Are Protein Bars Safe During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time of change. With the marvel of growing a baby, there are many things pregnant women need to adapt to! One of them is nutrition during pregnancy. It’s important to consume enough vitamins and minerals to support every stage of fetal development. This includes all essential nutrients to keep you and baby healthy!
Protein is a key nutrient for all pregnant women. It sustains muscle and body tissue and helps your unborn baby grow, especially during the second and third trimesters! Protein needs are going to vary from person to person, and you can learn how to calculate your specific needs in The Prenatal Nutrition Library. You may need anywhere from 75 to 100 grams of protein as your pregnancy progresses.
Both getting too much protein and not getting enough protein during pregnancy may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. These protein requirements can be tough to meet with morning sickness, all kinds of cravings, and sneaky food aversions in the way, it can be a challenge to get enough protein for the day at any stage of pregnancy.
There’s one convenient popular snack that you can carry with you all day, making for a quick way to get in your protein: the protein bar.
These are nutrition bars that provide protein along with carbohydrates, fats, and hopefully some other great nutrients. Because of its small size and practical packaging it’s incredibly convenient for eating on the go with a busy lifestyle.
There are so many mixed opinions about protein bars, and tons of options! First and foremost, not all protein bars are created equal. You need to be on the lookout for what is safe, healthy, and effective in delivering nutrients to you and your unborn baby.
So, today’s post is a roundup of the major pros and cons of protein bars during pregnancy. Plus a list of some of my favorite protein bars for pregnant women.
Are Protein Bars Safe During Pregnancy?
The short answer is: most of them.
Protein bars are safe to eat during pregnancy and their convenient style is a major pro for how busy are lives are these days, especially for pregnant women who may be low on energy and dealing with all kinds of unexpected symptoms. The average protein bar contains 8-20 grams of protein, 5-10 grams of healthy fats, 25-35 grams of carbs, and at least 3 grams of fiber (the goal). The best options are typically the ones low in added sugar.
Although whole foods are best, having a go-to protein bar is a great way to curb hunger in-between meals or when there’s no time to make or pack a fresh snack. As much as we can help it, we don’t want to use a protein bar as a meal replacement or way to manage body weight. They come in a plethora of flavors and there are so many brands to choose from. There are also protein bars for any type of dietary restrictions, gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, nut-free, you name it. The options are almost endless!
Still, there are a few downsides to these bars that I’ll share on the cons list.
And, even if you are reaching for the healthiest protein bar out there, it’s best to limit yourself to no more than one bar a day. Realistically, pregnant women should consume protein bars in moderation, ideally, not every day and not to be focusing on losing weight.
Most of your snacks and breakfasts should come from whole food options like snacks you put together so you know exactly what ingredients are going in. Again, they are not a proper meal replacement! Feel free to eat them as a quick bite but never as dinner or lunch, since the nutrients are not sufficient to support a growing baby.
Now that you know protein bars are safe to eat during pregnancy, I’ll share the pros and cons of this snack. This way you can make a choice based on what works best for you!
Pros of Eating Protein Bras During Pregnancy:
Protein bars are the perfect on-the-go snack:
A practical snack is always appreciated, right? Protein bars are so popular because of their convenience. You can buy and store them in big batches and just grab one whenever you are in a hurry or traveling. They are perfect to keep in your purse, or car, if it’s not too hot out. This way you’ll curb hunger no matter where you are. As most don’t require any refrigeration or preparation, these bars are the perfect match for our busy lifestyles, especially for pregnant women trying to support the protein requirements for their growing baby while working full-time and potentially caring for other members of the family! For more pregnancy snack ideas like fresh fruit, see this post.
A quick source of protein:
The name says it all! This convenient snack packs a punch of protein in every little bite. This nutrient is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, and is quite literally the building blocks of your baby. With an average of 10-20 grams of protein, they are efficient sources of protein to help you reach your daily protein goal especially if meat doesn’t sound appealing. There are many dairy-free options for those who are sensitive, too. There are alternatives for everyone!
Protein bars are packed full of other nutrients:
Protein bars are packed with healthy fats, carbohydrates, and a decent amount of fiber, hopefully. These extra nutrients come from ingredients like nut butters (almond butter, peanut butter, or even cashew butter), oatmeal, quinoa, and seeds. This makes them a fantastic way to get in extra nutrients! Some may also come with a higher mineral content like iron and zinc, bonus! Every protein bar is different, so check the label to find bars with the most bang for your buck! And, hey, sometimes a bar is all that you can eat so it’s great to have it on hand.
They are a great pre or post-workout snack:
This protein rich snack can give you the right energy boost to rock your pregnancy workout routine or rebuild muscle tissue after a killer exercise. Remember, your body needs more protein during pregnancy to assist with fetal development. And, this time is all about your baby. It’s important to have enough energy to repair muscle and body tissue regularly when you are pregnant and sticking with your workouts.
Protein bars can curb sweet cravings:
The famous pregnancy cravings I’m sure you’re already familiar with. While cravings are normal for the most part, constantly craving sweets is not! This actually may mean you need to add more protein, along with fats, to your diet. So, a bar low in added sugar and high in protein may help. Keep in mind, indulging in the “real” sweet treat you are craving is a-okay, in moderation, especially if you know you won’t be satisfied with an “healthier alternative”.
Cons of Eating Protein Bars During Pregnancy
Protein bars can vary widely in calories:
While I don’t advise counting calories, for most, during pregnancy, if you want to get a clear idea of your typical day to day intake, it can help! The caloric content of each bar depends on the brand, contents, and flavor. But, since most are high in protein and healthy fats, the calories in these snacks are usually more than expected. An average protein bar has around 200 calories. But the numbers range from 150 to 300 depending on the brands and ingredients. So, always read the back label before buying a new protein bar! A filling snack should typically have anywhere from 200-400 calories and at least 10 grams of protein.
They are still a processed food:
Here’s the deal: protein bars are a processed food and are not as ideal as a homemade snack. There’s a reason why many people cook their own bars and make homemade “energy bites”. Homemade typically means healthier, fresher, and sometimes tastier! Sure, it’s not as convenient, but real food will always beat pre-packaged options. It’s also safer to prepare most of your own meals during pregnancy since you know exactly what went into it and when it was made.
Some of them are extremely high in sugar:
If a healthy protein bar tastes too good to be true, chances are it’s not as healthy as advertised and may contain many grams of sugar. Most of the typical protein bars contain as much as 30 grams of ADDED sugar. I’d rather indulge on a cookie which is definitely okay, too! These sugary protein bars should be seen as sweet treats, not healthy bites. You’ll easily be able to tell by flipping the bar around and taking a peak at the “added sugars” section on the label. With high sugar content, they can come across as a candy bar instead of a protein rich snack. This is especially important to be aware of if you’ve been diagnosed with gestational diabetes which you can learn all about managing in The Prenatal Nutrition Library.
Most bars contain additives:
Again, a protein bar is a packaged snack. There’s no guarantee every bar in the store will be made only from natural ingredients and filled with nutrients. The more artificial versions of these quick bites usually have at least some kind of additive in them and not focused on food ingredients. Think questionable laboratory-made food additives: food coloring, hydrogenated oils, and high-fructose corn syrup. While these things are okay in small amounts, they are not ingredients we want to be eating day in and day out.
They might leave you too full to eat a real meal:
Protein helps you stay full for longer and avoid pregnancy cravings. It’s normal for pregnant women to sometimes not feel like having a proper meal after eating a protein bar, depending on the timing, but like we stated above it’s not ideal for a bar to replace a meal! All this being said, it’s very important to tune into your hunger and fullness cues like never before and really listen to what your body needs during this time. If you are truly hungry, you should eat a healthy meal, regardless if you just ate or have already had “all your meals” for the day.
The Best Protein Bars For Pregnant Women:
- Mama Bar
- OHi Bars
- RX Bars
- ALOHA Bar
- Primal Kitchen Protein Bar
- thinkThin Protein & Super fruit
- Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bar
- Rise Pea Protein Bar
- Naked Bar
- OverEasy Breakfast Bars
Will you be eating protein bars during pregnancy?
So, there you have everything you need to know about protein bars for pregnant women! These tempting and nutritious snacks can be good sources of quick energy and protein during pregnancy, but it’s always best to eat them in moderation and include other healthy snacks. Now that you are familiar with all the pros and cons, it’s time to see what works best for you. Will you eat protein bars as a future mom? Do you have a favorite brand or flavor? Let me know in the comments!
One last thing before you go! Remember to check with your doctor and registered dietitian before trying any new foods or supplements during pregnancy. Also, check out The Prenatal Nutrition Library. You’ll find all the information you need on how to have a healthy pregnancy and give baby the best start!