so nothing that needs refrigeration…

  17. I have had an issue with protein bars in the past because I (unfortunately) eat with my eyes and so when something looks small despite what type of nutrition it holds, I automatically feel like I am starving….plus they are 200+ calories so it is hard to justify! Gnu Bars are good, fewer calories and satisfy.
    Talia @ Bite Size Wellness recently posted…Food Should Taste Good Snack Box GiveawayMy Profile

    • I’m just like you, Talia! I want my snack to look filling, as well as *be* filling. Thanks for the recommendation, but for now, I’m just saying ‘no’!

  18. I found they do absolutely nothing for me other than trigger more hunger. I love Luna bars but buy them as a sweet treat, not as a meal replacement. Which is too bad because if something that tasty could fill me up, I’d just buy a couple of boxes a week at the store and save a butt load of cash!
    Steph @fitmomtraining recently posted…Motivation Monday: Uh…about that Motivation…My Profile

    • There’s that ‘t’ word again; trigger. I need to write about trigger foods. I’d love to hear what everybody’s triggers are!

  19. I’m with you on snacking on whole foods as much as possible! I love Clif Bars so I’ve given them up. Dates do a great job of satisfying of my sweet tooth but are fiber-filled enough to keep me full.
    Kareen recently posted…Mood Lifter MondayMy Profile

    • Isn’t it funny how we have to give up the things we love? I’ve tried Clif bars and quite liked them too. Too much!

  20. Hi Tamara,

    I was never a fan of protein bars. I don’t like their taste very much(too sweet) and I find they have all sorts of weird ingredients added to them. I also try to avoid that type of processed grain.
    Mariella Lombardi recently posted…Amazing Exercises for Senior Health & Fitness – You’re NEVER “Too Old” to Experience the Benefits of ExerciseMy Profile

  21. Protein bars are accessible and over the years have become packed with more fillers that make up for most of the protein. Most importantly they do satisfy your sweet tooth or your hunger. You should checkout Keetopia they have a great line of all natural grain free low carb, high protein (hydrolyzed isolated protein) foodie friendly baked goods designed to keep you in your fat burn zone. Use coupon code “optimumpursuit” for 20% off your purchase.


  1. […] August 15, 2012 by Tamara Leave a Comment Last week I wrote about my plan to give up snacking on protein bars and meal replacement treats. For me, these are trigger foods that don’t satisfy and leave me […]