What to Look For in a Protein Bar
When it comes to protein bars, there's no shortage of options on the market.
Yet for diabetics, choosing the right type of snack or meal-replacement bar requires reading labels and deciphering nutrition information in order to make healthy choices.
If you have diabetes, there are few things to look for in a protein bar.
Net carbohydrates is an important category to look at on nutrition labels. The "net carbs" of a protein bar is equal to the amount of carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber or sugar alcohols. So if a bar has 15 carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugar alcohols, then the total "net carb" count of the bar would be 6.
Since fiber and sugar alcohols can slow down the rate of carbohydrate absorption in the body, this reduces the impact these carbs would normally have on your blood sugar.
By understanding net carbohydrates, you can see how certain protein bars may have a higher carbohydrate count on the label but are still safe for diabetics because of the overall net carbohydrates in the bar.
Sufficient protein, between 10 and 20 grams in a bar, is also a good thing to look for. Your protein needs will vary depending on your age, weight and your dietary choices, but protein is key for blood sugar stabilization.
Protein in nutrition bars can come from many different sources, like whey, soy, hemp, peas or nuts.
Look for nutrition or protein bars that are low in fat – especially saturated fat. Fat content affects overall calories in the bar, so it's usually best to look for bars that contain less than about 10 grams of fat.
Recommended fiber intake varies from person to person, but protein bars that are higher in fiber will help to stabilize your blood sugar and make you feel full. Fiber can also lower the amount of net carbohydrates in a bar, which can be beneficial for diabetics on a low-carb diet.
Many protein bars on the market are much too high in sugar to be a safe option for diabetics.
Some options, like Quest Bars, are sweetened with sugar substitutes to keep sugar content low. These are usually a good choice. You can also look for bars with natural sugars – just make sure they don't contain more than a few grams of sugar and adjust your daily sugar intake accordingly.