How Keto are 'Keto' bars

High Fat

The keto diet is an extension of low carb diets, such as the Atkins or Paleo diets, the main difference being it is much higher in Fat, low carb and only moderate protein (where other diets emphasise high protein). Keto bars, on average, have Xg of fat per 100g, compared to Xg in other non-keto bars. And 20% of bars that claim keto have at least 70% fat, but not all of these are also <5% carbohydrates. This supports the vision of keto as the “high Fat” diet.

Low Net Carbs

Although keto falls under the “low carb” umbrella, there is some differentiation with how it is defined. In the keto world, not all carbs are equal. Almost all keto bars define carbohydrate in the context of keto as ‘net carbs’, and declare this number on pack.

Net Carbs = Total Carbohydrate - Polyols - Fibre Net carbs is based on the proposition that certain carbohydrates are not included in your total daily count (energy provision). This is because they are either not absorbed or have no impact on blood glucose levels. It is therefore not about how much you eat, but what type of carbohydrate you eat. Whilst 5% (of energy value) is the magic number with regards to energy intake, the majority of bars appear to be <5g of net carbs per serve, blurring the lines between theoretical guidelines and true execution.

Use of ‘Keto specific’ Actives

Across the keto lifestyle, MCTs and coconut oil are seen as important ingredients to increase fat intake. This is because MCTs are broken down by the body into ketones and used as a source of energy.

51% of keto bars add coconut oil or MCT oil, with 5% of all keto bars adding both. Aside from MCT oil, very few products add any further ‘actives’ (e.g. vitamins, minerals, botanicals, or probiotics). There are a handful of products using ketone salts (such as beta hydroxybutyrate, BHB) or exogenous ketones (e.g. Julian’s Bakery InstaKetones). Bar is not the format for ketone supplementation. It is likely that as more keto bars launch this might change and more added actives may become the norm. This will be based on trying to differentiate one keto bar from another.

So What?

It isn’t clear what is or isn’t keto because we cannot define it based on keto guidelines alone. A bar that hits 70% fat and 5% carbohydrates, is not only difficult to achieve, but also runs the risk of not tasting great. Nevertheless, consistent parameters in bars claiming keto are high fat, low carb and the use of keto actives. There is no right or wrong about what is a keto bar, particularly when the question on whether the 70/5 parameters are at the product level or for the diet as a whole. With regards to the future, the difference between a ‘Keto’ bar and a ‘Keto friendly’ bar gives rise to lots of potential in interpretation and innovation of new products.

*based on 2543 bars, EU/US all/protein/nutrition bars