- 9 Best Protein Bars for Every Diet
- The Best Protein Bars, According To a Nutritionist
- 4 Best Meal Replacement Bars for Weight Loss
- What are the best meal replacement bars?
- 1. The PROBAR Almond Crunch
- 2. IsaLean Bar Chocolate Cream Crisp
- 3. Quest Nutrition Coconut Cashew Protein Bar
- 4. OATMEGA Chocolate Coconut
- Should you use energy, protein, or nutrition bars for weight loss?
- 15 Best Healthy & Low-Sugar Protein Bars in 2019, According to Dietitians
- What makes a protein bar “healthy”?
- The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.
- The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:
- The Best Healthy Protein Bars
- 1. Best Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
- 2. Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter
- 3. Best for Muscle Gain: ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant-Based Protein
- 4. Best Vegan: GoMacro Macrobar Protein Paradise, Cashew Caramel
- 5. Best for Weight Loss: Primal Kitchen Almond Spice
- 6. Best Whole Ingredients: ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
- 7. Best Meat Bar: Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
- 8. Best for Men: Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
- 9. Best for women: Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars
- 10. Best Paleo Protein Bar: EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
- 11. Best Keto-friendly: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar
- 12. Best for Fiber: Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
- 13. Best Indulgence: Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
- 14. Most Natural: Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
- 15. Best Whey: Naked Nutrition Peanut Butter
- If you wonder which protein bars are not good for you, here are the 7 worst protein bars:
- Is It Bad to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?
- Nutrition Bars
- Gluten-Free Protein Bars
- Low Carb Protein Bars
- How To Choose The Healthiest Protein Bars
- The 5 Best Healthy Protein Bars to Buy
- The Brands We Love
- How to Pick the Healthiest Protein Bars
- 5 Rules for Identifying Good Protein Bars
- Rule #1: Sugar is NOT the first ingredient of a good protein bar
- Looking for more advice about Nutrition?
- Rule #2: Good protein bars have 10 grams of protein — or more.
- Rule #3: Aim for less than 15 grams of sugar
- Rule #4: Watch out for sugar alcohols
- Rule #5: Look for protein bars with fewer than 400 calories.
- This Is Exactly How Unhealthy Your Favorite Protein Bars Are
- Struggling to cook healthy? We’ll help you prep.
- 1) Nutramino Coconut Protein Bar = A McDonald’s Big Mac
- 2) Quest Protein Cookie = 12 Chips Ahoy Cookies
- 3) OhYeah! Chocolate and Caramel Protein Bar = Two Whole Avocados
- 4) Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Bar = A Slice of Pizza
- 5) PowerBar Chocolate Brownie Protein Plus Bar = Six Oreo Cookies
- 6) The One You Should Try
- The grains
- The protein
- The extras
- Keep reading to see what the best and worst nutrition bars are, according to a nutritionist.
- 1. Health Warrior Superfood Protein Dark Chocolate and Coconut Sea Salt Bar
- 2. Quest Coconut Cashew
- 3. Oatmega Chocolate Coconut Crisp
- 4. Bonk Breaker Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein
- 5. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry
- Five Worst Nutrition Bars
- 1. Luna Bar Lemon Zest
- 2. ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter
- 3. ThinkThin High Protein Bar Chunky Peanut Butter
- 4. PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Brownie
- 5. Balance Bar Cookie Dough
- Bonus Good-For-You Snack Bars
- 1. GoRaw Live Pumpkin Sprouted Bar
- 2. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
- 3. This Bar Saves Lives Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey
9 Best Protein Bars for Every Diet
There’s no question that protein is an essential part of a healthy diet: Research suggests that protein keeps you feeling full, helps muscle recovery after a workout, can contribute to weight loss, and may even lower blood pressure. A recent study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, found that replacing the calories in refined carbs with a daily 40-gram (g) supplement of milk or soy protein lowered blood pressure modestly. All these benefits help explain why protein bars have become a diet staple in the United States.
Protein bars are a type of nutritional supplement that comes in a variety of brands and flavors — chocolate, dark chocolate, almond, vanilla, peanut butter and chocolate, oatmeal, and more. Many protein bars have a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, making them a nice choice for a snack or postworkout recovery boost. Some protein bars are higher in sugar while others use sugar alcohols.
The only problem, says Jessica Janc, a certified sports nutritionist with the National Association of Sports Nutrition, is that not all protein bars are created equal — many protein bar brands are so loaded with sugar, they’re more like delicious candy bars than dietary supplements. The key, Janc says, is selecting a protein bar with the right building blocks — protein should be at least half the amount of the bar’s carbohydrates. “For instance, if the bar has 24 grams of carbohydrates, I would want it to have at least 12 grams of protein,” Janc explains. “I like the sugars to be below 7 grams and the fat to be below 12 grams.”
Similarly, Ericka Stachura, RD, of Boston, recommends dieters watch the sugar, protein, and fiber in protein bars. “For a snack, look for protein bars with 200 calories or less,” she says. “For an on-the-go meal replacement, look for bars that have 200 calories or more. Serious athletes who want a postworkout recovery protein bar should look for bars with about 20 grams of protein. It’s also a good idea to look for a short ingredients list to ensure your bar is minimally processed.”
But what if you indulge in several pure protein bars each day, could you be getting too much protein? According to the Mayo Clinic, most Americans get twice as much protein as they need. Even without protein bars and other dietary supplements, athletes are getting more protein than is needed. This happens because calorie requirements are higher for athletes, who burn lots of calories, and eating more food increases the intake of protein. In addition, it’s not uncommon for athletes to intentionally seek out higher levels of protein because they think it will help them build more muscle.
For the average person, the least amount of protein you need each day in order to stay healthy is 0.8 g per kilogram (kg) (or 0.36 g per pound). With a typical diet, that amount is easy to get without even thinking about it. People who exercise regularly need a little more, at about 1.1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight while those who lift weights or are training for a marathon or cycling event need 1.2 to 1.7 g per kg. Excessive protein intake is considered about 2.5 g per kg of body weight daily.
For women ages 40 to 50, protein needs increase to about 1 to 1.2 g per kg of body weight. This is because women at midlife begin to lose muscle mass (sarcopenia) with aging. Experts believe added protein may help prevent this health condition. For those who already have sarcopenia, 1.2 to 1.5 g per kg per day may be needed.
Read on to find out about the best protein bars for every diet.
The Best Protein Bars, According To a Nutritionist
There are very appropriate times to consume the best protein bars, but those probably occur less than you probably think. The healthiest protein bars are great to those of us who lift weights — it’s hard to get all the muscle-repairing nutrients without eating steaks upon steaks. For those who are looking for a post-workout meal on the way to work. And for those that are replacing that rare meal after being caught in meetings or traffic — because a low-sugar protein bar is better than fast food any day.
And that’s about it. Why? This is not any nutritionist’s idea of a healthy snack.
“I understand nowadays, everyone is always short on time and rushing from one commitment to the next, but I think people rely on protein bars too often,” says Jennifer Silverman, a New York-based nutritionist. “Depending on the bar, they might be upwards to 250-300 calories and packed with added sugar.”
Another issue with protein bars: many of them are packed with fillers. Silverman says you should avoid added and fake sugars (sucralose, erythritol, and aspartame in particular. “Instead look for bars that have ingredients you can pronounce and natural sugars,” she recommends.
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In a perfect world, a protein bar should have no more than 14 grams of sugar per serving.
It should also have about five or so grams of fiber, which helps you digest it slowly and release its energy evenly.
It should have four grams of fat.
If you are looking to shed weight, the maximum calories a bar should have is 200.
If muscle gain is your goal, a bar should have at least 20 grams of protein.
Otherwise, a protein bar should have 10 grams of protein.
You can always make your own bars, but if you don’t have time, there are some solid options on the market. You’ll note that some have more sugar than others, because ultimately, if you don’t like the taste of something, you won’t eat it, no matter how much it’s touted as being better for you. We’ve provided the nutritional info. You make the call.
Each bar is made with roughly seven ingredients, so you know what you’re eating, like dates and figs.
Free is the name of the game here: These bars are gluten free and soy free, plus they’re vegan. Because these aren’t loaded with protein, they’re best to eat when you’re on a hike and need an energy boost.
- Protein: four grams
- Sugar: 18 grams
- Fiber: four grams
- Fat: five grams
- Carbs: 26 grams
- Calories: 150
These bars are made with plant-based proteins.
These bars are USDA organics, kosher, vegan, non-GMO, grain-free, and most of all, they’re gooey-good. And they’re made with just four ingredients.
- Protein: 11 grams
- Sugar: 18 grams
- Fiber: four grams
- Fat: 10 grams
- Carbs: 25 grams
- Calories: 210
These protein bars contain a whopping 20 grams of whey and milk protein.
These bars are meant for serious workouts and are eaten by NFL athletes. They’re loaded with protein, but are also heavy on the sugar. Still, they’re one of the most delicious protein bars you can buy, both in terms of flavor and texture.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: 29 grams
- Fiber: two grams
- Fat: 13 grams
- Carbs: 41 grams
- Calories: 350
Each of these protein bars contains eight grams of organic plant protein from pumpkin seeds.
We like that you can recognize the ingredients in these protein bars, and that each bar contains six grams of sugar. The chewy texture is a nice plus, too.
- Protein: eight grams
- Sugar: six grams
- Calories: 170
From a mother and daughter-run company, these protein bars are made from plant-based ingredients that will fill you up.
These protein bars are organic, gluten-free, vegan, and soy-free. They have 12 grams of protein that comes from peas and brown rice. All of the ingredients are sustainably grown, and you can choose from 14 flavors.
- Protein: 12 grams
- Sugar: 11 grams
- Fiber: two grams
- Fat: 10 grams
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Calories: 270
This bar is rich on taste, because it’s made with honey and nut butters, but you need to refrigerate it. It stays good for one week out of the fridge.
What it lacks in convenience, it makes up for in taste. It’s creamy, crunchy, and reminiscent of cookie dough. Which makes sense, given how high it is in sugar and fat.
- Protein: 17 grams
- Sugar: 18 grams
- Fiber: four grams
- Fat: 18 grams
- Carbs: 26 grams
- Calories: 330
This bar has three, yes three, ingredients in it. Easy and simple.
It’s clean eating on the go. You get three ingredients and they are almonds, honey, and whey protein isolate. So there’s no need to get a chemistry degree before buying this protein bar. And you get 20 grams of protein per bar.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: 11 grams
- Fiber: four grams
- Fat: 16 grams
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Calories: 280
A bar that proudly lists its main ingredients on the front, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
There are no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or fillers, plus most of the bars are gluten-free with no soy or dairy. Its 12 grams of protein come largely from egg whites, an ingredient offered by precious few other bars.
- Protein: 12 grams
- Sugar: 14 grams
- Fiber: four grams
- Fat: eight grams
- Carbs: 22 grams
- Calories: 210
These protein bars are full of grains, nuts, and seeds from Non-GMO ingredients.
The same brand known for its kid-friendly granola bars has moved into protein bar-land. Each bar has 12 grams of multi-source plant protein and six grams of fiber per serving. We like that each bar only has six grams of sugar and six grams of fiber.
- Protein: 12 grams
- Sugar: six grams
- Fiber: six grams
- Fat: 14 grams
- Carbs: 18 grams
- Calories: 230
A great-tasting bar that has 20 grams of protein that will fill up in the short term until your next meal.
There are only four grams of sugar in each bar. With six grams of fiber per protein bar, it should keep you feeling full for hours after eating.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: six grams
- Fiber: six grams
- Fat: eight grams
- Carbs: 24 grams
- Calories: 230
From a trusted name in the nutritional bar world, this bar has got 20 grams of protein and you get selection of great flavors.
You won’t get more than 10 grams of fat per bar. The protein bars are also vegan-friendly, something that can be hard to find, and they taste pretty great.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: 17 grams
- Fiber: three grams
- Fat: nine grams
- Carbs: 31 grams
- Calories: 280
You get four ingredients, and 20 grams of organic grass-fed protein per bar.
They are gluten-free and have only one gram of sugar. Each bar is only 130 calories, so you can add mass while protecting your waistline.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: one gram
- Fiber: 18 grams
- Fat: five grams
- Carbs: 19 grams
- Calories: 130
If you’re a fan of peanut butter, these are for you.
Each protein bar has 20 grams of protein, and the low glycemic index means your sugar levels won’t spike and drop all over the place.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: zero added sugars
- Fiber: one gram
- Fat: nine grams
- Carbs: 22 grams
- Calories: 230
A low-sugar, gluten-free bar that comes in a bunch of crazy flavors, like maple glazed doughnut and almond bliss.
Each bar has just one gram of sugar and just over 200 calories, so they’re not a bad choice for those trying to lose weight. Each bar also has 20 grams of protein, so they’re not kidding around.
- Protein: 20 grams
- Sugar: one gram
- Fiber: one gram
- Fat: nine grams
- Carbs: 22 grams
- Calories: 230
This bar tastes delicious, has nine grams of sugar, and three grams of fiber. It has 28 grams of carbs and six grams of fat.
For nine grams of sugar, which is on the reasonable side, you get a protein bar packed with flavor. It really, really tastes good. And it has a solid eight grams of protein.
- Protein: eight grams
- Sugar: nine grams
- Fiber: three grams
- Fat: six grams
- Carbs: 23 grams
- Calories: 190
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.
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4 Best Meal Replacement Bars for Weight Loss
What are the best meal replacement bars?
Meal replacement bars can be an effective and efficient way to reduce calories in their diets and lose weight. While not recommended as a long term weight loss solution, there are certain bars that can be helpful in weight loss in the short term without compromising healthier long term weight loss goals.
The Noom team has compiled a list of meal replacement bars for weight loss that may help you drop unwanted pounds without excluding a lot of the necessary nutrients that are needed to maintain good health.
1. The PROBAR Almond Crunch
The PROBAR Almond Crunch meal replacement bar for weight loss is ideal for anyone with food allergies or lifestyle food restrictions. Vegetarians, vegans, and those who are gluten free can also enjoy this bar because it contains no gluten or ingredients derived from animals. This bar works as a filling and energizing breakfast or lunch replacement but probably doesn’t have enough calories, protein, and other benefits to serve as a proper stand in for dinner.
Instead of skipping meals throughout your busy class or work day, plant-based protein bars with loads of natural ingredients like this can help you maintain a balanced diet and prevent you from overeating by the time you get a chance to sit down for a regular meal.
- 18 grams of fat
- 48 grams of carbohydrates
- 6 grams of fiber
- 19 grams of sugar
- 9 grams of protein
- 370 calories
Tapioca syrup, oats, dates, sunflower seeds, almond butter (almonds), cashew butter (cashews, sunflower oil, cashews, flax seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, crisp brown rice, dried cane syrup, expeller pressed canola oil, sliced almonds, vegetable glycerine, rice syrup, natural flavors, oat flour, pumpkin seed, molasses, and salt.
Even though this is one of the best meal replacement weight loss bars, it is not ideal for low carb dieting or for casual snacking between regular meals, however. Because it’s higher in calories, you’ll want to use this as a meal supplement.
2. IsaLean Bar Chocolate Cream Crisp
The IsaLean Bar Chocolate Cream Crisp is one of the best meal replacement bars for weight loss when it comes to replacing a low calorie snack or a meal because it is high in protein, low in calories, and low in fat. It also scores low on the glycemic index for those following a low glycemic diet and it is gluten free, as well.
- 270 calories
- 9 grams of fat
- 28 grams of carbohydrates
- 18 grams of sugar
- 18 grams of protein
- Vitamins and minerals
Protein blend , cane sugar, chocolate coating (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin, natural flavor), maltitol, ground almonds, glycerin, sunflower oil, nonfat dry milk, natural flavors, gum arabic, vitamin and mineral blend Contains milk, tree nut (almond), and soy (lecithin) ingredients. Manufactured in a facility that also processes eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts.
This bar won’t work for those who are vegan or lactose intolerant because it contains whey protein and other milk-derived ingredients.
3. Quest Nutrition Coconut Cashew Protein Bar
The Quest Nutrition Coconut Cashew Protein Bar is high in protein and fiber, low in carbohydrates, gluten free, and keto friendly. The sugar alcohols contained in this bar are claimed by Quest to be not harmful to your body and come in at only 4 grams. Because it’s so low in calories, this bar can be enjoyed as a snack or meal replacement and is one of the best meal replacement bars for women or men following a strict low calorie diet.
- 170 calories
- 6 grams of fat
- 25 grams of carbohydrates
- 17 grams of fiber
- 1 gram of sugar
- 20 grams of protein
Protein blend (whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate), isomalto-oligosaccharides* (prebiotic fiber, 100% natural prebiotic fibers derived from plant-based sources), almonds, water, erythritol, dried coconut. contains less than 2% of the following: cashews, sea salt, natural flavors, lo han guo, and stevia.
This bar won’t work for those who are vegan or lactose intolerant because it contains whey protein and other milk derived ingredients.
4. OATMEGA Chocolate Coconut
The OATMEGA Chocolate Coconut energy bars come in under 250 calories which makes them one of the best meal replacement bars for weight loss or as a snack on a low calorie diet. It’s also fairly high in protein and works well for busy people with active lifestyles who require snacks between business, recreation, commuting, and workouts.
- 200 calories
- 7 grams of fat
- 22 grams of carbohydrates
- 7 grams of fiber
- 5 grams of sugar
- 14 grams of protein
Grass-fed whey protein concentrate, chicory root fiber, whey protein crisp (whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, rice flour, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate), gluten-free oats, vegetable glycerin, tapioca syrup, sugar, sunflower oil, coconut, chocolate liquor, responsibly-caught fish oil (anchovy, sardine, tilapia), natural flavors, almonds, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, sea salt, and monk fruit extract.
Contains milk, fish, tree nuts, and soy. May contain traces of peanuts.
Should you use energy, protein, or nutrition bars for weight loss?
As with any meal replacement diet that relies on a quick fix mentality, the resulting weight loss from any of these bars is virtually always unsustainable. You may also end up eliminating healthy nutrients your body needs in one way or another (because no weight loss bar can serve as a genuine stand-in for a real meal).
To lose weight effectively, long term, a personalized weight loss program is the only way to go. Check out Noom to see for yourself how well it supports your individual needs.
15 Best Healthy & Low-Sugar Protein Bars in 2019, According to Dietitians
Whether you’re looking for a nutritious, on-the-go option to tide you over between meals or a portable snack to maintain muscle mass between workouts, low-sugar, high protein bars are often the answer to your nutritional needs.
“Protein bars are great for traveling, pre- or post-workout snacks, and as a snack to keep blood sugar balanced during busy days,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Krista King, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, of Composed Nutrition. “They are convenient to keep with you at your desk or in your bag for a quick snack on-the-go. They can also be a great addition for a fast and easy breakfast on-the-go,” she adds.
When determining if eating protein bars is good for you, the protein source, how much there is, and what other nutrients it’s paired with all need to be taken into consideration.
That’s why we asked nearly a dozen nutritional experts for help in determining what criteria make the best protein bars.
What makes a protein bar “healthy”?
If you’re looking to further your better-body goals, you may consider eating high protein bars. While it might sound beneficial, unfortunately, most of the protein bars in the market are loaded with sugar alcohols or saturated fat and lack fiber.
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition tells Eat This, Not That! that they key in selecting a clean and healthy protein bar is to “look for a nice balance of healthy fat, protein, and fiber to help keep you satisfied. Choose a protein bar with between 200 to 400 calories and up to 20 grams of protein per serving.”
It’s not just macronutrients that matter when it comes to determining the best protein bar. Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, of To The Pointe Nutrition says ingredients are equally important. “Look at the ingredient list and identify transparent foods like nuts, whole grains, and fruit.”
Angie Asche, MS, RD, CSSD owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition adds that she looks for good sources of protein, “like whey protein isolate, pea protein, brown rice protein, and eggs.”
The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.
Not just any protein bar landed a spot on our list of best protein bars. We compiled a list of over 100 protein bars so we could compare their nutrition and ingredient information. With the help of dietitians, we came up with specifical nutritional and ingredient criteria we had to follow to select the best protein bars:
- 8 grams protein minimum: To qualify as a “protein bar,” each bar had to have no less than 8 grams of protein. Hillary Cecere, RDN of Eat Clean Bro, a meal delivery service, recommends aiming for 15-20 grams of protein if you’re looking to gain muscle and 7-12 grams of protein for a satiating snack.
- 13 grams sugar maximum: The best protein bars have no more than 13 grams of sugar.
- 3 grams fiber minimum: When it comes to fiber, Fine recommends opting for a protein bar with 3 or more grams per bar or serving. “However, caution with those boasting more than 10 grams of fiber as these are likely loaded with isolated fibers that can cause stomach discomfort,” says Fine.
The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:
- High-quality protein sources: We prioritized protein bars that sourced their protein from high-quality isolates and concentrates (such as grass-fed whey protein) as well as whole food ingredients (like nuts or antibiotic-free meat). “Nuts, nut butters, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds are my favorite whole food protein sources for a protein bar,” Cecere says.
- Natural sweeteners: “Last, in regards to added sugar, check ingredients and choose options with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit. Whole fruit (in comparison to fruit juice and fruit concentrate) is not considered an added sugar,” says Fine.
- Whole-food ingredients: Whether they’re used to flavor or sweeten, the best protein bars only use whole food or natural ingredients—no artificial ingredients allowed.
- Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and they also help to keep you satiated. We prioritized protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that use vegetable oils as fillers and binders.
- Low to no synthetic or isolated fiber: “Ingredients I watch out for and advise athletes avoid (especially around the times they’re training as they can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain) include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like maltilol, erythritol, and xylitol, and large amounts of synthetic fibers like soluble corn fiber or chicory root,” adds Asche.
- No sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols have risen in popularity recently because they are a low-calorie way manufacturers can sweeten protein bars; however, dietitians advise against consuming large quantities of this ingredient. “In some people, sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress,” says Cecere.
The following 15 low-sugar, best protein bars met our nutritional requirements and deserve a spot in your pantry. After discovering the best of the best, keep reading to uncover the protein bars that are Not That!s below.
The Best Healthy Protein Bars
1. Best Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
1 bar (52 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
If you want to feel like you’re eating a decadent salted brownie while meeting all your protein needs, you’ve met your match with an RXBAR. Dubbed a favorite by many of the experts we spoke to, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian, particularly likes the simplicity of ingredients: “RXBAR does a nice job of making bars out of recognizable ingredients. They are very straightforward on their packaging and tell you that each bar contains dates, nuts, egg whites, and flavors. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Sea Salt, and I find that the 12 grams of protein really keeps me full.”
$38.88 at Amazon Buy Now
2. Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 250 calories, 18 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 12 g protein
With creamy nut butter and crunchy peanuts, this healthy snack bar packs in a respectable amount of digestion-aiding fiber and muscle-maintaining protein.
$15.36 at Amazon Buy Now
3. Best for Muscle Gain: ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant-Based Protein
1 bar (56 g): 220 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (14 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein
Say “aloha” to a toned body when you include this bar in your diet. And don’t worry about the 24 grams of carbs: “Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Isabel Smith MS, RD, CDN and founder of New York-based Isabel Smith Nutrition.
$29.99 at Amazon Buy Now
4. Best Vegan: GoMacro Macrobar Protein Paradise, Cashew Caramel
1 bar (60 g): 260 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 11 g protein
Asche notes that “excellent option for athletes looking for a vegan protein bar.” You can thank the vegetarian dynamic duo of organic sprouted brown rice protein and organic pea protein for those 11 grams of protein. This bar is also loaded with healthy fats from cashews and flax seeds, which are a great plant-based source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. Plus, it’s really one of the tastiest protein bars out there.
$25.75 at Amazon Buy Now
5. Best for Weight Loss: Primal Kitchen Almond Spice
1 bar (38 g): 200 calories, 16 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein
If you want to lose weight, you’ll want to keep your blood sugar balanced to remove thos dreaded spikes in blood sugar that can leave you hungry. “This bar has 8 grams of protein and minimal sugar, which helps keep blood sugar balanced by preventing a blood sugar spike (and subsequent drop),” says King. “This flavor, specially, contains cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar levels, making it a great addition for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and those with PCOS experiencing blood sugar irregularities.”
$24.99 at Amazon Buy Now
6. Best Whole Ingredients: ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
1 bar (62 g): 260 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (10 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 10 g protein
Unlike their chewy, Play Doh-like bars, this thinkThin bar gets most of its protein from whey, almond, and sunflower. protein and is sweetened with real dark chocolate.
$16.49 at Amazon Buy Now
7. Best Meat Bar: Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
1 bar (28 g): 70 calories, 3.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 4 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein
Organic, grass-fed beef isn’t cheap for a reason. Testing shows that when cattle graze on their natural food instead of inflammatory corn, their protein consists of more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA): fats that have been utilized in weight-loss pills.
$35.88 at Amazon Buy Now
8. Best for Men: Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
1 bar (56 g): 250 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein
If you’re hungry for a delicious protein boost without sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or zero-calorie sweeteners, this bar will become your go-to. It’s the perfect blend of creamy nut butter and crunchy cashews.
$9.58 at Amazon Buy Now
9. Best for women: Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars
1 bar (36 g): 180 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein
“Pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, essential fatty acids, and minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium,” says King. And these nutrients are particularly important for women’s health. “Zinc plays a crucial role in hormone balance. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease period pain, it helps to balance excess androgen levels (like testosterone) that are often seen in PCOS, it helps to clear the skin, plays a vital role in thyroid hormone synthesis, and helps ease the stress response. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, in the production of hormones, supports the thyroid, and calms your nervous system to help ease the stress response.” Plus, as women are more prone to osteoporosis, adding magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds to your diet will help the formation and maintenance of healthy bones.
$14.99 at Amazon Buy Now
10. Best Paleo Protein Bar: EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
1 bar (43 g): 150 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 8 g protein
These Paleo, gluten-free bars are made from hormone-free pork and not much else. These high protein snacks are loaded with protein, so enjoy one after your workout to rebuild the muscles broken down during your gym sesh.
$25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
11. Best Keto-friendly: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar
1 bar (45 g): 220 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
With nine grams of net carbs, Bulletproof’s bar is a bit higher than your average keto protein bar, but it’s a worthwhile carb expenditure. Its protein comes from grass-fed collagen, a trendy protein derived from bovine or marine sources (in this case, it’s from grass-fed cows). It’s particularly beneficial because it “helps to boost collagen production in the body, which has benefits for hair, skin, nails, joints, and gut health,” says King. Plus, this bar is rich in MCT oil, which studies show can prevent long-term weight gain due to increased energy expenditure.
While this bar is great for those following the Bulletproof or cyclical keto lifestyle, King also likes to recommend it in general for a snack for those working on blood sugar balance.
$34.95 at Amazon Buy Now
RELATED: No-sugar-added recipes you’ll actually look forward to eating.
12. Best for Fiber: Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
1 bar (60 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (16 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
It might remind you of Fear Factor, but eating insects is the next big thing. And did we mention that they pack a nutritional wallop? In terms of high-protein snacks, crickets have about as much protein as chicken breast but with three times the calcium. And in this bar, they provide a big chunk of the protein in this bar.
$27.95 at Amazon Buy Now
13. Best Indulgence: Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
1 bar (45 g): 170 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Gluten-free and made with real chocolate, this Luna protein bar won’t just maintain your better body, but it will also help crush those dessert cravings in a healthy way.
$13.07 at Amazon Buy Now
14. Most Natural: Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
1 bar (60 g): 260 calories, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 15 g protein
Just four simple ingredients make up this bar that tastes addictively similar to lemon shortbread: organic cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein, and lemon extract. That’s it. Don’t you love simple high-protein snacks?
$25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
15. Best Whey: Naked Nutrition Peanut Butter
1 bar (52.5 g): 210 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 15 g protein
Do you hate reading through ingredient lists on the back of protein bars wondering when you’re going to run into a sketchy ingredient or something you know you should avoid? Us too. Which is why we’re giving extra points to Naked Nutrition’s Naked Bar. This protein bar is made of just five fully transparent ingredients (no “natural flavors” here). Fuel your active lifestyle with this grass-fed whey protein powered bar.
$ 29.99 at Naked Nutrition Buy Now
If you wonder which protein bars are not good for you, here are the 7 worst protein bars:
Even though these low-sugar protein bars meet the same low-sugar, high-protein requirements as our best protein bars, they don’t meet other important nutritional marks.
The following worst protein bars landed a spot on our list of bars to avoid for numerous reasons:
- They contain more than 10 grams of sugar alcohol, which can have laxative-like effects.
- The protein is from highly-processed sources rather than whole foods.
- The higher fat content is from inflammatory vegetable oils rather than healthy fats like nuts and seeds.
- They contain artificial flavors and/or sweeteners.
1. ThinkThin Chocolate Strawberry
1 bar (60 g): 240 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 22 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a deal with this sugar-free bar. To compensate for the lack of sugar, thinkThin loads this bar up with sugar alcohols—22 grams exactly. One of those is maltitol, a low-calorie, plant-based sweetener that a study in the International Journal of Dentistry found to be associated with stomach and abdominal pain as well as excessive internal gas and flatulence. Not something that makes us want to eat these high protein snacks.
2. Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Chewy Bars
1 bar (40 g): 190 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
It may look like your favorite of high protein snacks, GORP (good-old fashioned raisins and peanuts) in a bar, but what you’re really eating when you chomp down on this Nature Valley bar is more fillers than whole foods. It looks like roasted peanuts and coconut, but more of the protein and fat you see in the nutritionals is from soy protein isolate and palm oil than whole foods.
3. SimplyProtein Bars
SimplyProtein Crispy Lemon Bar
1 bar (40 g): 150 calories, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (7 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 15 g protein
SimplyProtein Baked Chocolate Chip Bar
1 bar (40 g): 210 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (13 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 11 g protein
These bars may be high protein snacks, but their ingredient lists read more like supply lists from a chemistry lab than foods from your pantry: soluble tapioca fiber, vegetable glycerin, and “natural” flavors. None of the ingredients are harmful to your health, but why miss out on the additional health benefits and micronutrients you get from whole foods for the same amount of protein?
4. ZONE Perfect Nutrition Bar Dark Chocolate Almond
1 bar (45 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Don’t be fooled by the name of this bar; the “dark chocolate” is less of what you’d picture in an 85 percent dark chocolate bar and more sugar, alkalized cocoa powder (which renders all antioxidants useless), milk powder and fractionated palm kernel oil (instead of healthy-fat-rich cocoa butter). Not ideal in terms of high-protein snacks.
5. QuestBar Protein Bar Cookies & Cream Flavor
1 bar (60 g): 200 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (15 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 2 g erythritol), 21 g protein
Don’t believe everything you read. QuestBar describes this bar as being made “with real cookie crumbles and delicious white chocolate cream,” but according to the ingredients, the only place that cream could be lurking is in “natural flavors.” Not to mention, the bar may be almost sugar-free, but it’s made with a laundry list of additives and chemicals, including artificial sweetener sucralose, and the only whole food is almonds.
6. Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Is 20 grams of protein worth having to eat fractionated palm kernel oil, artificial sweeteners, disodium phosphate, natural flavors, and laxative-like sugar alcohols? We think not and say no thanks to this protein bar.
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Is It Bad to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?
Photo: StockFood / Getty Images
I’m just going to say it: I’m addicted to protein bars. I have one every day.
Sure, in the scheme of things, there are far worse food obsessions. But over the past year, I’ve been working on cleaning up my diet by prioritizing whole, fresh foods, and I had one last thing holding me back. Yep, protein bars.
They’re just so easy to eat on the go, and they can often pack 20 grams of protein into one tasty package. After chatting with some other health-minded friends, I found out that I’m not alone in my love of protein bars. And I’m also not alone in having an inkling that they’re probably not the healthiest food choice to make on the reg. (BTW, people are cooking with protein bars and it’s amazing.)
So, how bad is it *really* to eat a protein bar every day?! I talked to nutrition pros to find out if protein bars are really healthy or not.
Like anything else, it depends on who you ask. Some dietitians are very pro-protein bars; others are anti, but here’s the general consensus: “I would classify protein bars as a supplement or a processed food,” says Jill Merkel, a registered dietitian who focuses on sports performance. “Therefore, I would recommend protein bars only after doing a thorough diet assessment and making sure the client or athlete is getting enough whole foods first.” (Related: I Gave Up Processed Foods for a Year and This Is What Happened)
That being said, Merkel still thinks protein bars can have a place in a well-rounded diet, especially since they’re so convenient. “I would prefer a client or athlete has a protein bar to consume post-workout or for a midday snack rather than have nothing.” If it’s unlikely that you’re going to tote a whole foods snack with you wherever you’re going, then go ahead: grab the protein bar.
And while most dietitians agree that whole foods are generally better, protein bars can still help people make healthier choices overall. “The best diet is one that an individual can stick with,” points out Gabrielle Fundaro, Ph.D., a nutrition consultant for Renaissance Periodization.
Yes, protein bars are processed, but that doesn’t automatically make them “bad.” “Absolutist or black-and-white approaches to dieting, where some foods are ‘bad’ or ‘dirty,’ actually lead to much lower rates of adherence to the diet,” says Fundaro. “If a person uses a daily protein bar as part of an overall nutritious diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, whole grains, and other lean protein sources, there’s no reason to remove it or force them to replace it.” (Woohoo!)
Of course, if the protein bar was adding extra calories and causing unintended weight gain, or causing stomach issues because of processed ingredients, then Fundaro says she’d probably recommend looking into an alternative snack or post-workout fuel option.
How to Choose a Healthy Protein Bar
So basically, it’s fine to eat protein bars on the reg, provided that you’re getting enough whole foods at your other meals. But that doesn’t mean every protein bar is created equal. Here’s what to look for if you’re going to eat one.
Calories: “First, look at the calories and serving size,” says Fundaro. “Some popular protein-style cookies, for example, contain two servings per package and about 500 calories total. This may approach one-third of the daily energy needs of a small, sedentary female.” In other words, you want to make sure that if you’re eating a protein bar as a snack, it actually has a “snack-size” number of calories.
Protein: If you’re eating protein bars to up your protein intake rather than just as a convenient snack, then this one is key. “Many nutrition bars on the market these days are actually energy bars rather than protein bars,” Merkel points out. In other words, they have plenty of calories, so will likely provide you with energy, but are not high-protein enough to be considered protein bars. “Depending on one’s overall calorie and protein needs, a good place to start is at least 10g of protein for a satisfying snack. For an athlete post-workout, I would recommend aiming for 15 to 30g of protein, depending on their body size.”
If you’re really focused on protein intake, “the ideal bar is going to provide at least 10g of protein for every 100 calories,” says Emmie Satrazemis, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at Trifecta.
Fat: “Be sure to check the fat content and see if more of the calories are coming from fat or protein,” advises Satrazemis. “A lot of bars are made with nuts, nut butter, and seeds, which rack up fat and calories quickly. These are healthy fats that can help fill you up a bit more, but if you are looking to a protein bar as a workout recovery snack, fat can slow the absorption of carbs and protein you need, and you’d want to opt for a lower-fat alternative.”
Of course, if you’re doing keto or a high-fat, low-carb diet, then a bar higher in fat will be a better choice for you.
Sugar/Carbs: “When it comes to sugar, the ‘net carbs’ labeling can be pretty confusing, and the sugar alcohols used in many low-carb bars can cause gas and bloat,” says Fundaro. “Sugar alcohols include xylitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and erythritol. While they come from plant sources, they aren’t readily digestible by humans. Look for a bar that has at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugars.”
Protein Bar Alternatives
If you’ve decided you want to swap your protein bars for whole foods (at least some of the time), there are tons of choices-many are even vegetarian.
“Protein bars are not the most nutrient-dense source of protein you can get,” says Satrazemis. “There are a lot of other options that can give you a great source of protein for fewer calories, and they typically contain other important nutrients as well.” For reference, the average high-protein bar is between 200 and 250 calories and has about 20g of protein.
Instead, Satrazemis suggests these options, which also have about 20g of protein each:
- 1 cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (100 calories)
- 5 hard-boiled egg whites (85 calories)
- 2 ounces grass-fed jerky (140 calories)
- 3 ounces grilled chicken and 2 tablespoons hummus (150 calories)
- 1 cup of edamame (200 calories)
Lastly, you always have the option of making your own protein bars. “In this case, vegan protein powders actually make the best protein addition; rice and pea protein bake very well,” says Fundaro. “You’ll find this to be the most cost-effective option, as well.” Here are nine protein bar recipes to try ASAP to get you started.
Nobody wants a workout that’s only somewhat effective. When you exercise, you’re looking to get the most out of it. If you’re going to put in the effort, you want to burn off that energy, get the best “runner’s high” or lose that stubborn weight.
But exercising is a bit like driving your car. For the best results, you need high-quality fuel. At the same time, you need to make sure you have enough fuel—you’ll hurt yourself if you’re running on empty all the time.
“Preparing for a run requires much more than a steady diet of protein bars,” said Kaitlin Gill, a clinical dietitian at Geisinger. “Protein bars can contain high levels of sugar and calories, which can lead to a less-effective workout. Eating healthy, well-portioned meals can make your run much more efficient and leave you feeling better afterward.”
Here are three simple, healthy ways to fuel your workout.
Stay hydrated all day
If nothing else, the most important aspect of preparation for any workout is to stay hydrated. Water is vital for exercising, and you lose water while sweating and going to the bathroom. If you use up too much of your fluids without replacing them, your body will start to suffer.
Dehydration can severely hurt your body. Dehydration can lead to loss of coordination, muscle fatigue and heat exhaustion. Additionally, it can put a strain on your kidneys and increase your risk of kidney stones.
Your urine is one sign you’re dehydrated. The color of normal, hydrated urine should be somewhere between clear and pale yellow. Darker, more concentrated urine means you’re dehydrated.
“Make sure to stay hydrated all day, every day, regardless of your activity level,” said Gill. “This means drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. On top of that, be sure to drink before, during and after exercising. Watch how much you drink while exercising, though. Too much water can cause stomach discomfort.”
If exercising for more than an hour, consider including a sports beverage to replenish electrolytes and provide needed carbohydrates.
Eat complex carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the best fuel for working muscles. In fact, carbohydrates account for 50 to 60 percent of energy used during a moderate to difficult endurance exercise.
However, once those carbs have been used up, the body will shift to fat and muscle stores for energy and start breaking down your muscles for fuel, which is counterproductive for your workout.
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how much certain foods affect your blood sugar. Simple carbs like sugar, honey and white breads spike your blood sugar, so they are high on the GI. These carbs give you a quick boost but can also make you crash. Complex carbs like soy, black beans and whole grain bread have a gradual effect on your blood sugar—they are low on the GI. They give you the sustained energy you need for exercising.
“Complex carbs take longer to digest, so you shouldn’t eat a huge bowl of whole wheat pasta immediately before a big run,” said Gill. “The night before a workout, eat complex carbs like whole wheat pasta. During the day, eat smaller portions of carbs like a bowl of oatmeal or sweet potatoes. Stop eating complex carbs two to three hours before your workout. Thirty minutes before working out, eat a small, simple carbohydrate like a banana or an apple.”
Go easy on the protein
When it comes to lifting weights, no word creates as much buzz as “protein.” There’s always someone at the gym with a protein bar or protein shake nearby. Supplements try to pack in as much protein as possible, and protein powders are sold in huge jugs. People associate protein with a good workout.
Inside your body, protein is used to build and repair tissue and support the immune system. Because of this, protein is a last-resort energy source. Extra protein is stored as fat and requires more effort to digest, which can pull oxygen away from your muscles during exercise.
Protein does help rebuild your muscles after exercising, however. After your workout, have a serving of lean protein and carbohydrate like chicken or turkey on a whole grain wrap —this will help build your muscles for your next workout and replenish used carbohydrate stores.
Talk to your doctor, dietitian or personal trainer about a diet that’s best for you. They can make recommendations that take your medical considerations into account.
Kaitlin Gill is a clinical dietitian at Geisinger. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401.
Promax Nutrition makes protein bars for the people—all the people. The thing about people is that they’re unique. Everyone has unique needs, and everyone needs their own protein bar.
Whether you’re looking to ditch the gluten, the sugar, or the carbs, there’s sure to be a Promax protein bar out there for you. Need help choosing the perfect one? Keep reading to learn more about our most popular energy-boosting snacks.
You need energy. Your body needs nutrition. Nutritional bars give you the best of both worlds. Whether you want a snack in a hurry or a meal on the go, these bars will feed your body and put your mind at ease.
Nutrition protein bars give your body the nourishment it needs to stay strong and active. Full of high-quality protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they’re perfect for people who need all the nutrition of a meal, without the time it takes to prepare one.
Want a bar that delivers on its promise? Grab one of these great-tasting bars as a snack, or even in lieu of a meal. They’re perfect when you need a quick pick-me-up without sacrificing nutrition.
Gluten-Free Protein Bars
It’s not easy to find nutrient-dense, protein-filled foods. It’s even harder if you’re on a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, Promax Nutrition makes great-tasting bars for everyone, including those who need to avoid gluten.
Whether you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance, or simply a gluten aversion, these gluten free protein bars are safe (and delicious) to eat. Next time you need a nutritious snack or a meal on the go, grab a gluten-free protein bar and leave the worry behind.
Low Carb Protein Bars
Want your protein without all the carbs? Low carb protein bars are perfect for people are trying to lose weight, people who want to increase their lean muscle mass, or people who simply want to cut down on their carbohydrate intake.
Low carb energy bars help you stay satisfied throughout the day by keeping your blood sugar steady. They also leave you feeling full for longer. Why is that important? When you’re full, you tend to eat less and, when you eat less, you tend to keep off the pounds.
What if you want to put on the pounds? Low carb bars are also great for athletes who want to keep the fat off while putting muscle mass on. They may not give you the same instant energy boost, but, by increasing the protein-to-carb ratio, they will help build and repair muscles.
Vegetarian Protein Bars
Vegetarians are in constant need of high-quality protein sources. Without a diet heavy in animal meats, they need to find their protein elsewhere. Vegetarian protein bars are the perfect solution.
You get all the protein you need, without the health risks or the ethical concerns that accompany meat. Not only that, but plant-based protein tends to be richer in fiber and nutrients than animal-based protein. That’s a win-win for vegetarians.
Sports Nutrition Bars
We all want more energy, but athletes depend on it to get through the day or the race. Without a burst of energy, their performance will suffer. They’ll find themselves slipping behind, dropping out, and overexerting themselves.
Perhaps that’s why workout bars are staples of the athlete’s diet. They give competitors an advantage by fueling their exercise routine. They’re also portable and pre-prepared. That’s essential for anyone who needs to raise their energy levels while they’re on the move.
Finally, your average workout protein bar contains high-quality protein, which helps build new muscles and repair damaged ones. For high-powered athletes, that could mean the difference between a victory and a defeat, between a long career and a short one.
No matter what type energy you need, Promax Nutrition has a protein bar for you. Browse through our catalog of delicious, nutritious bars to find the perfect on-the-go snack.
How To Choose The Healthiest Protein Bars
Healthy Meal Replacement Bars in a Grab-n-Go World
Our culture thrives on convenience. We’re all searching for the best ways to manage our schedules effectively so we can spend our time doing things we actually enjoy. If you’re anything like me, grocery shopping and food prep is one of the first tasks to go when my calendar fills up. We sacrifice our wellbeing by not resting properly and choosing foods that are detrimental to our health. We grab whatever is available, typically something wrapped in plastic, full of sugar and completely devoid of any real nutrients. It doesn’t have to be this way! There are plenty of options that can provide the rich nutrients our bodies need. Where do we start? We begin by looking at nutrition panels and becoming aware of what our bodies need to feel our best. Sometimes navigating nutrition panels can be confusing, so let us show you exactly what to look for when choosing from the many different types of protein bars for a meal replacement or a quick snack.
What are the three macronutrients?
The term “macronutrient” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. It’s a general term distinguishing types of essential nutrients in all foods that make up the largest portion of our diets. There are three types of macronutrients that work in conjunction with one another to provide the energy our bodies need. Carbohydrates (sugar), protein, and lipids (fats). You’ll find these in varying amounts in every protein bar on the market. The key is finding a bar that balances these three nutrients well. to learn more about macronutrients and their role in maintaining a balanced diet!
Choose High Protein, Low Carb Protein Bars
Carbohydrates are readily available energy sources for your body. There are, however, different types of carbohydrates: complex and simple carbs. Simple, refined carbohydrates are found in soda, fruit juices, and boxed sweets and have been stripped of the majority of their nutrients. In other words, you’re basically eating pure sugar. In order to preserve our health, we need to look for complex carbs that contain high fiber content and digest more slowly. You’ll often find “healthy” protein bars that are actually loaded with simple carbs and added sugar. Let me be clear, excess carbohydrates and sugars are not your friends. Most adults and children in the United States eat far too many foods that are loaded with added sugars. JAMA research has shown the effects of eating excess sugar can be damaging to your health and increase your risk of disease. Look for protein bars that maintain a respectable carbohydrate content without skimping on the insoluble fiber that will help keep you full and feed the bacteria in your gut. It’s also wise to look at the ingredients list as well to see what, if any, added sugars, sugar substitutes or sugar alcohols are present.
Different Types of Dietary Fats
It’s important to not only have an awareness of your daily fat intake but to also differentiate between the different types of fat. Fats are often viewed negatively, but there are some types of fat that are extremely beneficial for your health. We’re going to get into a little chemistry here, so hold on. Here’s the breakdown…
There are two main types of fat: saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats are common in the American diet. According to Harvard health, “saturated” refers to the number of hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. The chain of carbon atoms holds as many hydrogen atoms as possible – it’s saturated with hydrogens. Sources include animal fat products like red meat, cream, butter and cheese and also plant products like coconut oil. Research has shown varied results on the adverse effects of this type of fat, but it’s a good idea to eat them in moderation.
Unsaturated fats have fewer hydrogen atoms bonded to the carbon chains and include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are dietary fats commonly found in foods like nuts, olive oil, and avocados. Consuming foods rich in these fats has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels.
Polyunsaturated fats are considered essential fats. They’re fats that your body can’t produce and must be obtained through food and/or supplementation. There are two main types: omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Even though some omega-6 is necessary for our bodies to function properly, it’s very important to balance your intake of these fats. As a society, we eat far too many foods high in omega-6 (think almost every processed food in existence, bread, vegetable oil), which in excess can lead to heightened inflammation and may increase your chances of developing chronic diseases. It’s better to eat foods like salmon, mackerel, flaxseeds and chia seeds to increase your omega-3 intake. Omega-3’s have some pretty incredible benefits ranging from decreasing the risk of heart disease, fighting inflammation, improving joint health and improving brain health.
Protein Sources of Protein Bars
Not all proteins are created equal. You’ll find whey (derived from milk), pea, or egg white protein in most bars. If you are concerned about absorption or bioavailability of your protein, whey protein is going to be your best option. If you have an allergy or your stomach has difficulty processing the whey, plant proteins and egg white proteins are a respectable source. With that being said, grass-fed whey is king. Grass-fed cows are obviously allowed to graze and eat naturally grown grass instead of soy and corn products. This makes for a healthier and happier cow and a cleaner whey product. Grass-fed products contain higher quantities of healthy fats (including omega-3), vitamins and minerals and evidence suggests it is less likely to contain harmful bacteria. Sourcing ingredients are important, so whenever possible choose organic grass-fed whey products.
Quality of Ingredients
Balanced macronutrients mean nothing if the ingredients providing the nutrition are tainted themselves. It’s typical to see companies touting the purity of their ingredients by saying organic this and non-GMO that, but what does this actually mean for your health? Does slapping this statement on a protein bar automatically make it better for you?
In its simplest definition, organic ingredients are products that are grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The benefits of consuming ingredients that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and pesticides are self-explanatory, but it’s often not on the radar for those of us who are on a budget. Buy organic when you can, it’s always the better choice.
Hand in hand with organic ingredients are non-GMO ingredients. The Non-GMO Project defines a GMO as “living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.” Practical uses of GMOs include increasing the shelf life of your food and making crops resistant to herbicides, but we’re still unaware of the long-term effects on humans. It’s important to search for products that are labeled non-GMO.
Whole food ingredients are another important factor when choosing a protein or meal replacement bar. There are many bars on the market that will tout incredible macronutrients, but when you look more closely at the ingredients you can barely even pronounce half of them. Look for bars that contain whole food ingredients like nuts or nut butter, honey or natural sugars, coconut oil or other healthy fat sources, and natural fibers like tapioca fiber.
Healthiest Protein Bars Revealed
Now that we’ve covered all the do’s and don’ts and you’re probably wondering if any product could ever meet these standards. Well, you’re in luck. There are many affordable options that meet these requirements and you can find them right here at Nutrition World. Here are a few of my favorite options that I believe to be amongst the healthiest protein bars on the market.
ZUNTA – Grass-fed whey
The ZUNTA bar is a balanced macronutrient bar that boasts mostly organic and 100% non-GMO ingredients. These contain grass-fed whey and are currently available in two flavors: cocoa and vanilla. Not only are they a nicely balanced and nutrient dense, but they contain ingredients that serve a purpose. You’ll find almond butter, pink Himalayan salt, tapioca fiber, cocoa nibs, and chia seeds. In other words, whole foods products you can pronounce. to shop for ZUNTA bars!
Bhu Foods – Vegan, Paleo and Keto Protein Bars
Bhu is a great company offering mostly vegan protein bars, although they do have three varieties of grass-fed whey protein bars. A bit on the smaller side, they pack a ton of whole food ingredients in each and every bar and make an excellent healthy snack. These are a low carb/sugar option and they do offer a few keto bars as well. Everything they produce is fully non-GMO and mostly organic. Be sure to try the keto chocolate chip cookie dough bar! to shop for Bhu bars!
And here’s our list of the best vegan protein bars on the market.
Bulletproof – Collagen Protein Bars
The same company that brought us the famed “Bulletproof Coffee” also has some great protein bars. Slightly different from the rest of the lineup, Bulletproof bars feature grass-fed collagen protein. The most abundant protein located in the body, collagen is found in connective tissue structures like our skin, hair, and joints. Besides the grass-fed collagen, Bulletproof bars contain organic cashews, chicory root fiber, and Brain Octane, a proprietary MCT oil to get you those healthy fats. Sweetened with stevia, these are a tasty treat that anyone can enjoy. to shop for Bulletproof bars!
Want to find out more about the Zunta Bar and why we formulated them?
The 5 Best Healthy Protein Bars to Buy
With so many options out on the market, it’s overwhelming trying to find a healthy protein bar that actually tastes good and isn’t candy. We sampled more than 100 bars to find our favorites to share with you and came up with some helpful tips on how to find the healthiest protein bar at the store.
The Brands We Love
Of all the protein bars we tried, here are our favorites:
Epic Performance Bar Peanut Butter
Dates, nuts and egg whites combine for satisfying chew.
Protein per bar: 12 grams
Related: RXBar Just Launched a Line of High-Protein Oatmeal Cups and They Sound Amazing
Lärabar Protein Lemon Blueberry Muffin
Lärabar’s new bars have double the protein of the original and mimic flavors of favorite treats, like muffins.
Protein per bar: 11 grams
RXBar Peanut Butter & Berries
Sweetened with dates (hello, fiber), this bar has no added sugar and tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Protein per bar: 12 grams
PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Peanut Butter
This classic flavor combo tastes like candy, without the sugar crash.
Protein per bar: 20 grams
Clif Whey Protein Bar Coconut Almond Chocolate
One of Clif’s lowest-sugar options still has all the chocolaty, nutty goodness we love.
Protein per bar: 14 grams
See More: Packaged Foods You Can Feel Good About Eating
How to Pick the Healthiest Protein Bars
Follow these guidelines when shopping for protein bars to find the healthiest option.
Check the protein
Aim for at least 10 grams of protein (that’s more than an egg!) to satisfy hunger longer and, post-workout, help muscles rebuild and recover.
There’s a wide range among bars—from 100 to 400 calories or more. For snacking, stick with bars that have 200 or less, but if you’re replacing a meal, going up to 350 calories makes sense.
Scan the Sugars
With flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough and salted caramel, many protein bars straddle dessert territory. Most only list total sugar, so check the ingredient list for added sweeteners like sugar and honey (ones like dates are fine). If you see them, opt for a bar with less than 18 grams. If there are no added sweeteners in there, then you don’t need to sweat it.
Read more: How to Identify Natural Sugar and Added Sugar on Nutrition Labels
Nutrition Quick Guide:
200 or less for a snack;
350 or less for a mini meal
Total sugar: 18g or less
Protein: > 10g
Fiber: > 3g
See More: Healthy Snacks to Stash In Your Desk
October 2019 EatingWell
Here’s the first thing you need to know when you go browsing the health bar aisle looking for options that are actually good for you:
Not all protein bars are created equal.
And — if we’re being blunt — most bars that are labeled as being “healthy” have more in common with a candy bar than a handful of kale or a protein shake.
This is the health industry, where it’s much easier to slap buzzwords on a label than, you know, actually provide you with what you need.
But rather than let you be frustrated by marketing tactics (they exist in every business and with every product), we want to make your life easier. Because there are many good protein bars on the market.
We’re here to make it easy for you to identify the real deal from the real duds.
That doesn’t mean you have to earn a Ph.D. in nutrition. Just follow these five rules and no matter what bar you select, you can feel good that you aren’t wasting your time (and calories) on a crappy candy bar.
5 Rules for Identifying Good Protein Bars
Rule #1: Sugar is NOT the first ingredient of a good protein bar
This rules seems obvious, but here’s why it’s so important:
1. Most people don’t look at the actual ingredients. They just scan things like “calories” or “protein.”
2. Most people don’t know the order of ingredients reflects the quantity in a product. If sugar is first, that means there’s more sugar than any other ingredient.
3. Sugar has lots of different names so it’s easily to be fooled. So if the first ingredient is dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or turbinado, well, that means “sugar.”
And don’t think that just because a bar looks like it’s made up of whole foods that it’s lighter on the sweet stuff.
“Even if you see these nuts and raisins through the label, the bar a sugar coating,” says Valerie Goldstein, a registered dietitian and owner of Eating to Fuel Health. “It just looks like a glob of nuts, so it looks very innocent. But even these ‘whole food’-looking bars have to be held together by something. Usually that’s sugar syrup.”
If you want to make sure the bar really is healthy, the bar’s primary ingredients should be a protein source, a fruit or vegetable, or healthy fat source like nuts.
Protein, fat, and carbs consumed with fiber (which you’ll get from fruits or grains) all take longer to digest than simple sugars, so they’ll keep you feeling fuller, longer. That means you don’t need sugar to be energized; you just need a good source of fuel.
The benefits of having good “primary” ingredients (the proteins, fruit/vegetable, or healthy fat source) are part of what distinguishes a good protein bar from a snack bar. Those nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on your weight and waist line too.
For every 10 grams of fiber you eat, you’ll have as much as 4 percent less fat around your belly. Monounsaturated fats, like those found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish, have been shown to help people lose belly fat, according to a 2013 study. And a research review published in Nutrition in 2015 found that Americans who eat a high-protein diet have lower BMI and waist circumferences.
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Rule #2: Good protein bars have 10 grams of protein — or more.
This rule comes with what should be an obvious “if.”
If you’re using the bar as a protein supplement or meal replacement, you want at least 10 grams—or, ideally, even more,
“The biggest thing I tell people is, ‘Know how you plan to use the bar,’” says Anthony D’Orazio, director of nutrition and physique at Complete Human Performance, LLC. “If I’m looking to replace protein specifically, I’m looking for around 20 grams of protein,”
That means the bar’s first ingredient will likely be a protein source. Whey isolate, casein, pea, or egg protein are all high-quality choices.
Soy crisps will appear on a lot of protein labels and “count” as protein, but they aren’t the highest quality source. So if “soy crisp” is the first ingredient, even though a bar might have a high amount of protein, it’s probably not the best choice.
If you’re not using the bar as a protein supplement, you can get away with having the lower protein total. In fact, D’Orazio sometimes supplements his breakfast with a lower-protein bar that’s higher in fat and carbs. Why?
“I’m using it as a quick source of healthy fat,” D’Orazio says. “The main ingredients are peanut butter, rolled oats—ingredients people would recognize.”
Rule #3: Aim for less than 15 grams of sugar
Remember how we said many protein bars are really just candy bars disguised as something good for you?
Well, here’s the proof.
Did you know that Gatorade’s Whey Protein Bar has 29 grams of sugar? And CLIF Builder Bars have 1 more gram of sugar 21g) than they do protein (20g)? Compare that to the Met-RX Big 100 Colossal bar. Lots of protein (30g). But loads of calories overall (400), and 32g of sugar.
What in the what?
Before you freak out about sugar, know that it’s not the terrible villain it’s made to be. And there are many great bars out there (RX Bar comes to mind) with more than 10 grams. The catch? If the bar contains more than 10 grams of sugar, most of that should come from fruit or other natural sugar sources like lactose.
Why are natural sugars better?
Lactose from milk products and fructose from fruits, like all sugars, contain 4 calories per gram. But unlike refined sugars, these natural sugars come paired with the other nutrients you get from fruit or dairy—things like Vitamin C, potassium, calcium, Vitamin D, and other things that help your body function.
Good protein bars are oftentimes defined by their nutrients. It’s what helps separate a healthy bar from a candy bar. And refined, added sugars don’t deliver the added nutrients.
Added sugars also can hurt you in the long run. People who consume more than 21 percent of their daily calories from added sugars have double the risk of death from heart disease compared to people who consume just 10 percent of their calories from added sugars, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine.
Rule #4: Watch out for sugar alcohols
No, the bars don’t have booze in them. Sugar alcohols are a category of artificial sweeteners.
They have names like xylitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and glycerol. You’ll find them in all kinds of things labeled “sugar-free.” And for some people, they can lead to a pretty unhappy stomach, depending on how you react to them.
“That’s real person-specific. I personally don’t have an issue with them, but they can give other people digestive issues,” D’Orazio says.
Just as with the whey concentrate, he says, you have to pay attention to how the ingredient affects you. If the bar produces something less like a feeling of fullness and more like a feeling like you have to run to the bathroom, then you’re going to want to steer clear of it.
Rule #5: Look for protein bars with fewer than 400 calories.
Good protein bars are supposed to be supplements—something you use to shore up a weak spot in your diet, just like protein powder or a multivitamin. They’re meant to supply nutrients, protein, or calories you might not otherwise get from your diet, or if you find yourself busy and missing meals.
When a bar weighs in at 400 calories or more, that’s more calories than you’d get from eating a Whopper, Jr. or half of a Chipotle bowl. And a bar isn’t necessarily “healthier” than those options.
For example, some popular bars have 200 calories only deliver 6 grams of protein, but a hard-boiled egg will give you 7 grams! And it’s less than 80 calories. So if you can eat whole food, eat whole food. But of course that might not always be possible.
“Maybe it’s difficult to pack a meal because you’re on a job site and don’t have access to a refrigerator,” D’Orazio says. In those cases, bars do offer you some advantages. “They’re portion-controlled and pre-measured. They supply the sort of nutrition you might not get at a drive-thru window.” (But even then, the 400-calorie “rule” is still a good guideline to follow.)
“It’s hard to overeat if you only bring what’s necessary. If you plan to eat two bars—and you bring two bars—you can use them as a tool to help control yourself. You control your intake with a mobile package of food.”
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This Is Exactly How Unhealthy Your Favorite Protein Bars Are
You might believe if it says “protein bar” it’s a healthy snack—I mean, the word “protein” is right there in the name, and protein is important to a healthy diet, right? So when you’re looking for something not terrible in the aisles of a convenience store (hey, it happens), you might be tempted to grab one.
But you may want to take a beat. A recent report from Food Navigator highlights just how bad some of the nation’s leading protein bars can be.
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The site shared a sweeping list of popular protein bars compiled by the Protectivity insurance company, which shows how much saturated fat, calories, sugar, (and, yes, protein) there are in more than 50 different bars on the market. (Here’s a spreadsheet of the data they compiled.)
It turns out that more than a third of the products contain more saturated fat than a glazed donut from Krispy Kreme. Ten of the bars surpassed the popular junk food’s sugar levels, too.
New Year. New Food. Healthy eating starts here, with the Cooking Light Diet.
Actually, many of the protein bars on this list contain more saturated fat and sugar than some of the most notoriously unhealthy snacks on the market. Just to drive the point home, we’ve taken a look at five of the most unhealthy bars you could possibly pick up—and found their equivalent junk foods.
1) Nutramino Coconut Protein Bar = A McDonald’s Big Mac
Image zoom Photo courtesy of Nutramino, McDonalds
This bar has a whopping 9.9g of saturated fat—or half the recommended value in one little bar. You could plow through a McDonald’s Big Mac for the same amount of saturated fat—and nearly as much unsaturated fat.
2) Quest Protein Cookie = 12 Chips Ahoy Cookies
Image zoom Photo Courtesy of Quest, Nabisco
Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: when is a cookie ever really healthy? But if there’s one cookie that’s really unhealthy, it’s this one—each of these products has 10g of saturated fat. That’s about the same amount you would consume if you ate 25 Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.
3) OhYeah! Chocolate and Caramel Protein Bar = Two Whole Avocados
Image zoom Photo Courtesy of OhYeah!, Food & Wine
This popular option is a sneaky offender if you aren’t reading the nutrition label. You’ll encounter 7g of saturated fat and nearly 9g of sugar in a single bar. You could eat two whole avocados or about 30 M&Ms for the same effect.
4) Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Bar = A Slice of Pizza
Image zoom Photo courtesy of Nature Valley, TIME
The packaging on this seemingly harmless option touts 10g of protein and a gluten-free makeup; but don’t be fooled: These bars pack 5g of saturated fat in each bar, and upwards of 7g of sugar. You’d get about the same amount of saturated fat eating a slice of pepperoni pan pizza from Pizza Hut.
5) PowerBar Chocolate Brownie Protein Plus Bar = Six Oreo Cookies
Image zoom Photo courtesy of PowerBar, Wikimedia
There’s a common thread with many popular protein bars—a lot of sugar. But we simply cannot comprehend how this one bar packs an astonishing 27g of sugar in just a few bites. You could have about six Oreos instead, which is two snack packs.
6) The One You Should Try
Image zoom Photo: Amazon
If you’re really looking for a redeeming protein bar that can help you power up after a hard workout, there’s the RXBar. The blueberry variety is just 210 calories, has 1g of saturated fat, and no added sugars. They’re a wholesome choice that you don’t need to worry about ruining the rest of your daily intake.
You would never chase a workout with a Snickers—not if you’re smart, at least.
But if you scan the ingredients of the chocolate–peanut butter protein bar stuck to the inside of your gym bag, you’ll be shocked to discover what it really is: a glorified candy bar, complete with all the sugar, preservatives, artificial colors, random chemicals, and other half-baked ingredients that you go to great lengths to avoid everywhere else. Screw that.
Making protein bars at home is easy (many recipes don’t even require an oven), and with the following guide from Camilla Saulsbury, author of Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook, it’s a foolproof way to take your body and health back into your own hands.
Do-it-yourself protein bars afford you the chance to incorporate more whole grains into your diet and work around allergies and eating philosophies (e.g., Paleo, vegan, gluten-free). As a base for your bar, opt for one of these:
Rolled oats: High in both soluble and insoluble fibers, oats promote satiety. Also, beta-glucan—a type of soluble fiber—can contribute to lowering cholesterol.
Quinoa: Because it contains all the essential amino acids, quinoa is the only grain that’s also a complete protein.
Amaranth: Like quinoa, amaranth delivers protein along with a host of bone-building and muscle-feeding minerals, including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Wheat germ: Another solid protein source, as far as grains are concerned, wheat germ is also packed with vitamin E, a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
Millet: A crunchy addition to any bar recipe, toasted millet can take the place of nuts while also delivering heart-protecting magnesium and cell-repairing phosphorus.
“The quickest and easiest way to add protein to homemade bars is by using either whey protein powder or vegan protein powder,” says Saulsbury. You can also add protein, along with healthy fats and hunger-fighting fiber, buy adding nuts (walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios), seeds (flaxseeds, pepitas, chia seeds, hemp hearts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds); or natural, unsweetened nut or seed butter.
Aim for bold flavors that won’t cost you too many extra calories. For a nutty, chocolate flavor, stir in cacao nibs, crumbled pieces of 100% cocoa beans that are rich in antioxidants and contain no added sugar. For an intense coffee flavor, use a small amount of instant espresso powder. Citrus zest will add a fresh, fruity flavor, while spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and pumpkin pie spice) can make a bar taste more like a baked treat.
Here are three of our favorite recipes for make-at-home protein snack bars.
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While nutrition bars can be part of a busy, healthy lifestyle, there are a few good reasons they’re not stocked next to the kale and blueberries at your grocery store.
Many are made with cheap, low-quality ingredients and are hiding tons of sugar and additives that can cause digestive distress and prevent absorption of important nutrients says Ariane Hundt, MS, a clinical nutrition coach and fitness expert.
To help you avoid those and grab the healthiest one the next time you really need portable protein, we asked Hundt to help us evaluate close to 40 of the most popular bars on the market, based on ingredient lists, nutrient balance, sugar content, and more.
Read on for the five best and worst nutrition bars currently available, plus a bonus selection of “snack” bars that have less protein but are great for a quick pick-me-up bite when you need it.
Keep reading to see what the best and worst nutrition bars are, according to a nutritionist.
Photo: Health Warrior
1. Health Warrior Superfood Protein Dark Chocolate and Coconut Sea Salt Bar
Superfood chia seeds are the protein powerhouse ingredient in this bar, and many of its other clean, whole-food, plant-based ingredients are organic. It has 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber to balance out the sugar, plus an omega 3 boost you’ll get from the chia. “This is great for people who want something that’s crunchy and slightly sweet for a snack,” Hundt says (and for vegans!). “It’s delicious and well-balanced in terms of the ingredients.”
2. Quest Coconut Cashew
“The great thing about this one is just the high fiber and protein content,” Hundt says, referring to 17 grams and 20 grams, respectively, packed into just 170 calories. Quality ingredients like almonds, coconut, sea salt, and whey protein isolate also satisfy other nutrition requirements, although they’re not organic. One note: Hundt says to steer clear of Quest’s bars that contain sucralose, like the popular Cookies & Cream.
3. Oatmega Chocolate Coconut Crisp
Hundt discovered this Austin-based brand recently and fell hard for the tasty, low-sugar, gluten-free bars made with mostly organic ingredients and whey protein from grass-fed cows. This chocolatey one has 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and added fish oil (that you don’t taste!) for the essential fatty acids.
Photo: Bonk Breaker
4. Bonk Breaker Peanut Butter & Jelly Protein
“One of the things that athletes eat during long endurance events is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and this bar tastes almost like the real deal,” Hundt says, of this bar she recommends for right after a really tough workout (or during a super long bike ride), because of its higher sugar content. It comes with natural ingredients and 15 grams of protein and tastes “fantastic.”
5. Epic Bison Bacon Cranberry
Perfect for a Paleo eater (who loves jerky), Epic’s bars have only a few ingredients and are literally meaty. This one comes with 11g of protein from nutrient-dense, lean, organic, grass-fed bison meat and uncured bacon, and the only sugar is from dried cranberries. “It’s very clean, and sodium can be helpful after a workout to refuel lost electrolytes,” Hundt says. (Just be warned: if you’re not into chewy hunks of meat, it’s not for you.)
Five Worst Nutrition Bars
1. Luna Bar Lemon Zest
This “bar for women” has more sugar than both protein and fiber and is filled with processed soy in many forms. While some of those are organic, the very first ingredient listed (which means it makes up the highest percentage of the bar) is ultra-processed “soy rice crisps” made with non-organic soy protein isolate, AKA likely GMO soy drenched in pesticides. It also contains “natural flavor” which can disguise many unhealthy additives you don’t want. “They’re just using really cheap ingredients,” Hundt says.
2. ZonePerfect Chocolate Peanut Butter
When corn syrup is listed twice on an ingredient list (in addition to sugar), take that as a warning sign. This is another bar where Hundt says you can tell the company is using super cheap ingredients, and non-organic, processed soy is the very first one. “And then they add so many vitamins that you don’t need or want,” she says.
Photo: Think Thin
3. ThinkThin High Protein Bar Chunky Peanut Butter
Twenty grams of protein is a great number, but not when that protein is from cheap, processed sources and paired with canola oil and “natural” flavors. Also, “caseinate” ingredients (calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate), can actually suppress mineral absorption, Hundt says, and while the 0g of sugar may intrigue you, the sugar alcohols used to sweeten this bar may do a number on your gut. “All that sugar alcohol, if you eat a lot of it, it will upset your digestion, make you gassy, and give you diarrhea,” she says. Think “no, thanks.”
4. PowerBar ProteinPlus Chocolate Brownie
Hundt calls this bar “syrup, syrup, syrup” for its whopping 27 grams of sugar from a variety of sweeteners like cane invert syrup, fructose syrup, and malitol syrup. It’s also got lots of processed, non-organic soy, a combination that’s not likely to power you through any workout (or towards long-term health). “That’s going to cause you some digestive issues, for sure,” Hundt says. “I can’t see it sitting in your stomach well.”
Photo: Balance Bar
5. Balance Bar Cookie Dough
“I don’t think you need to add vitamins unless you’re trying to cover up the low-quality ingredients,” Hundt says of this bar, which she says is another example of a syrupy, fructose-laden, processed-GMO-soy bar, but boasts its “23 vitamins and minerals” to entice you. What your body will definitely absorb: tons of unhealthy oils and sugar.
Bonus Good-For-You Snack Bars
These three runner-up picks are less substantial, so they won’t necessarily fill you up or function as post-workout fuel, but they’re great for a quick afternoon snack.
1. GoRaw Live Pumpkin Sprouted Bar
An option for raw foodies that Hundt likes because it has “only a few ingredients and is organic.”
Photo: Kind Snacks
2. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
“It’s a well-balanced snack bar, good ingredients, and low on the sugar,” she says. And major bonus: these are super easy to find, from Starbucks to local delis.
Photo: This Bar Saves Lives
3. This Bar Saves Lives Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey
“It’s not going to be very filling, but the ingredients look pretty good,” Hundt says. “It’s a balanced bar for weight maintenance.” Not to mention its give-back mission, which is good for your heart.
Originally published July 16, 2012, updated July 1, 2019.
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