If you're looking for low-carb bars to support your dietary restrictions, you're in luck. Whether you're low-carb because you've opted for the keto diet or because you're looking for low-sugar options, there are a few out there.
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What Are Low-Carb Bars?
Protein bars are a popular product for before and after a workout, as well as for meal replacement and even weight management. Mordor Intelligence indicates the global protein bar market is projected to have a 4.23 percent compound annual growth rate between 2019 and 2024.
Low-carb bars are specially formulated protein or meal replacement bars designed to fit in as part of a low-carb diet. While there's no strict definition of what is considered "low carb," Mayo Clinic says a daily limit of 20 to 60 grams is typical.
There are several brands of low-carb bars available now, including Perfect Keto, Fit Joy, Quest, Built Bar, Love Good Fats and Orgain's Organic Protein. When looking into the low-carb bars you want to add to your diet on a regular basis, pay close attention to each flavor as there may be variations that affect the overall nutrition.
Read more: The Best Grains on a Low-Carb Diet
Focus on Net Carbs
When you're looking for low-carb products, don't pay attention to the total carbohydrate. Instead, calculate the net carbs, or the number of carbs in the bar after you subtract the amount of fiber and sugar alcohols in the product.
Though the fiber and sugar alcohol are carbohydrates, they are not digested the same way as other carbohydrates, so it doesn't count toward your overall carbohydrate intake when on a low-carb diet. Instead, the diets focus on counting the carbohydrates that have the strongest effect on blood sugar levels.
Due to the lack of a formal definition of low-carb, it's difficult to determine what qualifies. For best results, base it on your total daily carb intake. If you're on the higher end at 60 grams per day, you can opt for bars that have more carbs, or allow yourself multiple servings.
Following is a comparison of several brands of low-carb bars in terms of calories, fats, protein, net carbs and sugar. Bear in mind that there may be some differences between flavors from the same brand when it comes to fat and calories.
Perfect Keto's Birthday Cake Keto Bar has a 45-gram serving size. It contains 230 calories, 17 grams of fat (4 grams of which are saturated), 13 grams of protein, 3 grams net carbs and 1 gram of sugar. It does not contain sugar or sugar alcohols but contains stevia and monk fruit extract.
FitJoy's Grain-Free Cookies and Cream Protein Bar has a 60-gram serving size. It contains 210 calories, 7 grams of fat (4 grams of which come from saturated fat), 20 grams of protein, 6 net carbs and 5 grams of sugar. These are an ideal choice for those who are avoiding grains and gluten.
Quest's Birthday Cake Protein Bar has a 60-gram serving size. It contains 180 calories, 6 grams of fat (3.5 of which are saturated), 21 grams of protein, 4 net carbs and less than 1 gram of sugar. These are gluten-free and certified kosher.
The Peanut Butter Built Bar comes in a 58-gram serving size. It has 170 calories, 7 grams of fat (3.5 grams of which are saturated), 20 grams of protein, 3 net carbs and 3 grams of sugar. Built Bar does not use artificial flavors or colors in any of their flavors. The protein comes from whey isolate and does not use soy at all.
Love Good Fats Cookies & Cream Bar comes in a 39-gram serving size. It has 190 calories, 13 grams of fat (6 grams of which are saturated), 9 grams of protein, 5 net carbs and 1 gram of sugar. This brand is marketed specifically toward those who are following the keto diet plan. They are gluten-free and contain no sugar alcohol.
Orgain's Organic Protein Peanut Butter Bar comes in a 40-gram serving size. It has 140 calories, 6 grams of fat (1 gram of which is saturated), 10 grams of protein, 3 net carbs and 3 grams of sugar. These products are vegan, organic, kosher, made without soy and non-GMO. The protein comes from brown rice and peas.
Look Closely at Ingredients
Many protein bars on the market are loaded with carbs because of their sugar content. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, some protein bars are just candy bars in disguise. In comparing a Snickers bar, a Nutz Over Chocolate Luna Bar and a Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey Granola Bar, gram for gram, the calorie counts are similar. When comparing fat and sugar, Snickers had the most, but surprisingly it had the least amount of sodium.
When looking at fiber, none of them were high fiber, which requires at least 5 grams per serving. The Luna bar came close at 4 grams. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be considered "high," "rich in" or an "excellent source of" fiber, the product must contain 20 percent or more of the recommended daily intake per serving.
According to the Calorie Control Council, the United States recommends 14 grams of fiber intake for every 1,000 calories. For the average adult, this means women require 25 grams per day and men require 38 grams per day.
When evaluating a low-carb bar to make sure it's as healthy as marketing claims would like you to believe, make sure it has a decent amount of fiber and is low in sugar. Watch for added artificial sweeteners. According to the FDA, heavy consumption of sugar alcohols may cause bloating, gas and diarrhea in some individuals since they are fermented in the large intestine and not fully absorbed by the body.
Whether your low-carb diet means you'll be consuming mostly fat or mostly protein, the important thing is to ensure all your macronutrients come from healthy sources. Failure to do so could have negative health effects over the long term despite weight loss.
- Mordor Intelligence: "Protein Bar Market - Growth, Trends, and Forecasts (2020-2025)
- Mayo Clinic: "Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?"
- Perfect Keto: "Keto Bars - 12 Bars - Birthday Cake"
- Quest Nutrition: "Protein Bars - Birthday Cake"
- Built Bar: "Peanut Butter 18 Bar Box"
- Love Good Fats: "Cookies & Cream"
- Orgain: "Organic Protein Bar"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Are Protein Bars Really Just Candy Bars in Disguise?"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Code of Federal Regulations Title 21"
- Calorie Control Council: "Recommended Daily Intake"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Sugar Alcohols"
- Fit Joy: "Cookies and Cream Protein Bars"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Snickers Bar"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Formulated bar,Luna Bar Nutz Over Chocolate"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bar"