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Sunday, June 26, 2005

“Tastes Just Like Candy!”
My Affair with Protein Bars
by Guest Contributor Kim Stover

Mmm…tastes just like candy! Well, sort of. This was my reaction when introduced to my first taste of a protein bar. The WLS pre-op support group that I was involved with held a “Protein Potluck”. Everyone needed to bring some form of high protein supplement. There were ready-to-drink shakes, powders, bars and some homemade goodies as well. This was the best meeting yet! I was still pre-op, so quantity consumed was a non-issue.

I started in on the left side of the table and worked my way to the right…sort of like an all you can eat buffet. At 373 pounds, I was exhausted by the time I got done working the line. Now I had to scope out the armless chair in the room. Found it! I plopped myself down and started in on all of my samples. Some bars were chewy, some chocolaty, some crunchy. The shakes were chalky, thick, gritty or just plain icky.

The homemade goodies were good, but I’m a good cook and have made better deviled eggs in my own kitchen. Okay, back to the bars. As I started in on these little bites of “candy”, I thought to myself…recovery will be a breeze if I get to eat these all day long. Perhaps not. After consuming what was on my plate, I went back for seconds. Then thirds. Okay, I’ll admit it; I probably ate a pound of the darned things by the time the meeting was over. And I suffered from the excessive consumption of sugar alcohol shortly after the meeting. Let’s just say that I didn’t make it home in comfort.

Lesson one. Protein bars have many components. First and foremost being protein. Protein is a gastric bypass patient’s best friend. Second, they also contain either sugar or sugar alcohol. Third, most of them are vitamin packed and some even contain fiber.

Lesson two: Learn and understand what your own body needs and can tolerate.

One of the MANY rules that my bariatric nurse set for me was that I was to only eat three meals a day. The only thing that I could snack on in between meals was protein bars with less than 5 grams of sugar. No limits. Her theory was that nobody ever binges on these low sugar protein bars. She was correct in her theory. Usually by the last bite I’m glad to toss the wrapper in the trash. They satisfy me and assist me in getting the much needed protein that I need on a daily basis. Right after surgery, I survived on protein shakes. As soon as I was on solids, I made the switch to the bars and have had them for a snack every day for a year and a half.

There are hundreds of protein bars out there on the market. If you follow the “less than 5 grams of sugar” rule, it narrows down the playing field of choices. I had the benefit of a protein potluck to do my sampling, but since there seems to be a new bar on the market every other day, I’ve done some shopping and studying on my own. I went to my local health food place and stood in front of the wall of bars that were on display and read the fine print on buckets of bars.
It is important to know how much sugar alcohol you can tolerate. I know that the most that I can stomach is 12 grams.

So now I’ve narrowed down my choices quite a bit. Some of those bars have 25 grams of sugar alcohol! A person with a normal stomach and gut would have a hard time handling that much sugar alcohol in one sitting. Usually the bars with gooey caramel stuff are the ones that are packed with the sugar alcohol. I also like to stay away from trans fats. These are bad, as we have all heard. My final criteria is the source of protein. I prefer whey protein over soy protein. I’ve read that whey is a higher quality protein source. Soy can end up causing gas and I try to stay away from anything that causes me to be any gassier than I already am! I don’t look at calories, fat or sodium. You might want to, but to me these are less important at this time in my weight loss progression.

At this point in the sampling game, I can see that I’ve got about 8 different brands and flavors in my basket which I take up to the checkout. Most of these bars run about two dollars a piece, so it is going to be a small initial investment to run your own potluck. Are you worth it? You bet you are! Once you find which bar works best for you, I highly suggest shopping around the internet to find better prices.

The one thing that I’ve learned with the online shopping is to ask what the expiration date is on the bar. I discovered this when a box of Atkin’s bars that retails at my local Trader Joe’s for $27 was selling online for $12. I bought 5 boxes since it was such a great deal. When they arrived at my house, I discovered that they were going to expire in two weeks. Lesson learned. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is a short coded product.

There isn’t any perfect protein bar. It’s all a matter of personal preference, so get out there and do some sample shopping. But don’t over do it on the sampling when you get home…just cut off little pieces to taste and if you like that particular bar, drop it in a Ziploc baggie and save the rest for your next snack. If you gag when you try one, throw it away and write it down as being a “never buy it again” so that you don’t forget. I have three of four that I really enjoy. I have yet to binge on them and I have satisfied my protein needs every day since my surgery.

Happy sampling!
Kim Stover
LivingAfterWLS Guest Contributor
© 2005 Kim Stover - All Rights Reserved


Rob said...

I understand that you've got to avoid sounding as though you're officially advertising or formally endorsing any one manufacturer's product, but I'd sure like to know which bars work best for you.

The bars that feature the high sugar alchohols and the gooey caramel appealed to me because they generally have close to (or more than) 30 grams of protein and very little fat. But the high dose of sugar alchohol doesn't sit well with me at all. And I don't tolerate stuff with more than 5-7 grams of sugar.

The Adkins Advantage bars seem to be the best balance thusfar, having almost no sugar, usually more than 10 grams of fiber, and around 20 grams of protein. But they do have a fairly high fat content.

I don't even mess with anything that has less than 15 grams of protein.

Anonymous said...

I really like the carb solutions high protein bars. They have 1 gram of sugar and 23 protein.