Friday, October 25, 2013

My Recs for the Best Protein Bars

Many people eat protein bars on a daily basis because they are a quick and easy snack, and one would think, a healthy choice. However, most bars out on the market have some sort of coating, whether it is a “yogurt” or a chocolate coating. Oftentimes, these types of bars are full of saturated fat, and sometimes, hydrogenated oil (trans fat!). Furthermore, many bars are loaded with tons of sugar and are not the healthiest choice as a mid-day snack. I only really recommend bars for those that will be on the road and not able to have a meal for several hours, those trying to gain weight, or very active individuals. Protein bars tend to be very high in calories, so most people are not active enough throughout the day to require a very high-calorie snack... choosing fruit, non-fat yogurt, whole grain crackers, and/or a small serving of nuts/seeds is always a better choice.

It is always best to eat real food if possible, like cottage cheese or yogurt & fruit before a workout, instead of a packaged and highly-processed product. However, if you must eat a bar, first look at the ingredients list and make sure it contains high quality and fairly-natural ingredients. These would include nuts, seeds, whole grains, and honey or brown rice syrup (instead of high fructose corn syrup as the sweetener). There are many products on the market now, especially at Whole Foods, which do contain basic and healthy ingredients, and therefore, can be a nutritious choice for a snack.

My recommendations: Below are the bars I most often recommend to clients. Of course, there are now many bars on the market that meet my criteria of containing mostly natural ingredients,  high in fiber and protein, and actually taste good. But again, try to limit your processed bar intake- a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, or a banana and a light cheese stick can be healthy and very quick snacks pre- or post-workout.

  •  KIND Plus or KINDNuts & Spice Bars
    • Most of the bars contain around 180 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g SFA), 22 g carb (3 g fiber), 4 g protein, 50% DV Vit A, 50% DV Vit C, as well as small amounts of other vitamins and minerals
    • Each bar is made with very natural ingredients such as nuts, fruit, and honey- although glucose is added as a binder. The nuts & spice line contain <5 g sugar per bar.
    • ***I always have samples of these and give them to my clients- many delicious flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter + Protein and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt... yummm
  • LaraBars (any flavor- 1.8 oz bar)
    • Most of their bars contain 220-250 calories, 8-11 g fat (< 3 g saturated fat), ~30 g carb (3-7 g fiber), 5-7 grams protein, and are a good source of several key nutrients (potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, etc.).
    • Each bar contains less than 9 ingredients, is made only from seeds, fruit, and spices.
  • Nature’s Path OrganicOptimum Energy Bar (any flavor- 2 oz bar)
    • Most of their bars contain 200-220 calories, 3-8 g fat (< 2 g saturated fat), ~37 g carb (4 g fiber), 5-7 grams protein, and 20-25% DV calcium, 15% DV Iron
    • Each bar is made with all organic ingredients, no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, and only quality ingredients
  • Vega Bars
    • Each bar is plant-based and contains high-quality proteins coming from pea protein and soy. These bars contain a ridiculous amount of healthy fruit and vegetable-based ingredients, and a healthier recipe compared to most bars for the dark chocolate coating.
    • These bars come in a variety of flavors, each around 250 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated), 25 g carb (6 g fiber,12 g sugar), and 15 g protein. They contain most of the major vitamins and minerals, and a whole slew of antioxidants and probiotics.
  • PowerBar Nut Naturals
    • These bars contain around 210 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g SFA), 21 g carb (2 g fiber), and 10 grams protein, and are a good source of Vit C, thiamin, iron, and riboflavin
    • Each bar contains no preservatives or artificial flavors
  • NOW (No OpportunityWasted) Energy bars w/ Manuka Honey
    • Phil Keoghan’s NOW bars are all natural bars that are gluten free and contain very healthy ingredients including chia seeds.

      Most of the protein containing bars contain around 280 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated), 42 g carb (6 g fiber, 14 g sugar), and 11 grams protein. Most are also a pretty good source of calcium too!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Study: Ruin your appetite by viewing pictures of food over and over again!

A new study out of Brigham Young University found that looking at too many pictures of food caused a decrease in enjoyment of eating those foods. The study broke participants into two groups- one group that viewed pictures of salty foods like peanuts and chips, and French fries, and another group that was shown pictures of sweet foods like cakes and chocolates. Participants were asked to rate each food based on how appetizing it was while viewing the photos. After they were shown the pictures, participants were fed salted peanuts, and asked to rate how they enjoyed eating the peanuts. The findings were as follows:

Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods.1

The explanation for these results is that overexposure increases a person’s satiation and a decreases the desire for that type of food. The study findings work to emphasize that all senses are important in hunger and satiety, not just taste and smell. One of the lead researchers noted that you have to look at pictures many times to have the satiety effect, and looking at something just a few times will probably not lead to decreased consumption.

My Recommendation: When I ask clients about food preferences, many people say they don’t like something simply because they ate it too many times as a child. Or, you may know someone that has worked at a bakery or another food establishment and doesn’t tend to eat the food there- usually these workers smell, see, and hear about the food all day long and no longer find the food appealing. If one works at a bakery and smells and sees fresh baked donuts for several hours each day, day after day, donuts no longer contain the same appeal as they did when you only got donuts once a year down the shore. If you find that you tend to overindulge in a food or have afternoon candy cravings, try looking at pictures of the food you crave over and over again before eating. If these study findings hold true, you may just end up not being that enthusiastic about eating that piece of candy, or at the very least, you will end up eating fewer pieces!


1. Medical News Today-
2. Jeffrey S. Larson, Joseph Redden, Ryan S. Elder, 'Satiation from Sensory Simulation: Evaluating Foods Decreases Enjoyment of Similar Foods',Journal of Consumer Psychology, 14 September 2013 DOI: 10.1016/j.jcps.2013.09.001

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tip of the week: Keep Cheap Protein Staples on Hand!

Too many people end up eating poorly due to lack of planning and not having healthy food staples on hand. When it comes to simple meals, you need to have quick-to-prepare and healthy protein staples in your fridge or pantry so that you can create a meal when you get back late, are tired, and do not feel like cooking. You can create a healthy meal in less time and for less money than if you were to stop and get take-out. In order to make a well-balanced meal, you need to have a protein source, LOADS of vegetables, and a whole grain at bare minimum. I always advocate keeping frozen vegetables on hand, as well as some form of whole grain you can go to such as whole grain bread products (I keep Wegman's whole wheat pita's in my freezer all the time), quinoa, or low-sodium whole grain crackers (e.g: Ak Mak whole wheat sesame or Hint of Salt Triscuits). Below are my go-to cheap and nutritious protein staples I recommend you keep around your kitchen:

Eggs:  Use 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites- make veggie omelets with a side of whole grain toast (~13 g protein per 1 egg:2 whites omelet)
Low-fat cottage cheese: My favorite brand is Breakstone’s 2% (30% reduced-sodium)- use in salads, smoothies, add to omelets, put in pitas w/ cut strawberries & cinnamon, eat with fruit or tomatoes (12-16 g protein/half cup)
Canned no-salt added beans:  You can add beans to just about anything from burritos to salads, add to a vegetable dish, or eat plain (7-10 g protein/half cup)
Frozen veggie burgers:  These cook up in <2 minutes- my favorite kind is Amy’s Texas Burger- always look for a veggie burger with some form of high quality protein (like soy) and >10 g protein per burger. The only downfall of these products is the high sodium content associated (10-20 g protein depending on burger)
Frozen shelled edamame:      Most supermarkets now even have their own generic brand of shelled edamame in the freezer aisle. Edamame are soybeans that are a complete protein source and extremely healthy and versatile. Add to stir fries, salads, or eat as a snack! (13 g protein/ half cup)
Tofu: Stick with extra firm tofu if you aren’t used to working with it. Add to stir fries, salads, or add to any dish you are making. Tofu has very little flavor and is very versatile. (1/2 pack= ~14 g protein)
Reduced-fat Swiss cheese:       Swiss is amongst the lowest in sodium content of all cheeses. When all else fails and you have no meat for your sandwich- make a grilled cheese or add cheese to the omelet to get more dairy and protein. Choose reduced-fat varieties to keep your saturated fat intake to a minimum (~7 g protein/slice)
Canned (low-sodium) tuna or salmon:      You should definitely keep these on hand! You can make fish fritters made with vegetables and oatmeal, add canned fish to salads, pastas, or make into a sandwich. Delicious, nutritious and cheap! Just be sure to get the skinless & boneless canned salmon, the other varieties may be cheaper, but definitely not worth the extra work & appearance… (12-14 g protein per 2 oz or ~¼ c)

If you keep all of these on hand you will have the ability to create a quick and easy meal at a moment's notice. Be sure to add whatever spices and herbs you want to add flavor and antioxidants to your meal.