What To Look For (And Avoid) In Healthy Meal Replacement Bars

meal replacement bar

Everywhere you turn there’s a new meal replacement bar lining the shelves in the check-out line. Some have nuts and are drizzled in chocolate, others look like a bar of oatmeal. Then there are some that even resemble candy bars. We all know that we have to eat smarter to feel better. But, sometimes a little extra guidance is necessary, especially when product packaging aims to make all “health foods” look, well, healthy! 

Regardless of appearance, not all meal replacement bars are the same. Many people turn to meal replacement bars because they are:

  • Quick
  • Compact – perfect for a purse, backpack, or briefcase
  • Filling (if you know what to look for!)

Understanding how to choose a meal replacement bar before you head to the store can help you make the best choice.

How To Select The Best Meal Replacement Bar For You

Why are you eating it?

Is the meal replacement bar an actual replacement for a meal, or a supplement? Some bars are higher in protein, while others may just have extra antioxidants or special ingredients to boost your current diet. If it’s a true meal replacement, look for something that offers at least 300 calories and 10 grams of protein. This gives you the calories, carbohydrates, and protein to keep your energy and blood sugar up. 

ALWAYS Look At The Ingredients

Can you pronounce the ingredients on the label? If not, you may want to reconsider. Many of these meal replacement bars will contain extra fat, sugar, and other preservatives and chemicals to add flavor. Also, look at the sugar content. If you’re replacing a meal with a bar, it shouldn’t have any more than 4 grams of sugars and 4 grams of saturated fat. If it’s just a snack, pick something with no more than 2 grams of sugar or 2 grams of saturated fat.

Are Meal Replacement Bars Bad?

No, not necessarily. You just need to know how to choose a healthy option. But, keep in mind that meal replacement bars aren’t meant to be eaten every day. Maybe you are on the go and need a quick, but filling meal. Perhaps you want an option to prevent you from indulging in a sweet snack. Maybe you need extra energy before a workout. Whatever the reason, we will look at what to look for, and what to avoid in a meal replacement bar. Just remember that moderation is key.

Where’s the Protein?

One of the first things that you should look at is the protein content. If the purpose is to replace a specific meal, we need to be sure that we are consuming enough protein. Let’s look at average proteins amounts in meals:

  • Three eggs equal approximately 18 grams 
  • One chicken breast has about 30-40 grams 
  • Salmon contains around 30-35 grams 

So, for a meal replacement bar to be effective, it should have 15-25 grams of protein. if it has less than 15 grams, you will feel hungry too soon and that always leads to an energy crash.

healthy meal replacement bars

It Has How Many Carbs?!

If the meal replacement bar passes the protein test, you can move on to the carbs. Remember, this is meal replacement. We obviously shouldn’t be eating a sugary dessert as our meal. Sometimes, the packaging will include the net carbs, but many times it won’t. In this case, simply subtract the fiber from the carbs to find the total net carbs.

The highest protein bar with the lowest net carb possible is the goal.

Check Out the Fiber Content

Fiber helps with digestion, prevents constipation, and helps maintain a healthy weight. It also helps prevent heart disease and diabetes. Not only that, it can help lower chronic inflammation which is the root cause of many diseases.

Fiber is also responsible for helping us feel full longer, so it makes sense that we should have adequate fiber levels in a meal replacement bar. Look for bars that contain at least 3 grams of fiber.

Choose Meal Replacement Bars with Real Food Ingredients

To find the best possible meal replacement bar, you should have high protein, low net carbs, and ingredients that you can actually pronounce. Here are a few examples of ingredients to avoid:

  • Oils such as canola, vegetable, and corn are a few examples of cooking oils that promote chronic inflammation in the body.
  • Artificial food dyes
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar additives such as corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, etc.

Whole, healthy food should always be the end goal. Life happens though and when you don’t have time to meal prep, meal replacement bars can be a healthy substitute that will help you avoid fast food and sugary sweets.

Fastbar, $58
Think! High Protein Bars
Think! High Protein Bars, $16.72
KIND Protein Dark Chocolate
KIND Protein Dark Chocolate, $8.69
ALOHA Organic Plant Based Protein Bars
ALOHA Organic Plant Based Protein Bars, $23.33
RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt Whole Food Protein Bar
RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt Whole Food Protein Bar, $19.07
Primal Kitchen Almond Spice Protein Bars
Primal Kitchen Almond Spice Protein Bars, $35
Nature Valley Chewy Granola Bars
Nature Valley Chewy Granola Bars, $8.24

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What to look for in healthy meal replacement bars

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