If you're constantly on the go and find it difficult to get a decent breakfast in the morning, a good alternative to a sit-down meal could be a protein bar. While many bars on the market are full of sugars and lack any nutritional value, certain types of protein bars are a viable alternative to keep you going until lunch.
Pick High Protein
Making sure your bar has adequate protein is extremely important. A study published in a 2011 issue of the journal "Obesity" found that teens who ate high-protein breakfasts were more satiated and felt less hungry throughout the morning. In addition, MRI results showed less activity in parts of the brain that control food motivation and reward. Biochemist and obesity researcher William Lagakos, PhD recommends picking a bar that has at least 20 grams of protein or more.
Zero in on Fiber
Just like protein, fiber has a satiating effect too and can help you get through the morning with no hunger pangs or cravings. Most Americans don't get enough fiber, notes dietitian Sharon Palmer, but bars can be a useful way to top up your intake. Look for bars that are made with whole-grain ingredients, such as oats or whole-grain granola. You'll want one that contains at least a few grams of fiber so that you can reach the recommended daily 38 grams for men and 26 grams for women.
While protein and fiber are good components in a breakfast protein bar, there are also ingredients you want to avoid. These include partially hydrogenated oils or trans fats and artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, according to dietitian Corinne Goff. Another culprit is sugar. Sugar causes a peak in blood sugar levels, quickly followed by a dip, which can increase hunger and leave you running for the vending machine by 10 a.m.
Go the Homemade Route
If you want to be completely sure about what's in your protein breakfast bar, making your own could be an option. Goff suggests combining oats, whole-wheat flour, flax seeds, pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, peanut butter and mix-ins, such as dried fruit and nuts. To increase the protein content further, consider adding in protein powder, or top your bars with low-fat, low-sugar yogurt and allow them to set in the fridge before the morning.