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Are protein bars really just candy bars in disguise?

December 15, 2015

About the Author

photo of Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. … See Full Bio
View all posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD


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Isis R.
January 27, 2016

Oatmega bars are pretty good. They don’t have a taffy texture. They are relatively low in sugar, and I don’t believe they are supplemented with artificial sweeteners as quest bars are (for some reason I feel ill if I eat those with artificial sweetener). They are moderate in fat. and they have about 14 grams of protein. Pretty moderate bar.

Paula Joshua
January 23, 2016

Your observation about protein bars is right on point. For those ladies looking to lose some weight, another viable article can be found at For those convinced protein bars offer better nutritional value than the regular, be sure to read the ingredients list before purchasing any brand.

Do not be fooled by the name of the protein or regular candy bar, for due to poor regulation by the Food and Drug Administration most are able to exagerate with wild claims.

Joe Mara
January 23, 2016

Dear Robert,
it is true that protein bars include or enriched with more vitamins which are good for the body, but as much as I know, most of the vitamins aren’t absorbed when taken from artificial foods as we maybe would have wished.
Compared to vitamins taken through natural foods like fruits and vegetables, the winner is the natural foods.
I therefore thing and as you mentioned that a well-balanced meal made of natural foods is highly essential and anything else should be complementary, but not a replacement to.

December 23, 2015

Thank you very much for your interesting article.

December 21, 2015

It’s quite obvious from reading the labels on protein bars that they are not wise choices on a regular basis.

I used to consider them as on-the-go, immediate feedings for protein after workouts yet the label and the appearance of the product made it clear I was making a nutritional mistake.

To me, they are far more junk than a decent food choice. I’m talking more about the bars for weightlifters, not the choices like Luna bars and the like, which are far less offensive to your body. Those “types” of products likely don’t provide much value, yet they are not “food porn” either.

k. marotta
December 20, 2015

I worry that both “protein” and candy bars resort to ostensible nutrients like “soy protein” to beef up “protein” content when this stuff is often pesticide-fortified Frankenfood from Monsanto and other evil outfirts (Dow Chemical, shudder) trying to ruin the real supply of real produce, which when you study for instance white rats for a few years and feed it to them gives them huge tumors about a third of the size of the rat torso. I can sympathize with the FDA and anyone ELSE who doesn’t want to riddle innocent white rats with disease-producing Frandenfoods, but they shouldn’t pretend they have and that the rats survived. They just take Monsanto’s word that their products, famous for despoiling and ruining crops like Indian cotton that have been superb for eons, are healthy. And the republicans keep them nearly destitute so that they CAN’T test much. But it’s our FOOD supply and we should KNOW if it’s pesticide disguised as an ear of corn or a block of soy protein.

Eloise Thornton
December 16, 2015

Remember, though, protein bars should not be used to replace meals on a regular basis – only if you are really in a crunch for time and have no other way to eat a meal. Instead, protein or meal replacement bars work great to hold you over and stave off your hunger until you have time to sit down and eat a proper meal consisting of whole foods.

Eloise Thornton

Jordan Muse
December 15, 2015

So many people understand this, but are still confused about the ratio of carbs to protein when choosing a bar. There’s quite a bit of information out there and your goal matters, but it might be nice to have a follow-up article that assists with ratio and what that means!

Tom S
December 15, 2015

I think most protein bars on the market are really just candy bars infused with protein. Some of the ones that I have found to be better and more true to a healthy on the go bar are:

Quest (
Muscle Pharm (

SIX Pac actually talks about this on their site as do the others.

Just my thoughts…

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