Running late for work or a class? Need a quick boost before working out? Energy and protein bars are here to save the day! Usual ingredients for these bars include cereals, oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and even chocolate.
Energy and protein bars are out of this world… as they were first developed for NASA, who were then looking for food that its astronauts can easily eat-in space, have a long shelf life, and need not be refrigerated.
These bars were further developed and then released commercially in the 1980s, catching the attention of athletes and dieters. Now, these bars are considered as a healthy snack option to take between meals or even as a meal replacement, and of course, as a source of a quick energy boost.
Energy and Protein Bar Trivia
- The first bars came out in the 1960s and were named “Space Food Sticks”
- It was in 1983 when the first-ever energy bar was developed. The original flavor? Malt nut. However, it was discontinued in 2006.
- Though these bars were created to be eaten on its own, people have come up with recipes that incorporated protein bars, such as cakes, pancakes, snack/breakfast bowls, and even sundaes!
Energy and Protein Bar Buying Guide
Energy and protein bars, though interchangeable for many, are not the same thing.
- Energy bars – The main purpose of an energy bar is to give a quick boost, especially for people/athletes who will be burning lots of calories (e.g. long-distance or endurance runners). These bars contain more carbs and sugar and low protein.
- Protein bars – Made for people who need meal replacements while on the go. These are packed with high protein content and low carbs.
Energy and Protein Bar Production & Farming in Texas
Several local brands in Texas have made it their passion and their principle to bring to the market wholesome energy and protein bars – vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, and without sugar or preservatives.
Preservatives, Additives and Chemicals
Despite these energy and protein bars being tagged as clean and healthy snack alternatives, precautions and warnings about these nutrition bars are abound, as many are filled with many calories and sugar that they are being compared to candy and chocolate bars.
Here are some substances you might need to watch out on the ingredients list, when grabbing an energy and protein bar.
- Xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, etc. – These are considered sugar alcohols, or sweet carbohydrates. They are described to look and taste like sugar and are said to contain fewer calories. Some of these substances can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables but as like any other additives, they can also be derived by processing other sugars and glucose. They are also presented to produce some potential benefits such as bone health, skin health, are prebiotic, and has little effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, except for maltitol. The main issue that is being thrown against these sugar alcohols are being the cause of digestive problems when ingested in large amounts. It can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Xylitol is also said to be toxic to dogs, causing hypoglycemia for them.
- Carrageenan – This food additive can be derived from red seaweeds as well as in other vegan products. With it being derived from a plant, this is one of the manufacturer’s substitutes to replace gelatin which can be obtained from animals. However, there were some reports of side-effects of carrageenan such as inflammation, bloating, glucose intolerance, colon cancer, food allergies, and some more. And in 2016, the National Organic Standards Board ruled that food with carrageenan in its ingredients should not be labeled as “USDA organic.”
- High Fructose Corn Syrup – The HFCS is an artificial sugar that is made from corn syrup. Commercial producers of products usually use this, as the HFCS is a cheaper substitute to natural sweeteners. But overconsumption of items with this ingredient can be linked to several serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity, fatty liver, and heart disease.
- Maltodextrin – a polysaccharide that is commonly added to packaged foods to improve its flavor, thickness, and shelf life. This white powdery substance is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat, however, it is highly processed, using acids or enzymes. Maltodextrin is considered by the US FDA to be a safe food additive and is counted in the total carbohydrate count in the food’s nutritional value. There are warnings that the maltodextrin may have a high glycemic index and might pose an issue for those with diabetes. But this substance is usually present in small amounts in food and therefore won’t have that much significant effect if taken moderately.
Energy and protein bars are usually wrapped in these laminated foils that protect its freshness, taste, and texture, keeping it safe from moisture, air, or any other contaminants. These are in grab-and-go sizes, making it convenient for the consumers to bring them anywhere and have them anytime.
Enjoying Energy and Protein Bars
Energy bars are highly recommended for athletes who are into endurance events, such as marathons. This can be used as an energy boost when taken mid-run! This holds as well for those who will be undergoing intense physical activities.
Protein bars are best consumed before and after a workout to stock up or replenish on much-needed protein before the strenuous activity. These can also be used as a meal replacement in case you do not have enough time to grab something from breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Energy bars are one of the most shelf-stable foods, making it great to stock up on in case of emergencies. Brands can last for a year or even more, depending on its ingredients.
It is suggested that energy bars be tightly stored in Ziploc bags or airtight containers. It can be kept in the fridge, freezer, or pantry.
Making Energy Bars
If you got worried about grabbing commercially produced, store-bought energy and protein bars, here’s a way for you to ensure what you are putting on your body. 3-ingredient, no-cook homemade energy bars! Thekitchn.com published a recipe so easy, it’s impossible to not make a batch!
- 1 cup nuts (can be used raw or roasted)
- 1 cup dried fruit
- 1 cup pitted dried dates
- Combine all the ingredients and pulse a few times in a food processor. Make sure the dates don’t clump together.
- Continue this process for about 30 seconds, or until all ingredients are crumb-sized. Scrape the bowl and beneath the blade to remove any stuck particles.
- Process again, this time about 1-2 minutes, until the ingredients form a ball.
- Set the ball in a plastic wrap or wax paper and press until it forms a thick square, approximately 8 inches on all sides.
- Wrap and chill for at least an hour or overnight.
- After chilling, unwrap, and cut the chilled block into 8 large bars or 16 small squares, as you prefer. You can eat them fresh or wrap each bar in wax paper or plastic wrap.
- These homemade bars will hold for several weeks in the refrigerator or even up to 3 months when stored in the freezer.