Pathway to Weight Loss: Best Meal Replacement Bars
Did you ever dream of fast food being healthy? It’s not as far off as you may think. The alternative is simple, nutritious, and convenient. If you know how to choose the best meal replacement bars, your next meeting with the scale can become invigorating.
While sitting down and eating veggies is one of the best ways to lose weight, it’s not always possible. In the fast-paced world we live in, an unhurried meal sounds like something out of a fantasy novel. That’s why we often either skip the meal altogether or down something terribly unhealthy.
In this article, we would like to share an excellent fast food alternative, which can become your favorite weight loss assistant for many years.
What are meal replacement bars?
Did you know that protein bars are space food? Pillsbury Company created the first nutrition bars for astronauts in the 1960’s (1). They slowly made their way to earth in 1970’s and settled in the serious athletes’ sports bags.
In time, nutritionists realized the value these bars carried for people. As a result, we can see a huge variety of them on the market today to accommodate any requirement.
Our bodies need several important nutrients to function properly and be able to perform what we want them to. For example, if your aim is to lose weight, meal replacement bars might prove to be just what you need. The best meal replacement bar for weight loss packs numerous nutrients while containing a limited number of calories.
Fiber, protein and fat play a crucial role in suppressing appetite and keeping you satiated for a longer period of time. Also, carbohydrates boost your energy level keeping you from feeling tired.
Therefore, the right meal replacement bars can successfully replace a meal when you are on the run or don’t have access to healthy low-calorie alternatives.
Advantages and disadvantages of meal replacement bars
The best part about meal replacement bars for weight loss is that we know exactly how many calories each one contains. Meaning you can’t overeat when you are having one. Let’s see other pros and cons.
- Easy to consume on the go
- Don’t contain high amounts of cholesterol or fat
- Don’t need refrigeration
- Have a limited number of calories
- May be costly
- May have an unpleasant taste
- May contain unhealthy ingredients
While meal replacement bars may seem to be a real savior for people struggling with excess weight, they can’t become the only thing you eat. The reason is the lack of phytochemicals and bioflavonoids, which are necessary for human health.
Replacing one or two meals per day with high-quality meal replacement bars is allowed (2). However, eating nothing but these bars is not recommended and should only be used as a complementary option to your diet.
Meal replacement bars vs Protein bars
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults to consume the following:
- 45% to 65% of calories from carbs
- 10% to 35% percent of calories from protein
- 20% to 35% percent of calories from fat
These values can be adjusted depending on the dietary goals of each individual. That is why, when it comes to meal replacement bars and protein bars, the ingredients shed the light. Before buying one of these bars, you should consider studying the label carefully so that they fit your intended purpose.
Sometimes a protein bar may contain exactly what you need while a meal replacement bar doesn’t. At the same time, an energy bar may not help you lose weight at all due to the high sugar content that they usually have.
Protein bars are usually very efficient if your aim is recovery. Generally, they include a lot of protein for muscle growth and repair, carbohydrates to recover the lost energy, amino acids and plenty of calories.
But because they are high in calories, they are usually not recommended for weight loss, unless there are people who need a more substantial snack.
Meal replacement bars, on the other hand, due to their low content of calories and carbs, are the best choice for your weight loss plan. The best meal replacement bars for weight loss should contain:
- Protein – gives the feeling of fullness
- Fiber – helps you feel full longer
- Probiotics – help digestion
- Vitamins and minerals – keep you healthy
- Low calorie count (200 -300) – aids with weight loss
- Healthy fats and carbohydrates – maintain the nutritional balance
Meal replacement bars for men vs women
When you are looking for protein content in a bar, you may want to follow the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine. They recommend 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women and around 15% of the daily calorie intake.
Consuming more protein a day than recommended can lead to weight gain because your body will just use up the protein it needs and store the rest as fat.
However, the above norms are for people leading a sedentary lifestyle. If you work out on a regular basis, you require more protein. If you are trying to gain muscle, you need to consume about 1 gram of protein for each pound of your weight per day (3). It’s the same for men and women, even if men have a bigger muscle mass compared to women.
In terms of caloric needs, an average, adult man needs approx. 2800-3000 calories per day compared to about 2000 calories a day required by women. According to the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), a woman burns around 400 calories less than a man does in one day.
Meal replacement bars can become best friends for people trying to lose weight while not having enough time to eat balanced meals. The key to these bars doing their job is the high-quality ingredients. Again, reading the label can save the day.
A closer look at the meal replacement bar ingredients
Always look at the meal replacement bar label before buying. The calorie count can’t tell you everything. A piece of cardboard has a low calorie count too, but it won’t give you sufficient nutrition.
A high-quality meal replacement bar should contain 10 -15 g of protein. The best source of protein for weight loss needs is whey or casein. Soy and gelatin are out of the question(2a). You may often find a mix of whey and soy or whey, soy, and casein. While this combination is better than soy or gelatin, it may still negatively affect your thyroid function (4).
Healthy fats are necessary for a balanced meal. The bar can have maximum 3 grams of saturated fats. Trans fat is not allowed. The total of 10 grams of fat is satisfactory. These fats best come from such polyunsaturated vegetable oils, such as olive or coconut. Pam oil can increase cholesterol.
Look at the sugar content closely. It shouldn’t exceed 15-17 grams. The carbohydrate to fat to protein ratio should be 30/40/30. Beware of sugar alcohols, which may adversely affect your digestive system. They are often added to make your meal replacement bar taste better. In case your bar has 15 g of carbohydrates and 10 g of sugar alcohols, you are essentially getting only 5 g of good carbs.
Vitamins and minerals
Look for the basic vitamins, such as A, C, D, and E and minerals such as calcium and iron. Each bar you use to replace a meal should have about 30 % of your daily vitamin and minerals requirement. Beware of the bar packing too many vitamins. Excessive vitamins may cause health problems.
Pay close attention to the fiber content. Anything lower than 6- 7 grams is not worth looking into. Institute of Medicine reports that men need 38 grams of fiber per day, and women need 25 (5). Accordingly, one meal should contain around 10 grams of fiber.
How low is too low? If your meal replacement bar has fewer than 200 calories, you’ll feel hungry in an hour, so the recommended amount is somewhere around 200-300 calories for a balanced eating plan and a healthy weight loss.
Ingredients to avoid
With the variety of nutrition bars on the market today, it is easy to choose the wrong one. The trick is to make informed choices and be able to find the meal replacement bars that are packed with vitamins, minerals and healthy nutrients. In the meantime, beware of the following ingredients:
- Sugar alcohols
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Flavor enhancers (also called natural flavor)
- Palm oil
- Artificial sweeteners
Remember that whey and casein, which we talked about above, are allergens. Make sure you don’t have allergies to whey before buying these products. One of the alternatives to whey protein is hemp.
How do nutrition bars help boost weight loss?
The best meal replacement bar keeps you from eating junk food or snacking with unhealthy products throughout the day. You can always be sure you are consuming a certain number of calories without exceeding your daily limits.
More than that, the protein content reduces the hunger hormone levels and facilitates the production of peptides, which are hormones that suppress appetite. The fuller you feel, the less inclined to exceed your required calorie intake.
Some nutritionists say that meal replacement bars aren’t worth the price you are paying for them. A balanced meal, such as soup and salad always beats the bar. However, many of us don’t have the opportunity to have one. That’s when bars save the day.
Top 5 Best meal replacement bars
In order to make your search a little easier, we picked five products, which are, in our opinion, the best meal replacement bars for weight loss.
This bar has all the properties of an efficient meal replacement product since it’s packed with 20 grams of proteins and “good” calories and minerals. The bar meets the FDA requirements for gluten-free food.
It’s a high-quality meal replacement product, which can replace up to two meals per day. The calorie count is really low compared to other similar products, which makes it an efficient weight loss ally.
- 11 grams of fiber to ensure good digestion.
- No trans fat which reduces the risk of increased cholesterol
- 160 calories per serving and 1 gram of sugar, suitable for weight loss diets
- Unsuitable for lactose intolerant people
This protein bar is a great meal replacement and muscle replenishing product for people, who want to lose weight and work out. The bar comes with an impressive variety of flavors, helping each person choose his or her favorite. The product comes with an enhanced protein content for great workout results. It’s easy to carry around due to a small size. The bar doesn’t need refrigeration.
- High protein content for anyone, who wants to build muscles while losing weight
- Low sugar content of only 2 grams
- The calcium and iron content is significant to help saturate the body with vitamins.
- Only 240 calories, which is great for losing weight
- The bar contains 6 grams of sugar alcohols.
- The product can’t be used to replace more than one meal per day since it doesn’t contain all the necessary vitamins.
This bar has a balanced content of proteins, fiber, and carbohydrates to replace one or two meal per day. The low sugar content is suitable for weight loss. The number of calories is enough to help you feel full long enough to avoid binging on unhealthy snacks. The product has an important amount of protein to help you build muscle if you work out while losing weight.
- 20 grams of protein help with muscle building without stressing your body in case you lead a sedentary lifestyle
- 12 grams of dietary fiber helps your digestive system feel excellent
- Includes a blend of vitamins and minerals to fill your nutrient gap
- Contains palm oil, which is a controversial product
If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, this meal replacement bar is for you. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals while not containing too much protein. The product is made of 100% organic ingredients, doesn’t contain GMO or gluten. It contains nuts and seeds, which are allergens so people with allergies must be very careful. The bar has a naturally sweet taste and can replace one meal per day or become a low-calorie snack.
- Contains vitamins A, C, K, and E for healthy meal replacement
- Suitable for breakfast replacement due to the highly nutritious content
- Naturally sweet taste without any artificial sweeteners make this bar a healthy choice for anyone with a sweet tooth
- Contains only 4 grams of fiber, which is not sufficient according to specialists’ recommendations.
This bar is an excellent choice for people with excess weight who want to adhere to a low-carb lifestyle. It contains a good balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates and can successfully work as a replacement for up to two meals per day. It’s tasty (for people who like chocolate and want to satisfy their sweet tooth), doesn’t contain any trans-fat and it has an excellent blend of vitamins and minerals.
- 14-gram protein content is sufficient for losing weight and working out
- 9-gram fiber content is excellent for the digestive system
- 200 calories and 1g of sugar are great for meal replacement aimed at weight loss
- Chocolate flavor may not be appreciated by everyone.
After going through numerous products, we believe the clear winner is Atkins Protein-Rich Meal Bar because it has all the properties of the best meal replacement bar as we see it. The protein content is sufficient for weight loss and muscle building.
The high dietary fiber helps make it a great choice for the digestive system and the significant amount of vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, E and Iron, help your body function properly and in optimal health. The calorie count is perfect and 1g of sugar make this bar a perfect option for an effective and balanced diet, whether to achieve weight loss or to give your body the nutrients it might need. Add the low price and this chocolate-tasting bar has all it takes to become a big favorite for people struggling with excess weight.
When chosen correctly, meal replacement bars can become your best allies during the weight loss struggle. We hope the information in this article will help you make the right choice for your lifestyle, health and goals.