With all the health hype around protein—it helps keep you full, builds muscle and helps you maintain your weight—it's no wonder people want to eat more of it. Now, you can even get a protein boost in your candy bar. Mars is making protein-packed Snickers, Mars, Bounty and Milky Way bars. There are plenty of protein bars that have as much sugar as a candy bar, so maybe a candy bar company adding protein to their product isn't that much of a stretch. But are these protein bars a tasty way to get your fill, or is candy really just candy? Here's the scoop.
Photo courtesy of Snickersandmarsproteinbars.com
Per bar (51 g): 199 calories, 7 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 10 g sugars, 18 g protein
Ingredients: Protein Blend (33%) (Hydrolysed Collagen, Milk Protein Isolate, Milk Protein, Whey Protein Concentrate Milk, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin)), Milk Chocolate (15%), (Sugar, Cocoa Butter, Skimmed Milk Powder, Cocoa Mass, Lactose and Protein from whey (Milk), Palm Fat, Whey Powder (Milk), Milk Fat, Emulsifier (Soya Lecithin), Natural Vanilla Extract), Caramel (14%) Sweetened Condensed Skimmed Milk, Glucose Syrup, Invert Sugar Syrup, Palm Oil, Butter (Milk), Sugar, Emulsifier (E471), Stabiliser (Pectin), Salt, Natural Flavouring), Humectant (Maltitol), Peanuts (10%), Humectant (Glycerine), Peanut Flour, Fructo-Oligosaccharide, Natural Flavouring (Peanut), Salt, Colour (Plain Caramel), Antioxidant (Natural Mixed Tocopherols).
Per bar (52.7 g): 250 calories, 12 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 33 g carbohydrate, 27 g sugars, 4 g protein
Ingredients: Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, skim milk, lactose, milkfat, soy lecithin, artificial flavor), peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, palm oil, skim milk, lactose, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, egg whites, artificial flavor. Allergy information: contains peanuts, milk, egg and soy. May contain tree nuts.
Per bar (60 g): 170 calories, 7 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 23 g carbohydrate, 1 g sugars, 20 g protein
Ingredients: Protein Blend (Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate), Soluble Corn Fiber (Prebiotic Fiber), Peanuts, Water, Erythritol, Cocoa (Processed with Alkali), Natural Flavors, Palm Oil, Sea Salt, Steviol Glycosides (Stevia).
There are fewer calories, less sugar and way more protein in a Snickers Protein bar compared to the original candy bar. While the added protein doesn't come as a surprise—it is a protein bar after all—it was a little shocking to see how little sugar they've added to the Snickers Protein bars. There is noncaloric sweetener added, in the form of sugar alcohol (maltitol), which helps sweeten the protein bars without adding sugar. (FYI: Too many sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea.) The Mars, Milky Way and Bounty versions of the candy bars and protein bars break down similarly.
In terms of calories and protein, the Snickers Protein bar is similar to many other protein bars on the market. We compared it to the Quest Bar here, which contains fewer ingredients and slightly less sugar (they also use sugar alcohol and stevia to sweeten their bars). But for being made by a candy company, the Snickers Protein bar is not unreasonably different from a leading protein bar on the market.
For just shy of 200 calories, these new candy-flavored protein bars may not be a bad choice to satisfy your sweet tooth when you need a little more staying power in your snack. But keep them to a once-in-a-while treat (right now they're available on Amazon.com and in the UK). We tend to favor bars with simple ingredient lists (like Kind bars, Larabars and RX bars), so you know exactly what you're getting. If you do want a protein-rich snack, try Greek yogurt, nuts, string cheese or one of these high-protein packable snacks.