All Bars are Not Created Equal

Family & FIT  |  Debbie Hatch

Vending machine

I’ve seen vending machines that contain protein bars and drinks popping up in various gyms.
This is great from the perspective of convenience.
As is always the case though, it’s a good idea to read the label and be aware of what you’re consuming.


I bought both of these bars, to throw in my suitcase, the other day.  Both boast 20 grams of protein on the label.


At 2.47 ounces, the EAS bar is slightly larger but the 2.12 ounce Quest bar prominently advertises “Only 2 he sugar” and “Gluten fee” – buzz words in today’s market.



You don’t “need” either.  When I work with health & fitness clients, my plans always include this paragraph:


Protein bars should be used for the emergency “I’m running really late, starving, and don’t have a lot of options” moments but whole food is always best. Ditto protein powders. They’re an excellent way to get nutrients and add protein (especially post workout) but try to focus on food.


About these two bars.  The EAS is 280 calories with 11 grams of fat and 29 carbs, as well as 14 grams of sugar and 220 milligrams of sodium.  This Quest is 200 calories with 9 grams of fat, 21 carbs, 2 grams of sugar and 200 mg sodium.  For most of us, these would (or at the most, should) be meal replacements, not just a “snack” on the way out of the gym, to immediately be followed up with a full meal.

The currently very popular Oh Yeah! bars stand on level ground with the EAS and Quest:  about 20 grams of protein, 7-9 fat, and 21-24 carbs.  Let’s look at some of the others in these vending machines.  None are “bad” – I just want you to be aware of the differences.


LarabarLaraBars are much smaller; only 60 – 75% of the others.  Heavily advertised with all of the marketable terms:  “Kosher.  Vegan.  Non-GMO.  Soy-Free.  Dairy Free.  Gluten Free.”

If these things are important or necessary to you (and for some, they are), that’s great.  For most of us, though, these are not actually requirements but merely words that we think make the product “healthy” or “better for us”.


These small bars have about the same amount of calories and carbs but they have 10 grams of fat and only 4 grams of protein.  Again, let me emphasize the fact that I’m not saying they’re “bad” but they most certainly are also NOT protein bars.


Cliff Bars are another popular choice and I’ve seen these in several locations.

Clif Bar

One bar equals 240 calories with only 3.5 grams of fat but only 9 grams of protein, a whopping 45 grams of carbohydrates and 3 different types of added sugar.  Call it an energy bar, please, not a protein bar.


Tiger’s Milk was one of the first protein bars, first introduced in the 60s, but it’s still hanging around.  At half the size of my Quest bar, it contains 145 calories with 8 grams of fat, and only 6 of protein.  High fructose corn syrup is the first ingredient; followed by peanut butter and then corn syrup.  There are numerous bars with twice the protein and better ingredients and taste.


Make whole food your priority.  Keep the bars for your “emergency stash” – like your suitcase, purse, or desk drawer.  Please read your labels, and let me know if you have any questions or need help.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.