Whether you’re looking for a meal replacement or a keto snack, bars can be a life-saver when you’re on-the-go.
So how do you know if your bar of choice is a keto-friendly protein bar, or if it’s going to have your blood sugar soaring? In general, it comes down to macros and ingredients.
Costco created a low-carb protein bar that many keto dieters enjoy, but is this bar truly keto-friendly?
If you’re looking for foods that represent the latest trends in health and wellness, you’ll be able to find them at Costco…in bulk.
In fact, many people don’t realize that Costco puts a lot of effort into staying on top of trends and bringing in new products that customers may be seeing for the first time.
With a commitment to quality and sustainability, Costco started its own signature Kirkland brand to create products at an even more affordable price.
Kirkland, named after the flagship location of Costco in Kirkland Washington, offers you products that have similar ingredients to your favorite brands — at a fraction of the price.
With a focus on staying trendy, Costco created their Kirkland brand protein bars. These low-sugar bars come in packs of 20 (usually sold as a 2-pack of 20) and net out to be about $1 each. But are these protein bars keto-friendly?
The Kirkland brand has four different flavors of bars, but the nutrition and ingredient breakdown are pretty much the same in each variety. Below is a breakdown of their Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk bar.
Kirkland Protein Bars Nutrition
- Calories: 190 kcal
- Total Fat: 6 grams
- Sat Fat: 1.5 grams
- Trans Fat: 0 grams
- Total Carbohydrates: 23 grams
- Total Fiber:15 grams
- Sugar: 2 grams
- Sugar Alcohol: 4 grams
- Net carbs: 4 grams
- Total Protein: 21 grams
From a macronutrient standpoint, Kirkland bars come in at only 4 grams of net carbs per bar (subtracting total fiber plus the sugar alcohols). This certainly enters them into the low-carb bar category. In addition, they have a hefty amount of protein (21 grams), and a touch of fat (6 grams).
However, many people only subtract ½ the sugar alcohols from the total carbs if they are sensitive to glucose, which would land these bars at 6 grams of net carbs instead of 4 grams for some keto dieters.
In addition, for the real hardcore carb-cutters, some people just go with total carbs (not subtracting anything out for net carbs). In this case, the carb count would come out to 23 grams — squarely outside of both the low-carb and keto category.
Now, for the ingredients.
Kirkland Protein Bars Ingredients
The ingredients in Kirkland’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk include:
Protein blend (milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate), dietary fiber from tapioca starch, peanut butter (peanuts), erythritol, peanut flour, natural flavors, cocoa butter, cocoa powder (processed with alkali), sea salt, sunflower lecithin, unsweetened chocolate, steviol glycosides (stevia).
The Kirkland bars do appear to stay in-line with keto-friendly ingredients. Although they don’t supply much in the fat category, they do offer a generous amount of protein. They also do an admirable job of picking sweeteners that are both sugar-free and chemical-free.
There are, however, some caveats to these ingredients that should be noted.
Kirkland bars contain a protein blend of milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate. Milk protein isolate is a cheaper alternative to whey protein powder and may contain the protein casein, which some people are sensitive to[*].
Whey protein, on the other hand, tends to be casein-free and has been found to support muscle growth, blood pressure, increased satiety, and weight loss[*][*][*][*]. However, when it comes to any animal products, quality is always key. When looking for a whey protein, you always want to see the words “grass-fed.”
Grass-fed lets you know that the cows that the whey came from have been fed a natural diet, and therefore contamination will be lower. In the case of Kirkland bars, there is no evidence that the whey used comes from grass-fed cows.
The Kirkland bars contain two sweeteners — stevia and erythritol. Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. Along with providing an excellent source of sweetness with none of the sugar, stevia may also help improve insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, and enhance your antioxidant defenses[*][*][*].
Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a less digestible form of carbohydrate that imparts sweetness similar to sugar.
The issue with erythritol, and all sugar alcohols, is the fact that they often create digestive disturbances in people that don’t have strong digestion. It should be mentioned, however, that erythritol is known to be one of the most well-tolerated sugar alcohol options[*].
Kirkland Protein Bar Flavors
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk
- Chocolate Brownie
- Cookies and Cream
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
When these bars are fresh, they are chewy and flavorful. However, if they’ve been sitting on the shelf for a while, they can become crumbly and hard, and pretty tasteless. Some people also complain that these bars are a bit too sweet, likely due to the sugar alcohols.
The consistency is similar to Quest bars, as well as the ingredient list.
In general, Kirkland bars look like they fit into the keto-friendly bar category when you look purely at ingredients and macronutrients. The net carb count comes in at four grams, and there aren’t any red-flag non-keto ingredients.
The only caveats are around ingredient quality and your personal view on carb counts.
While a low-quality low-carb bar can still be considered keto — it’s crucial to keep quality in mind if health is your ultimate goal. Ingredients like non-grass-fed whey and milk protein isolate aren’t ideal, but they also aren’t total deal-breakers.
When determining carb count, if you are someone who can easily handle sugar alcohols and have no problem staying in ketosis when subtracting fiber, then you should be good with Kirkland bars. If, on the other hand, you like to stay on the side of caution and not subtract fiber, these bars are likely too high in total carbs for you.
All in all, Kirkland bars can be considered keto-friendly, but if you’re trying them for the first time, you should definitely check your ketone levels after you consume them to be sure that they work for your body.
What does a true keto bar look like? Perfect Keto bars were specifically formulated to help you stay in ketosis, proving ingredients and macros that you can trust and feel good about.
Here is a side-by-side comparison of Kirkland bars and Perfect Keto bars:
The Kirkland bars are slightly higher in net carbs (four grams) and contain more than twice the amount of total carbs (23 grams).
Perfect keto bars contain only two net carbs and 11 grams of total carbs. That means that for even the most sensitive keto dieter, these bars can most likely fit into your keto diet. They also contain zero sugar alcohols, which for some people may add to the total carbs.
With the fat and protein content, Perfect Keto bars are clearly tailored to a keto dieter, where the Kirkland bars seem to skew more for the consumer looking for a protein-boost.
While 21 grams of protein is great for your protein needs, on the keto diet, the focus is more on getting in a variety of fats. It’s easy to get protein from real foods like eggs, meat, and fish. However, getting in healthy fats can be tricky, and with the Perfect Keto bar, you’re getting 19 grams of fat, and a solid 10 grams of protein. The Kirkland bar is much more protein-heavy, with 21 grams, but only contains six grams of fat.
From An Ingredients Standpoint:
Perfect Keto Almond Butter Bar Ingredients:
Almond butter, soluble tapioca fiber, cacao butter, grass-fed bovine collagen, organic cacao, almonds, sunflower lecithin, coconut oil, sea salt, natural flavors, stevia.
Both the Kirkland and Perfect Keto bars contain ingredients that fit into the keto-friendly category. However, when it comes to quality ingredients, Perfect Keto bars go the extra mile.
Some ingredients that make PK bars stand out include:
PK bars include grass-fed bovine collagen, which is much harder to come by than dairy sources like whey and milk protein isolate. What’s more, collagen offers unique benefits like supporting your joint health, enhancing skin health, and potentially promoting digestive health[*]
Coconut not only adds a hefty dose of fat to the Perfect Keto bar formula, but it comes packed with MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides), which offer your body an instant pick-me-up in the energy department.
MCTs are delivered directly to your liver after digestion, unlike other forms of fat that need to go through your lymph before they can be used for energy or stored. This makes MCTs a unique ally for keto-dieters looking for an energy boost, while still avoiding carbs[*].
Stevia is an excellent low calorie sugar alternative that has been shown to have a lower impact on blood glucose[*][*][*]. Unlike most bars out there, Perfect Keto bars only use stevia, avoiding potentially harmful artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame.
A high-quality keto-friendly bar is going to be much more than a low-carb protein bar with no added sugar. It’s going to include ingredients that come from grass-fed cows, it’s going to be rich in fat, and, most importantly, it’s going to cater to keeping your ketones high and your blood sugar low.
While a bar like the Kirkland protein bar will likely work for most people to stay in ketosis, it does leave a bit to be desired in the quality department.
If you want high-quality, plus a keto-friendly edge, go for Perfect Keto Bars.