Does anyone remember those SoyJoy commercials from the 2000’s? I used to be OBSESSED with those commercials as a small girl with budding ambitions to eat healthy (despite my daily post-school snack – a Beefy Crunch burrito from Taco Bell). Little did I know then, and until recently, that soy protein isn’t necessarily your best option when it comes to snacking or replacing a meal with a protein bar.
Obviously, with my love of all things cheesy and fried, I’ve had to make a lot of changes to my diet as I’ve adapted to my thyroid condition – but I’m no nutritional expert. I’ve read everything under the sun it seems like, but let’s be honest, this information changes day to day and what’s popular now might not be so popular a year from now. Therefore, if you want a corndog, GO FOR IT! I’ll gladly partake and we can cheers with our meat on a stick.
However, because I have to pay attention to what I eat, when I make a conscious effort to eat healthier, I try to be a little more critical when reading the label and attempting to make sense of it all.
What are the Experts Saying?
More and more health experts are steering us away from ingredients we can’t pronounce as we learn more about how these ingredients are produced. In particular, soy-based bars, which more than likely contain soy protein isolate, are being labeled as hazardous. Soy protein isolate, it has been discovered, is often generated from a process where soybeans are soaked in a hexane bath. Hexane, I learned, is a gasoline by-product, and chemical which the USDA has labeled as a neurotoxin. After a small aneurism, I decided I should probably cut out foods with soy protein isolate, because Lord knows I don’t have any extra brain cells to spare. I’d be lying though, if I said I wasn’t a little bummed when my beloved Luna Bars had to take a sad departure from my breakfast routine.
Yet, even if your protein bar doesn’t contain soy protein isolate, what’s the real concern with using soybeans? It turns out that soy protein can actually interrupt hormonal and metabolic function. Soy contains phytoestrogens that can cause hormone imbalances, and goitrogen – a chemical that actually exacerbates thyroid issues and slows the metabolism. As someone whose thyroid is all out of whack, the last thing I want to do is make it worse.
So, What Makes Plant-Based Protein Different?
Plant-based proteins are typically sourced from ingredients like peas, brown rice, nuts, chia and hemp seeds, and even coconut. Not only do a lot of these ingredients taste better with less processing, but they are also rich in vitamins and minerals. Plant-based proteins are often a great source of amino acids and can help reduce gut inflammation, which can cause bloating and GI issues.
My 4 Go-To Bars
- TruWomen: These are my newest find on the plant-based scene, and can I just say, can we please take a moment to appreciate the packaging on these bars?! What’s inside is just as impressive though. Each with at least 12g of protein and none of those bloat-causing sugar alcohols, these vegan bars taste less like a protein bar and more like dessert. Made with cassava flour and pea/brown rice protein, these are nutrient-rich, and are a great snack pre- or post-workout to fuel your day!
2. Go Macro: These bars are growing on me more and more as I try each flavor – they have yet to disappoint in great nutritional value and even better flavor. Plus, there’s a great story behind the bar, one of a mother fighting breast cancer who turned to a plant-based diet and overcame her battle through whole ingredients all sourced from her Wisconsin family farm. Gluten-free, vegan, and an ingredient list you can pronounce – you need to try these!
3. Perfect Bar: These bars were a God-send my first semester of college. Despite a fervent belief that I am a morning person, I somehow manage to sleep past my alarm 50% of the time (one of many special talents) and I love being able to grab a Perfect Bar out of my mini fridge as I run out the door. If you love peanut butter, these will not disappoint – and they will keep you full for hours. All of their bars have a low-glycemic index, are packed with superfoods and between 12-16 g of protein – did I mention that they don’t have a single ounce of that gross protein aftertaste?
4. KIND Bar: You’ve likely seen these everywhere from Starbucks to CVS, but if you have yet to pick one up, you’re missing out! All natural and made with ingredients you can see, I love that KIND makes nutrition less obvious. No powders, no junk, just clean, simple ingredients and a variety of flavors. I personally love their their dark chocolate coconut almond flavor (which tastes just as good, if not better than an almond joy), but why not try them all?
Of course, there are millions of options when it comes to buying plant-based bars now, which is the beauty of the plant-based trend. But, even though I believe in substituting healthy with healthier, I’m still learning what that entails. And, at heart, I am still a meat-lover (love myself some Italian sausage) and will still advocate that Taco Bell changed lives for the better when they started putting flamin’ hot Fritos in their burritos. At the end of the day, my philosophy is just that when I choose to eat healthy, I want to choose products that actually give you something in return – and actually taste good.
As always, I love hearing your feedback; it makes my day when y’all reach out so please don’t hesitate to DM me at @live_love_gracefully! Happy Saturday (hope I’m not the only one still in my pajamas)!