The Atkins Diet is a popular low-carb eating plan that helps some people shed excess body weight.
Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., which was founded by the diet’s creator, offers low-carb eating plans and sells a number of Atkins-approved foods and beverages, including low-carb meal and snack bars.
While grabbing a low-carb bar is convenient when you need a quick Atkins-approved meal or snack, you may wonder whether Atkins bars are healthy.
This article examines the ingredients and nutritional content of Atkins low-carb bars so you can decide if they should be a part of your diet.
What are Atkins low-carb bars?
Atkins Nutritionals manufacturers meal and snack bars that are marketed to those following low-carb diets like the Atkins Diet.
The meal bars are higher in calories and protein and meant to replace a light meal, while the snack bars are slightly lower in calories and protein.
For example, the Atkins Chocolate Crisp snack bar contains 140 calories and 10 grams of protein, while the Chocolate Peanut Butter meal bar offers 250 calories and 16 grams of protein (1, 2).
All Atkins bars are low in carbs, providing 2–4 net carbs per bar depending on the variety. “Net carbs,” which is calculated by subtracting the total fiber and sugar alcohol content from the total carb content, refers to the number of carbs your body absorbs from food.
That said, the term is not recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Also, experts argue that counting net carbs is not accurate due to individual digestive responses and the different types of fiber and sugar alcohols used in processed foods (3Trusted Source).
Regardless, this is how followers of the Atkins diet are taught to calculate their carb intake.
Atkins bars nutrition
The nutritional content of Atkins bars varies depending on the variety, as both Atkins meal and snack bars come in an array of enticing flavors, such as White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.
Below is the nutritional breakdown for the Atkins Cookies & Crème meal bar and Atkins Caramel Chocolate Peanut Nougat snack bar (4, 5).
Cookies & Crème meal bar Caramel Chocolate Peanut Nougat snack bar
Calories 200 170
Total carbs 22 grams 20 grams
Fiber 9 grams 11 grams
Sugar 1 gram 1 gram
Sugar alcohols 9 grams 7 grams
Net carbs 4 grams 2 grams
Protein 14 grams 9 grams
Fat 11 grams 11 grams
Vitamin A 20% of the Daily Value (DV) 15% of the DV
Vitamin C 20% of the DV 15% of the DV
The bars are not only high in vitamins A and C but also B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium, and zinc, thanks to a vitamin and mineral blend that’s added during processing.
They’re also low in calories and carbs, yet high in satiating nutrients like protein, fiber, and fat.
However, just because these bars fit into a low-carb diet plan, they’re not necessarily a healthy meal or snack.
Atkins snack and meal replacement bars come in a variety of flavors. They’re low in carbs, yet high in fiber, protein, and fat, as well as certain vitamins and minerals. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re healthy.
Not a healthy choice
While the macronutrient content of Atkins bars suits a low-carb plan like the Atkins diet, they are highly processed and contain ingredients that may harm your health, including unhealthy fats and artificial sweeteners.
For example, many Atkins bars contain soybean or canola oil, which are vegetable oils that may negatively impact heart and metabolic health (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Additionally, to provide a sweet, decadent taste without adding calories or sugar, the manufacturer adds sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners.
Although most people tolerate small amounts of sugar alcohols like maltitol, consuming foods high in these low-calorie sweeteners — including Atkins bars — may cause digestive issues like diarrhea and gas (11Trusted Source).
What’s more, Atkins bars contain zero-calorie, high-intensity artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), both of which have been associated with negative health outcomes.
For instance, animal and test-tube studies have shown that sucralose, which is 385–650 times sweeter than table sugar, can disrupt gut bacteria and increase inflammation in your body (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
Plus, a study in 15 healthy adults found that consuming 200 mg of sucralose for 4 weeks led to decreased insulin sensitivity, which has been linked to conditions like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Animal studies have also shown that Ace-K consumption may alter gut bacteria and have detrimental effects on your brain and metabolic health (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
Furthermore, some Atkins bars contain artificial flavors and additives, such as carrageenan, that some people prefer to avoid.
Finally, although Atkins meal bars are meant to be used as a replacement for a light meal, the bars contain too few calories to suffice as a meal replacement for most people.
Atkins bars contain a number of potentially problematic ingredients, including unhealthy fats and artificial sweeteners.
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Simple whole-food alternatives to Atkins bars
While occasionally eating an Atkins bar is unlikely to harm your health, you should limit your intake of any type of processed food.
Fortunately, there are many healthier meal and snack options for those following low-carb diets, and they’re equally convenient and portable.
Choosing whole-food-based alternatives to processed diet products like Atkins bars improves your health and boosts your nutrient intake. Plus, making your own meals and snacks can save you money.
Here are some low-carb, whole-food-based alternatives to Atkins bars:
Low-carb energy balls. For those craving a sweet yet healthy low-carb snack, look for low-carb energy ball recipes using healthy ingredients like coconut, chia seeds, and unsweetened cocoa powder.
Low-carb trail mix. Trail mix makes a portable snack and can be made low-carb by omitting high-carb ingredients like chocolate and dried fruit. Mix nuts, seeds, cacao nibs, and coconut for a filling and tasty combo.
Low-carb bento box. Bento boxes are convenient and can hold a variety of ingredients. Fill your bento box with low-carb foods like veggie sticks, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and cheese for a flavorful snack or meal.
Chicken salad with veggie sticks. Chicken is packed with protein, the most filling macronutrient. Make a healthy, low-carb salad by combining chicken, mashed avocado, and spices, and serve it with veggie sticks.
Stuffed avocado. Avocados are portable, low in carbs, and packed with nutrients. Eat avocados with canned tuna or salmon for a filling, low-carb snack or light meal.
Cheese-and-nut packs. Make your own cheese-and-nut packs by pairing cubed cheese with mixed nuts like almonds, cashews, or pistachios, and store them in pre-portioned containers in your fridge.
These are just some examples of delicious and simple whole-food-based alternatives to Atkins bars. You can find many more online.
There are many nutritious and filling whole-food-based alternatives to Atkins bars for those following low-carb diets.
The bottom line
Though the macronutrient profiles of Atkins bars fit a low-carb diet, many of the ingredients in these decadent-tasting, low-carb treats are not healthy.
The bars contain potentially problematic ingredients, such as high-intensity sweeteners, unhealthy fats, and other additives.
Fortunately, it’s easy to prepare your own nutritious, low-carb meals and snacks at home instead.
Whether you crave something sweet or savory, make a healthy, well-rounded snack using whole foods before reaching for an Atkins bar.