What is in this protein bar?!

Yesterday I was running a bit late, as I scurried out the door I grabbed a protein bar to munch on after Cross FIT. After I scarfed it down I turned the package over to look at the ingredients, (I should have done this before I ate it, but whatever) There were 33 ingredients, not counting the healthy vitamins and minerals which were given there own separate ingredient list. I couldn’t believe it! Granted, most of these ingredients were “real” foods, the ones that I could pronounce and probably pick up at a grocery store, but there were quite a few that seemed a little iffy. I also noticed that there was quite a bit of sugar. This particular protein bar also listed “natural flavors” as an ingredient…what does that actually mean?!

Natural flavors is a widely used all-encompassing term for some pretty disgusting stuff. The FDA states that, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.

The problem is…that is so incredibly vague!!

This is what I have found. Just because the origin of the flavoring had a natural plant or animal source it can be altered in a biotech lab where they are changed using enzymatic, fermentation, or other processes.

Also, natural is not always what the common consumer considers natural. 60 minutes highlighted the notorious natural flavor additive shellac which is used to make the frosting on doughnuts and other products shiny. It is also the main ingredient in the waxy covering on some lemons and limes. Are you ready to hear where shellac comes from? The raw material is found on insect nests on branches of trees in Thailand. These lack beetles excrete their waste onto the tree and make a hard nest, pickers scrape of the nest (living and dead insects included) to make the shellac. Gross!!

Natural flavors have also been found to include:

Human hair, or duck feathers- called cysteine in many processed foods

Beaver Anal glands- also known as castoreum, used in both food and beverages, usually as vanilla or raspberry flavors.

This makes my stomach hurt. Of course, no one that I know would buy a product that has beetle juice, hair, feathers, or beaver butt listed as an ingredient…but by law all of these ingredients can be under the umbrella listing of “natural flavors”




One of the best store bought options I have found is the CLIF protein bars. They use 70% certified organic ingredients, no artificial colors, and no genetically modified ingredients. However, CLIF bars still have “natural flavors” listed as an ingredient, contain quite a bit of sugar, and the calorie to protein ratio isn’t the best.

The best bet is to call the company and ask where their “natural flavoring” is coming from. And that is just what I did! They said, “the natural flavors found in CLIF BARs are sourced from all-natural spices or fruit juices and are used to add nuances of complementary flavor.” Ok..so why not just tell us what you are actually adding?

So…of course I thought, Welp…I can do better than that! And I accepted the challenge of creating a protein bar with all real ingredients, not too much sugar, and a low calorie-high protein ratio…I will have the recipe out soon, I’m still perfecting the flavor and ingredients.

What is your favorite protein bar? Have you found a favorite bar that has “real” ingredients?