Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tips for Choosing Protein Supplements

While I love protein bars and powders for convenient on-the-go snacks or meals, let's face it, a lot of what is out in the market is, dare I say it, pure junk. My main issues with most bars/powders are the laundry list of filler ingredients and high sugar content. Below are some tips for choosing the best protein supplement for you and a no-bake protein bar recipe I love, love, love to make!

Check the Protein
The first thing you want to do with any protein bar is to of course, check the protein. If you are going for the bar as a snack, aim for around 7-10g of protein. If it is a meal replacement, try to look for more than 10g. Protein helps to stabilize your blood sugar, which is great for not only Diabetics, but also, those who just want to keep their hunger levels at bay. I use a plant-based powder with a blend of brown rice, hemp seeds, pea protein and chia seeds for a great amino-acid profile. If you use milk products at home, look for a whey protein and/or whey isolates for good quality.

Check the Sugar
I can't stand when I look at a bar and see 20g of protein and then 20g of sugar. Really? I'm not going to mention any names, but I even saw a company use the disclaimer of, "Not recommended for Diabetics." Unless you are a marathon runner or some other super high intensity athlete, never choose a bar with that much sugar in it, especially if the third ingredient is cane syrup and not even a naturally occurring sugar. So, what should you look for then? You want less than 10g of sugar if it is a bar and less than 5g if it is a powder. Most of my clients (and myself) use the powders in a smoothie with fruit and a type of milk (almond, coconut, cow's). You are already getting the sweetness from the fruit, so you really don't want a ton more in the powder.

Read the Ingredient List
If you look at the ingredient list and see added sugar as one of the first 3 ingredients, you might want to think about choosing another bar. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the first few are the most prominent in the item. Added sugars would be things like: brown rice syrup, honey, cane syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, etc. These are different than natural occurring sugars like dates or raisins, which are typically less refined, with a slower effect on your blood glucose. They also come packed with other vitamins and minerals that your refined sugars will not. This same idea also goes with healthy fats. Try to aim for bars that use whole foods like almonds, chia, flax, coconut, etc, instead of oils. Again, you will get more nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber) with the whole food source.

Almond Protein Snack Bars
Yield: 10 bars

1 cup raw almonds, reserve 1/4 cup(I used slivered - easier to food process)
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups quick-cook oats
1.5 scoops vanilla protein powder (you can use chocolate too)
2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons SunButter (sunflower seed butter)*
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, melted (optional)

1. Spray an 8 by 8 inch square pan with cooking spray.
2. Food process 3/4 cup almonds.**
3. Add remaining ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Food process until smooth.
4. Using your hands, press the mixture into the prepared pan. Top with chopped almonds and drizzle with optional dark chocolate.
5. Let pan sit for about 15 minutes in the fridge before cutting. Once cut, store in the fridge for up to 1-week. Enjoy!!

Additional Notes
*I used the sun butter as a little added flavor. You could also use almond or peanut butter. If you notice your mix to be a little dry and not sticking together, add a little more of the nut butter.
**If you want to skip this step, simply use 1/2 cup almond butter. I also didn't food process my almond to a butter, but left it a slight bit crumbly. You can do either or for your recipe at home!
***You can also use dates or raisins instead of the honey/maple syrup. Try adding in chia, flax, or hemp seeds for a fiber, protein, omega 3 boost too!

Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 170 calories, 8g fat, 54mg sodium, 88mg potassium, 18g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 7g sugar, 8g protein

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