The Top 3 Highest-Rated Protein Bars

I’ll admit it – I’ve fallen victim to trendy, celebrity-endorsed diet fads that promise the golden ticket to increased energy, lean muscle mass or endless fat-burning power. After trying countless gritty protein powders and bloat-inducing nutrition bars (which I combined with strenuous workouts and a balanced diet), I was only left with disappointment. Not only was I nowhere near having the physique of a sculpted athlete, but I had wasted all my allotted snack breaks with chalky, tasteless products that may have rated low on the glycemic index but definitely rated high on the “bleh” scale.

So, I set out to scour the shelves of my local natural foods stores, GNCs and Vitamin Shoppes in hopes of finding tasty, nutritious protein bars that met all of my criteria.

First, they had to be high in protein. Yes, this is easy to find in many of the bars on the market today, but I’m talking about quality protein that is highly digestible, easily absorbed and has a stellar amino acid profile.

Second, they had to be low in carbohydrates and sugar. Many protein bars and powders, high-fiber snack bars, and baked good replacements taste great, but only because they are loaded with refined sugar and simple carbohydrates. The goal was to find protein bars with the lowest amount of net carbs and no added sugar.

Finally, they had to have the right texture. If you’re like me, you’re sensitive to the texture, density and overall “mouth feel” of foods. This is huge, because I am not a fan of airy, crispy snack bars that leave me feeling completely unsatisfied because they’re not dense or “hearty” enough.

After indexing these must-haves in my mind, I began my quest and was pleasantly surprised with what I found:

Protein Bars

1) D’s Naturals No Cow Bars

Around the same time I embarked on this protein pilgrimage, I caught the tail end of a segment on “Good Morning America” touting the delightful creations of 19-year-old Daniel Katz, Founder & CEO of D’s Naturals. After watching in awe as he described his all-natural vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free protein bars that are “ridiculously low sugar” (each bar contains just one gram) and high in protein (protein content ranges from 20-22 grams per bar), I knew I had to check them out. At this time, only four flavors existed, including Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Raspberry Truffle, Blueberry Cobbler, and Mint Cocao Chip, so I stocked up at my local GNC. Mint Cocoa Chip quickly became my favorite, as its flavor profile, texture and bits of crunchy cocao excited my mouth and satisfied my hunger pangs. I couldn’t believe how low in calories and fat they were, and that they actually tasted as sweet as they did. To my delight, the company recently added four more flavors to their collection, which are already gracing the shelves of my pantry. These include Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Chocolate Banana Bread, Dark Raspberry Truffle, and Lemon Meringue Pie. Give these a try and I bet you’ll fall in love at first bite!

2) Oh Yeah! One Bar

It took me a while to stumble upon this bar, but once I tried the Chocolate Brownie OhYeah! ONE bar, I was hooked. The perfectly rich taste and texture, the soft chocolatey coating and the absence of any artificial aftertaste make this bar rate high on my list. This particular flavor is also one of the lowest in calories and fat among the collection, coming in at just 210 calories and less than 7 grams of fat. I couldn’t believe this bar contained only one gram of sugar, because its flavor profile is incredible! It combines the perfect pairing of sweetness and heartiness in a filling on-the-go meal that satisfies your hunger and your sweet tooth. For those of you who aren’t big on decadent chocolate, the ONE bar comes in a number of other flavors, including Almond Bliss, Lemon Cake, Cinnamon Roll, Birthday Cake, and Peanut Butter Pie, among others. The most recent addition to their collection, Chocolate Birthday Cake, is not only delightfully rich, but is also topped with sprinkles that add an extra bit of crunch and color, making you feel like you’re eating dessert. Each bar is packed with 20-22 grams of a whey protein isolate/milk protein isolate blend, providing quality, hunger-satisfying protein.

3) MusclePharm Combat Crunch Bars

Every time I visited a GNC store, the eye-catching packaging of these intense-looking bars would leave me intrigued. I hesitated to try them, however, because I assumed by their size and the crunchy coating advertised on the wrapper that they were high in sugar and carbohydrates. While waiting in line to purchase my other favorites one day, I overheard some fellow health enthusiasts raving about Combat Crunch bars as they dumped handfuls of them onto the service counter. One gal even jumped in the air…literally…as she held the Cinnamon Twist flavor in her hand and exclaimed how excited she was that GNC carried this particular variety. At that point, my curiosity peaked, so I turned to the shelf where they were stocked. I picked up a random flavor and immediately flipped it over to examine the nutrition facts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only this bar, but all other flavors of Combat Crunch bars, contained just 210 calories and only 5 grams of sugar! The outside coating gives the bar an extra layer of flavor and crunch, while the inside is dense but soft. I enjoyed the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cinnamon Twist flavors the most, but often pick up their other flavors when I want to mix it up. The full line also includes Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies ‘N Cream and White Chocolate Raspberry. Of course, like all of the protein bars and snacks I consume, these are gluten free and high in fiber.

Whether you’re looking for a quick snack between meetings, a post-workout recharge or a filling meal replacement, each of these protein bars offers a sweet combination of satisfying nutrition and delicious taste. They are the quintessential protein bars for the non-protein-bar type of person who wants a great-tasting snack without any fillers, additives, artificial aftertastes or judgment!

 

Foods to Eat for a Restful Night

Since the foods and drinks that you consume throughout the day can impact how you sleep at night, it’s important to choose foods that are calming, rather than those that stimulate your mind and body. Luckily, certain types of foods naturally promote rest and relaxation, particularly those that contain tryptophan – the amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, the neurotransmitter that slows nerve activity in your brain.

Tryptophan-Containing Foods

cottage-cheese-for-sleepSince tryptophan is a precursor of other neurotransmitters in your brain, eating foods that are rich in the amino acid will help you feel relaxed and make it easier to sleep soundly. Foods highest in tryptophan include cottage cheese, red meat, eggs, fish, turkey, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and peanuts. Since it takes about an hour for tryptophan from food sources to reach the brain, it’s best to eat these snacks an hour or two before bedtime, rather than immediately before. However, don’t overdo it on the turkey and cottage cheese, as eating foods that are high in protein may actually cause restlessness since protein-rich foods contain the amino acid, tyrosine, which naturally stimulates the brain.

Healthy Carbohydrates

whole-grain-cereal-bowlWhole-food, nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates encourage the release of insulin, which helps to produce serotonin and clear tryptophan-competing amino acids from the bloodstream. Some of the healthiest carbohydrates to eat later in the day or a couple hours before bed time include whole grain cereal, beans, rice, hazelnuts, sweet potatoes, and popcorn.

Calcium-Rich Foods

Broccoli-steamedCertain foods that are high in calcium may also promote sleepiness, as calcium helps the brain use tryptophan to manufacture melatonin. Research shows that a deficiency in calcium may contribute to interrupted sleep patterns and the inability to achieve a deep REM sleep. Without enough calcium, you may fall asleep quickly, but find it difficult to stay asleep or fall back asleep after awaking during the night. While most dairy sources, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs contain a significant amount of calcium, you can also choose other foods if you’re sensitive to dairy or lactose intolerant. Some alternative non-dairy foods that are rich in calcium include dark leafy greens, oranges, quinoa, broccoli, and dried fruit.

Combination Snacks

cheese_and_crackersChoosing snacks that combine healthy carbohydrates and calcium, such as whole-grain cereal with milk, a peanut butter sandwich or crackers with cheese, will have an especially strong effect since they’ll work together to relax the mind and body. These types of snacks also contain small amounts of protein, which is also important to consider since eating carbohydrate-only foods may cause your blood sugar levels to drop, resulting in the release of stress hormones that will keep you alert.

Magnesium for Improved Sleep

In addition to calcium, several other minerals are especially useful for calming the mind to help you sleep better at night. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is commonly known to relieve insomnia, as it helps to decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, which can keep you awake at night. Foods that are high in magnesium include almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, and dark chocolate (yay!). Organic fruits, such as bananas, are not only rich in tryptophan, but also contain the minerals potassium and magnesium, which are natural muscle relaxants.

natural_calm_powderWhile it’s not always easy to ensure you’re getting enough of the recommended essential vitamins and minerals, especially if your sleep is affected, supplementation can help. For example, I add a spoonful of Natural Vitality Calm Powder to a glass of water and drink it every night before bed to feel more relaxed, settled and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Above all else, it’s important to avoid rich, high-fat foods within two hours of bed time since they require a lot of work to digest and may cause heartburn. You should also avoid drinking too much liquid, such as water, juice, tea or hot chocolate, as this may result in frequent bathroom trips throughout the night. Caffeinated drinks, such as soda, coffee or caffeinated teas not only act as diuretics, but will also keep you stimulated and make falling asleep much more difficult. Overall, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet will keep your energy levels high throughout the day, help you relax and sleep soundly at night, and contribute to general wellness.

Guest Recipe: Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Cookies

Desserts come in all shapes, sizes and flavors – and so do protein powders – so, when you combine the two worlds, the recipe possibilities are endless! Producers of healthy baked goods, such as Lenny & Larry’s, Chef Jay’s and MuscleMeds make cookies, brownies and other sweet treats that are high in protein and low in sugar, creating the ultimate guilt-free dessert. While their options are incredibly tasty and perfectly packaged for on-the-go snacking, nothing tastes better than a homemade dessert fresh from the oven!

In a recent Facebook contest, I put my feelers out to the Edible Epiphanies community for any great recipes using Quest Nutrition protein powder, as this particular brand is made with high-quality Whey and Milk Protein Isolates, contains no added sugar, and packs 23 grams of protein per scoop.

I received a number of creative recipes, including this Power Nut Smoothie, but was especially impressed with this delectable recipe from one of my favorite Edible followers, Denni. She swears by her Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Cookies, and after trying them myself, I knew this was a recipe that had to be shared! See below and get to baking, because your tummy deserves this tantalizing treat:

Quest Nutrition Peanut Butter Cookies

Ingredients:
  1. 1 cup of Jif peanut butter
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 scoop of Quest Nutrition Salted Caramel Protein Powder
  4. 1 cup of Splenda
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Mix by hand or use an electric mixer on low speed until all ingredients are blended to form a soft dough.
  4. Scoop rounded teaspoons of dough spaced evenly apart onto a non-greased baking sheet.
  5. Dip a fork in water and press the dough balls to make the cookies flat.
  6. Bake for 7 minutes for a soft cookie or 9 minutes for a crunchy cookie.

As Dennie prefers, I also opted for a softer cookie and they are absolutely delicious! This high-protein, low sugar dessert is one I’ll be enjoying for a while.

The ‘Rite’ Way to Enjoy Chocolate

Everyone has those moments…it’s late at night, you’re craving a little something sweet, but you don’t want to undo your whole day of healthy eating. If this is a familiar feeling, your search for the perfect solution is finally over. There is a nutritious, high-protein, fiber-filled way to enjoy a candy-bar like snack without the guilt! I’m referring to the exciting new additions to the ChocoRite collection of treats from HealthSmart Foods. They’ve just danced into the protein bar scene with exquisite new flavors that you can enjoy any time of day or night.

If you’re familiar with ChocoRite, you know they’re a trusted manufacturer of low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and low-glycemic impact snacks, including protein shakes, chocolate bars and candy bars, but did you also know they produce a full line of protein bars? These delectable uncoated and triple layer bars are made in a variety of flavors, including my favorites: the 100-calorie caramel cookie dough bar, the protein-packed caramel mocha bar and the irresistible cinnamon bun bar.

ChocoRite Protein Bars

The 100-calorie coated protein bar line is comprised of four flavors (plus an additional flavor at 105 calories) that contain 9 grams of protein and just 2 grams of net carbs! Flavors include peanut butter, salted caramel, triple chocolate fudge, caramel cookie dough, and cookies & cream.

ChocoRite’s uncoated protein bars have a hearty, clean taste and come in small and large sizes. The large uncoated bars contain between 200-220 calories, and pack your body with 20 grams of protein and only 3 grams of net carbs. The best part is that the bars are sugar free, but do not contain maltitol, which is a sugar alcohol used as a sugar substitute found in a number of other protein bars on the market.  Flavors in this collection include cookie dough, caramel mocha, butter pecan, pistachio nut, double chocolate extreme, yellow cake, and cinnamon bun.

The small uncoated protein bars are only 100 calories each and contain just 1 gram of net carbs! Flavors include cookie dough, yellow cake, cookies & cream, peanut butter, double chocolate extreme, and red velvet.

If you’re not salivating yet, then you need to give these a try. Once you do, you will be absolutely hooked! They are perfect as an on-the-go snack, pre-workout fuel or the solution to a late-night sweets craving. Order online or check the Edible Epiphanies Facebook page for a ChocoRite Protein Bar Giveaway!

Guest Recipe: No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake

With the official start of summer just a couple weeks away, I couldn’t wait to start building my portfolio of delicious, refreshing recipes that are perfect to enjoy when the temperature rises. Today, I’m all about the berries, as they make deliciously tart additions to any breakfast, dessert or snack. But, as you all know, I love anything made with chocolate, so this recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake with Mixed Berries from Cooking Light hits every craving on my list. Plus, it’s easy to make because you don’t have to bake it!

So, keep the oven off, the summer gear on, and the fresh fruit flowing with this enticingly sweet recipe that will keep your guests, family, friends, and your own tummy happy and satiated all summer long. I even included some of my own suggestions (See “EE Suggestions”) to reduce the calorie and fat content a bit for those who are watching their wastelines for bikini season!

Recipe courtesy of “My Recipes” via Cooking Light Magazine Online

No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake with Mixed Berries Recipe

No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecake with Mixed Berries

Serves 14 (1 serving = 1 slice)
Ingredients:

4 ounces chocolate wafers (EE Suggestion: ChocoRite Sugar-Free Chocolate)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted (EE Suggestion: Imperial Butter)
3 tablespoons 2% reduced-fat milk – (EE Suggestion: Replace with Non-Fat Milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
10 ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened (EE Suggestion: Replace with Fat-Free Cream Cheese)
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 cup whipping cream (EE Suggestion: Softened Fat-Free Cool Whip)
1 1/2 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups strawberries, quartered
1 cup blueberries

Preparation

1. Place chocolate in a food processor; process until finely ground. Place in a bowl; stir in honey and butter. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan. Cover and freeze 1 hour or until firm. Wipe food processor with a paper towel.

2. Combine milk and gelatin in a microwave-safe bowl; let stand 3 minutes. Microwave at HIGH 15 seconds; stir until gelatin dissolves. Cool slightly.

3. Combine cream cheese and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla) in food processor; process until smooth. Add milk mixture and cooled melted chocolate; process until smooth. Place whipping cream in a clean bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently fold one-fourth of chocolate mixture into whipped cream. Fold whipped cream mixture into remaining chocolate mixture. Spoon chocolate mixture into prepared crust. Chill 6 hours or until set.

4. Combine berries in a bowl. Top cheesecake with berry mixture.