Protein bars are a mega convenient way to get a protein boost. But because not all store-bought brands are healthy, this post will share the top 7 best protein bars, and how I approved them as options!
I love a good protein bar and often make my own. But sometimes I shop for them too, and stock my pantry with them so I have some on hand. When I do buy packaged foods, I’m pretty particular about what ingredients make up the product. As you should be, too, since you are on track for eating healthy and living well.
What are some of the things I look for when shopping the aisles? Protein content, of course, lots of fiber, whole food ingredients, and low sodium. Yummy additions like nuts and pumpkin seeds are bonuses as well. What to avoid? Well, too much added sugar (you want to keep blood sugar levels healthy) and sketchy ingredients to start. But we’ll get more into that below!
With flavors like peanut butter chocolate, blueberry, lemon, and maple sea salt lining the grocery store shelves, choosing the best bar can be tricky. Which one has the most protein? Is it a bar athletes might eat after a workout? Is a plant-based protein bar the best? How about dairy-free?
There are so many questions to be answered!
Let’s delve into the world of protein bars and I’ll let you know which 7 bars I think are best.
The Benefits of Protein
Protein does so much good for you. When it comes to muscle building, protein is a key component. Protein is crucial to our health and if you don’t get enough, your body will let you know!
- Protein is one of the 3 macronutrients needed for health (carbs, fat, and protein – learn more about macros here, even how to calculate them!)
- It helps muscle recovery
- Protein sates the appetite
- It is good for the bones
Because protein is so important, Dustin and I created cleanish Plant-Based Protein Powder. It’s another excellent way to get the benefits of protein. With no artificial sweeteners, this protein powder does have chia seeds, milled flaxseed and pea protein. It’s extra healthy!
If you want to know the exact amount of protein you should have, take your weight and multiply it by 0.36 to get your protein RDA. Eating lots of protein is good for you, so if you go over the RDA now and then, don’t worry—you’ll give yourself an extra boost.
Homemade Versus Store-Bought Protein Bars
I cover this in much more detail in my post “Are Protein Bars Good For You?”. I will say briefly that homemade is ALWAYS better than packaged, as long as you are not making bars that are full of sugar like a candy bar. Read my post on homemade granola bars, too, and try these also. Your stomach will thank you!
- Easy Paleo 7 Layer Bars
- No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls
- Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Bites
- Flaxseed Apricot Bars
- Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites
Which Protein Bars Are The Healthiest?
The healthiest protein bars are ones with a good protein count and a low sugar content. To go into a bit more detail, watch out for these on the label.
Protein source: This is pretty important because you want a healthy amount of protein in your bar, right? I always try to go for a bar that has 8 grams of protein or more to get the nutrition and the satiety factor. A few examples of great sources to look for are:
- Seeds, like hemp seeds
- Nuts, like almond nuts
- Antibiotic-free beef (BTW, if you like beef jerky, I’ve got an informative post on that)
- Egg whites
Avoid bars with soy protein isolate. It’s highly processed from the soybean and may cause headaches and digestive issues in some people.
Sugar content: For sure, the best protein bars have no added sugars. And you definitely want to steer clear of anything that has tons of hidden sugar (for example ingredients that you may not know are sugar → ethyl maltol, barley malt, caramel, evaporated cane juice).
But let’s be clear, it’s okay to have some sugar. Who doesn’t like sweet stuff, after all? Just don’t overdo it. I try to look for bars that have less than 15 grams per bar, but if a bar has other great attributes, I’ll treat myself to it and watch my sugar intake that day. I always aim to keep blood sugar levels at their best. Natural sweeteners are best in bars:
- Pure maple syrup
- Raw honey
- Coconut sugar
- Fruit like dates and apricots
You also want to avoid sugar alcohols if you have a sensitivity that will cause bloating. Stay away from xylitol, mannitol, and erythritol in that case.
Fiber content: Fiber is so important to our health. Read here for just how essential it is to a healthy digestive system. The best protein bars will have a healthy balance of fiber, somewhere between a minimum of 3 grams and a maximum of 10 grams of fiber per bar. You’ll want to look for high-quality fiber sources:
Synthetic fiber, like chicory root or xanthan gum, isn’t ideal or particularly healthy. Avoid bars with those ingredients.
Healthy Fats: Yes, fats are healthy! The type of fat you want to see in the bar are those that come from good whole foods sources like seeds, nuts, and nut butters. Fat from oils like hydrogenated palm kernel oil takes the healthiness right out of the bar. That’s because it’s a saturated fat that makes the protein bar more shelf-stable. It’s not adding any nutrition.
7 Best Protein Bars
Ultimately, you want to choose bars that have a balance of nutrients and that can be called “clean” as far as packaged products go. I like to choose a bar with somewhere between 200 and 400 calories. I’ll make a decision on which bar to eat based on my intermittent fasting regimen and how much exercise I am getting that day.
While there are a lot of good ones on the market, here are my 7 top choices. I hope this knowledge will help while shopping for the protein bar right for you!
1. Dang Protein Bar
If you are on the Keto Diet, for example, this is the ideal bar for you to pack in your snack bag when on the go. It’s high fat, with fats from plant-based sources like coconut and almond butter. This mint chocolate flavored bar, pictured here, is a little bit of decadence (kinda like a chocolate brownie) along with 10 grams of protein.
2. Paleonola Protein Bar
Looking for the best tasting protein bars? This is one of them. Gotta love the almond butter and jelly flavor! Ingredients like pumpkin seeds and raspberries give it an amazing taste. It’s got 9 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar. And obviously, it’s Paleo Diet friendly!
3. Oatmega Protein Bar
This company’s claim to fame is grass-fed whey protein as its protein source. With 14 grams of protein and only 5 grams of sugar, it’s a popular bar for after-workout protein replenishment. With delicious flavors like Chocolate Coconut and Cinnamon Bun, this bar is hard to resist. It’s a terrific post-workout snack for when you’re not at home.
4. Epic Protein Bar
Epic bars are based on the hunter and gatherer diet—meat, fruit, nuts, seeds, and veggies. I’ve pictured a meat bar here, it’s gluten-free and has 11 grams of protein. They have meatless bars as well (peanut butter being one) and state they use cage-free sourced egg whites.
5. RXBAR Protein Bar
Simplicity is their mode of production and it’s really cool how the main ingredients are right on the front of the RXBAR package. The chocolate sea salt bar shown here has 13 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein. The dietary fiber content is 5 grams. This bar has a chewy texture and is definitely one of the top store-bought high protein bars.
6. Larabar Protein Bar
Cherry pie in a bar! Yep, and just 3 ingredients in this yummy protein source, too. This Larabar has unsweetened cherries, dates, and almonds. The sugars are a little high at 20 grams in this particular bar and the protein count is 4 grams. Still, with minimal ingredients, it’s a much better choice than a bar with sugar made from processed ingredients.
7. Thunderbird Protein Bar
I like the almond, apricot, vanilla flavor shown here. It’s both paleo and vegan, and has just a few ingredients also. The sugar content is 18 grams but it comes from the natural fruit source only (no added sugar), and it’s low on the sodium scale. If you’re looking for a tasty vegan protein bar, this may be the one for you.
So, What Is The Best Protein Bar Brand?
I think the RXBAR brand is pretty top-notch. What I like about them is that their ingredient profile is very basic. There is nothing hidden – it’s all laid out in a pretty simple fashion – and the bars are delicious, too. The ingredients base is egg whites, nuts, and dates.
You can enjoy this bar knowing that it’s like a supplement and snack bar all in one. While I try to eat an actual meal at every sitting, this bar does make a good meal replacement bar in a pinch.
Which Protein Bars Have The Least Sugar?
I’d say the Epic Bars have the least amount of sugar, but of course, it depends on the flavor you buy. The Epic Beef Jalapeno Bar, for example, has less than 1 gram of sugar. This bar does have more saturated fat and sodium than some others, so you’ve got to pick and choose as to what your preferences are. Variety is the spice of life, so switch up your protein bar choices for a little bit of everything that’s good.
What Is The Best Protein Bar For Weight Loss?
Bars with high protein and low sugar and carbohydrates are the best for weight loss. Did you know protein can help you lose weight? It definitely can, and that’s because it keeps you full and energized–and less apt to reach for unhealthy snacks. For info on the best high protein snacks for weight loss, BTW, look here.
Protein does other weight-loss-worthy things like reducing hunger hormones and boosting your metabolism. Always check the ingredient lists on the packages—go for a bar with minimal sugar and a clean protein source and you’ll be all set. The Epic Bar could do the trick!
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