The Healthiest Protein Bars, According to a Nutritionist
They can help you maintain lean muscle and curb your cravings.
Yeah, eating a healthy, made-from-scratch meal is the ideal. But as dads, we don’t always get the ideal. Sometimes, between rushing from a workout to grab the kids from soccer practice, there’s literally not enough time to sit down, let alone do food prep. Enter the humble, healthy protein bar, which is can be your most cherished Plan B. The best protein bars can serve as a healthier alternative to other packaged snacks for those who lift weights, those in need of a quick post-workout meal, and all those who are replacing a meal on the go. In these cases, a low-sugar protein bar is better than most fast food, and can provide a quick hit of protein in the event that a sit-down meal isn’t an option. But that’s about the extent of the benefits offered by even the healthiest protein bars. Why? They’re not any nutritionist’s idea of a healthy snack.
“I understand that 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 upward of 250 or 300 calories and packed with added sugar.”
Plus, many high protein bars are packed with fillers. Silverman suggests looking out for 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.
How to Find a Healthy Protein Bar
- 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 low-sugar protein bars, but if you don’t have time, these are some of the healthiest protein bars 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 marketed as good for you. We’ve provided the nutritional info. You make the call.
Picky Bars uses a base of dates for all its bars, then adding natural (and pronounceable) ingredients to achieve a four-to-one ratio of carbs to protein. All flavors clock in right around 200 calories and are free of soy, dairy, gluten, and GMOs. Despite its foundational ingredient, they come in a variety of fun and delicious flavors like this chocolate chip variety.
With its Provisions line of food, outdoor outfitter Patagonia is trying to achieve the same level of sustainability it has with its clothing. Each bar uses an organic almond base and adds fruits for the right amount of natural sweetness. Black chia seeds add crunch and a little more protein.
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. Each bar is made with roughly seven ingredients, so you know what you're eating, like dates and figs. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 4 grams; Sugar: 18 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Fat: 5 grams; Carbs: 26 grams; Calories: 150.
Packed with chia and flax seeds, this bar sure doesn't taste like it's completely vegetarian. What it tastes like is a candy bar that's still hella good for you, and one that you'll have to fight to keep from your kids. Protein: 20 grams; Sugar: 14 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Fat: 9 grams; Carbs: 32 grams; Calories: 290.
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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 12 grams; Sugar: 11 grams; Fiber: 2 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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 17 grams; Sugar: 18 grams; Fiber: four grams; Fat: 18 grams; Carbs: 26 grams; Calories: 330.
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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 12 grams; Sugar: 14 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Fat: 8 grams; Carbs: 22 grams; Calories: 210
These bars are made with plant-based proteins, are certified 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.
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: 8 grams; Sugar: 6 grams; Fiber: 2 grams; Fat: 13 grams; Carbs: 11 grams; Calories: 170.
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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 20 grams; Sugar: 29 grams; Fiber: 2 grams; Fat: 13 grams; Carbs: 41 grams; Calories: 350
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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 20 grams; Sugar: 11 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Fat: 16 grams; Carbs: 20 grams; Calories: 280
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. Nutritional info varies bar to bar, so you'll want to check the online label for each flavor. Protein: 30 grams; Sugar: 5 grams; Fiber: 4 grams; Calories: 340.
From a trusted name in the nutritional bar world, this bar has got 20 grams of protein and a great selection of great flavors. You won't get more than 10 grams of fat in these gluten-free and vegan protein bars. Protein: 20 grams; Sugar: 17 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Fat: 9 grams; Carbs: 31 grams; Calories: 280
This bar has everything our expert recommends, as well as being a gluten-free option for those with sensitivities or allergies. While this one utilizes whey for its animal-based protein, the company also makes a Vegan-friendly plant-based bar. Protein: 20 grams; Sugar: 1 gram; Fiber: 3 to 9 grams, based on variety; Fat: 9 grams; Carbs: 23 grams; Calories: 210 to 240
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