Many families on the go rely on quick and easy snack or meal options so everyone is fed between errands, sports and other activities. You probably know that fast food isn't your best bet, but protein bars might not be the greatest alternative for kids either. Yes, they're fast and convenient, and some contain many nutrients, but not all are created equal. Understanding your choices helps you choose the best bar for your kids.
Besides making a simple and relatively mess-free meal when you're in the car or at a sports game, protein bars offer some other benefits that might make them a handy back-up when time to sit down and eat is limited. Many contain healthy ingredients, such as whole grains and dried fruits. The bars can also boost your child's protein intake if he shuns milk or meat on a regular basis. Protein bars might not be the best choice at every meal, but they far surpass fast food or gas station treats in terms of nutrition when you're running here and there all day, notes the Kids Health website.
Despite the potential benefits of the occasional protein bar, serving them on a regular basis has drawbacks. Many have a lot of sugar, which isn't healthy for kids. Even those that are low in sugar might contain more protein than your child needs. Most children don't need extra protein, according to the Kids Health website, so a protein bar might be a good option for a quick meal or snack if your child needs a boost, but isn't necessary if she eats a varied and well-balanced diet. Some protein bars also contain trans fats, according to Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., which increases the risk of heart disease if consumed on a regular basis.
When buying protein bars for your child, it's important to read labels to get the most bang for your buck. Look for products that are low in sugar, free of partially hydrogenated oils and full of nutrients. Some protein bars are little more than glorified candy bars, according to Heaner. If that's the case, using them as a meal replacement or snack item isn't as healthy as you might think. Kids Health suggests offering a variety of protein-packed foods instead. Hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, string cheese, lean cold cuts and yogurt tubes are options that your child can eat on the go, at school, during sports practice or even when you actually have time to sit down at home and share a meal.
Bars for Kids
Not all protein bars are appropriate for kids. Some are marketed for endurance athletes who expend large amounts of energy at one sitting. Avoid those with high carbohydrate levels unless your child spends a lot of time on the field or court. Some bars are designed for a specific demographic. For example, Luna Bar states that its bars are for adults and that children shouldn't eat a whole one until they are age 9 or older. While you can offer half a bar to younger kids, it's a better idea to look for protein bars prepared with kids in mind.