I'm going to start doing more product reviews. So, I thought I'd write out what I expect in a protein bar... I'm not sure what different types I'll review here, but I have sort of a pass or fail test that I put ALL protein bars through before I even put them in my shopping basket.
1) Calories--I prefer that a protein bar have about 200 calories even when it will be used as a meal replacement. I find that a lot of the ones I do buy end up in the 230 to 260 zone though. If it has 300+ calories, it has to meet other criteria AND be large enough to split into two filling snacks at least.
2) Carbs--Have you ever noticed how many protein bars have over 30 grams of carbs in them? And most of them have less than 20 grams of protein! I prefer that a protein bar have less net grams of carbs (carbs minus fiber grams) than it does grams of protein. So, if a bar has 19 grams of protein, I prefer it have less than 19 net grams of carbs. If it has more, I often won't even try it. I see bars with more carbs than protein grams as those intended more for energy or for body builders who mean to add body mass.
3) Fiber! I love a bar that has 5 or more grams of fiber! Fiber is a big issue for us WLS postops! We don't get near enough in the average day of eating. Any boost from a product like a protein bar is gravy!
4) Sugars--Many bars out there are sweetened with sugar. And, this can mean even 12 to 20 grams of sugar in a lower protein bar. I try to stay below 10 grams of sugar per serving AND prefer bars sweetened with artificial sweeteners/sugar alcohols.
5) Coatings--You are starting to see more and more bars made with a chocolate coating or a yogurt coating. Those are great if you just have to have that coating to make the bar more tolerable. However, they may also mean a higher calorie count and/or a higher sugar number. While not the greatest comparison, I sometimes think of this like Poptarts--frosted or not???
6) Balance--By this, I mean that there is a fair balance of calories/carbs/fats/protein. We each have our own idea of "balanced," but that is all about personal preference! I would love to see a 50% protein, 25% fats and 25% carbs balance, but it is not all that common...
SO, with all that said, we all know that number 7 here would be taste, right? So, while taste is important as far as us tolerating something, it is not imperative to making a bar a better choice than another. And, if something is just so danged yummy that it is like protein candy, we are more likely to abuse it as a snack and not a meal replacement. If it is a PLANNED snack, then that is cool. But, if it is the temptation in our cupboard, then perhaps it isn't truly the best option? If I found myself thinking of a bar as a treat, then I'd have to take another really good look at its nutrition facts....