As college students, convenience is our middle name. Protein bars are easy, grab-and-go foods for that walk (more like a run) from the gym to class. But is convenience costing us our health? There are millions of brands to choose from at various prices. Some (like the more expensive ones) are going to have more quality ingredients, but others are cheap blocks of sugar.
To make sure students stay healthy and well, we did some research to find the truth behind all these labels. Fat content, sugar, sodium, calories and protein are all factors when it comes to trying to decide which bar will end up being that rushing-to-8 a.m.-calc meal.
We all hear the same from our moms, “Can’t you just fix yourself some real food instead of grabbing one of those stupid bars?” The truth is, with the fast-pace world that is college, sometimes wholesome meals must be sacrificed for the sake of timeliness.
We’re not all D1 athletes–but we’re not all couch potatoes. Therefore we require different nutrients and food to fit our dietary needs. According to BodyBuilding.com the Quest Bar was rated number one on their top 10 protein bars list. Due to its high protein content, no added sugars and half the body’s daily fiber intake, this is one stop you need to make on your “bar crawl.” With more flavors than JBieb hits (try cookie dough, cinnamon roll, raspberry cheesecake, chocolate brownie and s’mores) the options are endless. Penn State nutrition professor Dr. Alison Borkowska also recommends the Quest Bar as students’ go-to food. “They contain a limited number of ingredients and have a good amount of fiber,” she said.
When looking for a certain type of nutrition bar to get at the store, Borkowska said to see if they have added sugars in them. “Luna Bars, for example, have added sugar. Kind Bars have been featured in the news lately as being high in fat; however, I’m not sure that makes them ‘unhealthy.'” Borkowska said that it’s fine to have an occasional protein bar but try not to make if part of a routine. Stick to whole foods and avoid highly refined foods.
Katelyn Smulligan, a senior nutrition student at Penn State, suggests reading food labels to identify wholesome ingredients in nutrition bars. “There are two kinds of people: people who read food labels and people who don’t,” she said. “I do not count calories and the number of calories in a snack rarely effect my decision.”
But there are five things she looks for on the nutritional facts label: trans-fat, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and protein. Smulligan gives her approval to a few bars that pass the health checklist. “Kind bars are great because the first ingredients in some of them are mixed nuts, honey and dried fruits,” she said. Other nutrition bars that passed are Nature Valley and Cliff bars.
We all want convenience and by following the guidelines for a healthy protein bar, us college kids can get some nutrients in as well.