Thursday, May 23, 2013

Protein Bars and the Gluten Free Lifestyle

Up until recent years, if I was looking for a convenient, portable, filling, and healthy bite to eat, I would find myself wandering the cereal aisle searching hopelessly for granola bars that weren't full of wheat, barley, and oats. Eventually, some companies began putting out nut bars, which are great...but are somewhat lacking in the texture and flavor departments.

These days, protein bars line grocery store shelves in abundance; many of them are labeled GF, and some of them are tasty to boot! Now if I'm in the need of a quick snack before a workout or a mid-morning nosh between my 6:00am breakfast and 12:49pm lunchtime, I can easily grab one of many varieties.

For a long time, I was loyal to Lara Bars. They come in over a dozen flavors and they are ALL 100% gluten free!

I'm partial to the fruit flavors, but the carrot cake and cashew cookie are fantastic, too!
The only problem I ended up having with Lara Bars is that they can taste a bit acidic. (But, I found this feature refreshing at 4am before a run; the flavor is bright and sharp, and helps to wake me up a little bit.) I love these because a quarter of a bar can easily prep me for an early-morning run without weighing me down or doing anything funny to my digestion.

Another pro of the Lara Bars is that they are purely made from fruits, nuts, and spices. They have about 4g of fiber per bar, and 5g of protein.
Three ingredients, and it really tastes like cherry pie!
When I felt a little overdone on Lara Bars, I began trying ThinkThin bars. I was wary, because these have a more usual protein bar consistency, which I sometimes find unpleasant - too sticky and dry.

I also hate their name. It just seems like empty marketing to me. 200 calories isn't exactly a "thin" snack. But, I've had some luck with these.
I'm definitely a fan of this flavor!
All the bars in this brand are also GF, but they're pretty hit-and-miss on flavor and consistency. I've had the most luck with the "smooth" flavors, like peanut butter and chocolate fudge. The cookies and creme flavor was awful and gave me heartburn the moment I swallowed it. The chocolate covered strawberry flavor is okay, but tastes artificial.

If I'm in the mood for an indulgent, candy-coated bar, I'll grab one of these. And don't get me wrong; I LOVE the PB and chocolate fudge flavors! But they're not for an early morning workout, and I'm not willing to try the other flavors based on my experiences with the cookie and strawberry. These bars also have a lot more ingredients than the Lara Bars.
That's a long list of ingredients, for sure.
The pros for ThinkThin bars, though, are worth noting. They're filling, chewy, and easy to find in stores. Plus, they have 0g of sugar and 20g of protein! This probably explains the taste factor. I make sure to stock up on them because sometimes, they're just the bar I want.

Finally, I decided to try a bar everyone raves about, and very quickly learned why. The Luna Bar is supposedly designed with women in mind. I don't know about that, but I do know that for under 200 calories you get the indulgence of a candy bar and the full-but-not-too-full feeling you get from a protein bar.

These babies are tasty; even the mint and cookie flavors aren't chalky!
Luna Bars are completely GF, including the cookie dough flavor, and don't leave that dry/crumbly protein aftertaste I associate with whey protein and the like. They're chewy. They're chocolatey. They're scrumptious!

Now, a word of warning. These are NOT morning bars. They're great for a mid-morning snack or a pre-run or pre-gym bite in the evening, but they're way too sweet to be eaten first thing. I mean, that's just my opinion, but as someone who makes sure to eat at least one serving of chocolate daily, I think that's saying something.
Luna Bars boast 12g of protein and 3g of fiber. Their ingredient list is a little lengthy, but the ingredients are all pronounceable and dairy free.

I have yet to find an honest-to-goodness granola bar made from GF rolled oats, but until then, these will definitely suffice. I'm thankful that the market has expanded to the point that I don't need to eat a PayDay and hope the protein outweighs the sugars and fats!

What is your favorite protein bar brand?

What do you snack on pre-workout?



  1. I love the Cherry Cobbler Larabar...I just don't love the price tag. But they are super filling and I like that the ingredient list doesn't have all sorts of weird things on it.

    1. Luckily I find that the bars are often on sale or on some kind of special at my grocery store. None of these bars are really cheap, unfortunately.

  2. This is the ghost of the (mostly) stay-at-home-mom.... maaaaakkeee yooooouuuuurrr oooowwwnnnnn [make your own]. I have been making my own granola for more than a year, and it just takes a few little changes to make it sticky enough for bars. Search for the granola recipe at

    I love adding my own extras (cherries in season? In the mood for apples??) to each batch and just throwing in nuts as they're on sale.

    1. I like cooking and baking, but for some reason whenever I consider making my own bars, I can't seem to follow through. Too many steps, I think. But I'll check out the link; thanks!

  3. Good post! I used to eat the ThinkThin bars religiously. You're right--as someone with celiac, it's hard to find a good protein bar, and the ones filled with nuts are just not appealing. Everything you said is spot on. I'll have to try the Luna bars, though! I didn't know they were GF.

    1. The Luna Protein Bars are GF, but the other kind of Luna bars aren't. Make sure to get the ones that say "gluten free" on the package!

      It's nice to have another celiac-having runner in the blogsphere :o)