These Kirkland Signature Protein Bars have become a favorite low carb go-to whenever we’re looking for a tasty, quick, and portable low carb snack or meal replacement. They’re especially useful for travel. After enjoying them for some time, Deb and I thought we’d share our findings with you. The flavor and texture are quite good, and they are priced well-below many competing low carb protein bars. (Please note that this is not a sponsored post, and these opinions are entirely our own.)
When it comes to selecting which low carb foods to include in our regular rotations, Deb and I try to choose from whole, non-processed foods as much as possible. However, there are times when convenience simply wins out. We prefer protein bars with ingredients that are naturally-derived, and they must taste good, of course!
The Kirkland Signature Protein Bars come in two flavors, Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, packaged in a box of 20, with 10 of each flavor, for just under $20 at our local warehouse, about $1.00 per bar. (They’re also available online at Costco.com for slightly more.) Deb and I prefer the Chocolate Brownie flavor. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough tastes a little too sweet to me, but my husband, Dale, likes it because he says it tastes like a candy bar!
The texture of the bars, which was quite firm when the products were first introduced, has evolved to have a softer texture (in response to customer feedback). I actually preferred the firmer/chewier texture, so I keep mine in the refrigerator. Deb likes the softer texture, and Dale doesn’t care. I do keep a bar in my purse most times, for when I’m away from home and feel the need for something between meals, or if I want to supplement a meal out with more protein. I also have them when I feel the need something sweet while others are having a sugary dessert. In those cases, I still enjoy the bars at room temperature! 😉 Both versions are studded with real chocolate chunks, which adds a pleasing texture contrast, whether chilled or at room temperature.
As for the ingredients, the protein source comes from a combination of whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate, so they are soy-free. They also happen to be gluten-free. They are sweetened with three different low carb natural sweeteners, the primary one being a naturally-sweet fiber derived from tapioca starch, along with eyrithritol and stevia, which are both excellent choices. You might be unfamiliar with fiber-based sweeteners, which are actually the “magic” ingredient in many commercial protein bars that contributes to their soft, slightly chewy texture. Fiber-based sweeteners also add bulk to the finished product and provide a significant amount of dietary fiber, which is undigestible, so the carbs from fiber are not counted to determine “net carbs.”
The two other low carb sweeteners used in the Kirkland Signature Protein Bars, also naturally-derived, are stevia and erythritol. Stevia has no carbs, but the erythritol has 4 grams of carbs that are from sugar alcohols, which are typically deducted in determining the net carbs per serving because they don’t cause a rise in blood glucose. Thus, the total carbs per bar is 22 or 23, minus 15 grams of fiber and 4 grams of sugar alcohol, leaving 3 or 4 effective net carbs, depending on the flavor. With only 3 or 4 net carbs, plus 21 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat (a fairly small amount), the macronutrient profile makes it quite versatile depending on your approach to low carb (higher protein vs. higher fat).
The remaining ingredients in the Kirkland Signature Protein Bars include cashews, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, natural flavor, cocoa butter, water, sea salt, and sunflower lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier. While these bars are “processed” in the strictest sense of the word, at least they contain naturally-derived ingredients, as opposed to artificial or otherwise unrecognizable ones.
Costco recently launched three additional flavors: Cookies and Cream, Peanut Butter Chunk, and Cinnamon Roll. According to the January 2018 edition of The Costco Connection, the new flavors will be available this month in “select” stores. I haven’t found them at my local Costco yet, but all of the new flavors are now available online and in single-flavor packages, including the original flavors. I’m happy to have an option of not purchasing the variety pack, since Dale doesn’t consume the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bars as quickly as I go through the Chocolate Brownie bars, eventually resulting in an intimidating build-up of his preferred bar.
At any rate, we haven’t tried the new flavors yet, but I’m going to order them online so we can give them a go. We’ll report back — it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! In the meantime, if you’ve tried any of the new flavors, please let us know what you think in the comments section.
How do the Kirkland Bars Compare to Quest Bars?
Deb and I used Quest Protein Bars for quite some time before we found the Kirkland Signature Protein Bars. While the taste, texture, and macronutrient profile is quite similar, the biggest difference we have observed is that the Quest product can cause us of bit of gastrointestinal distress, while the Kirkland brand does not. Looking at the ingredients, I noticed that the source of the high-fiber sweetener in the Quest product is derived from corn, whereas the one used in the Kirkland bars is derived from tapioca starch, so I suspect this may be what’s causing the difference in how our bodies respond. Like most things, I’m sure it varies from person to person.
As far as the other ingredients, they are mostly the same as the Kirkland bars, except Quest uses almonds instead of cashews and adds sucralose, which is an artificial sweetener I try to avoid. Some Quest bars also add palm oil in addition to cocoa butter. Quest offers many different flavors of bars, and the ingredients and nutritional information vary slightly from bar to bar, including a few less-than-naturally-derived ingredients, so check the labels of the specific bar for more details.
Quest brand protein bars sell for more than twice the cost of Kirkland’s, at about $2.40 each, depending on where you purchase them, and whether you buy them individually or in a box of 12 (usually available online through Quest Nutrition or other merchants).
Pros and Cons
♦ Taste and texture
♦ Macronutrient profile
♦ Naturally-derived, gluten-free, soy free ingredients
♦ Great price at about $1.00 per bar
♦ Not as widely available as Quest bars
♦ Smaller selection of flavors available compared with Quests bars
♦ Taste and texture
♦ Macronutrient profile
♦ Mostly naturally-derived, gluten-free, soy free ingredients, with a few exceptions
♦ Widely available at many grocery stores and online
♦ Large selection of flavors
♦ Price is about $2.40 per, more than twice the cost of Kirkland bars
♦ Formula can cause more gastro-intestinal distress for certain individuals than Kirkland bars
♦ Some of the ingredients are less naturally-derived than in the Kirkland bars
The bottom line is that we prefer the Kirkland Signature Protein Bars when we have a choice. However, there are times when they aren’t available and the Quest bars can certainly be an option, particularly when traveling. Ironically, that is the time I least want to consume a Quest bar, as I don’t want to be a gas bag away from home! So, if I use them, I do so sparingly and strategically. 😉
We’d love to hear about your favorite protein bars and how you work them into your low carb way of eating. Please share in the comments section!