A long time favorite of body builders, marathon runners, long distance bikers and hikers, protein bars have found their way into the hands and bellies of most adult Americans regardless of whether they exercise. They are convenient, often delicious, and the idea of getting an extra does of protein is seductive, especially when we’re trying to build or repair our muscles.
Having said that, most protein bars are problematic for the same reasons that most industrial pre-packaged food is: artificial flavors, excessive amounts of sugar and harmful ingredients that you’ve never heard of. So unless you’re paying attention, protein bars can be doing you more harm than good.
The next time you’re going to buy a protein bar, here are the things that you should be looking for: only natural ingredients that you have heard of, high protein content (10g or more) and low sugar content (under 10g). When you see things like protein isolate, vegetable glycerin, calcium carbonate, inulin, xanthan gum, “natural flavors” (a generic and ambiguous catch-all for a lot of things), disodium phosphate or other words you don’t recognize, it’s probably best to avoid the bar!
Here’s our list of bars that best meet our criteria for healthy options while also making sure to not compromise on the flavor and texture!
Raw Rev Glo Creamy Peanut Butter & Sea Salt
With 15g of protein, 14g of fiber and only 2g of sugar, this is bar is the runaway winner. Not only does this bar have all natural ingredients, it’s also vegan, gluten-free, kosher and non-GMO. And for those of you who are wondering, it’s delicious! Of course, we have to admit that the chocolate flavored tastes even better and also meets all our criteria. Need we say more?
Zing Double Nut Brownie
Double Nut Brownie is a delicious dark chocolate and nut (almonds and hazelnuts) bar that packs in 10g of plant-based vegan protein and 8g fiber. It has 9g of natural sugars from tapioca and agave. Some of the fiber is prebiotic so if you have IBS, proceed with caution with this one.
GoMacro Protein Purity (Sunflower Butter + Chocolate)
This bar is also free of nuts, soy, gluten, dairy and eggs. So if you’re looking for an allergen free bar that has healthy whole ingredients, protein from brown rice and 10g of protein, 3g of fiber and 9 of sugar, this is a great choice! It also has a hint of cinnamon and vanilla to round out the taste.
EPIC Chicken Sesame BBQ
Epic is trying to redefine the jerky category. High-quality meats and whole food ingredients make this bar a high protein (15g) and low sugar (3g) option. The flavors are all great but this one is the best bang for your buck as far as the protein content is concerned.
Oatmega Chocolate Coconut Crisp
This bar packs a lot in. With 14g of whey protein, 7g of fiber and an omega-3 bonus via fish oil, these bars are great for working out. They’re also low in sugar (5g). The whey can be a bit heavy on the stomach, especially for those with a lactose intolerance.
Primal Kitchen Dark Chocolate Almond
With 15g of protein, 6g of fiber and only 3g of sugar, the macros are perfect for that pre or post workout boost. The fancy list of ingredients includes Pumpkin Seeds, Grass Fed Hydrolyzed Collagen, Pre-Biotic Fiber (From Cassava Root), Coconut, Honey, Coconut Oil, Chocolate, Himalayan Pink Salt, Monk Fruit Extract, Hazelnuts, Macadamia Nuts and Cashews. There is the ambiguous “natural flavors” on the list too but we thought we’d let it slide with this because of how good it looks otherwise.
There you have it! In case you’re wondering why some of the more common and popular names like Nature Valley, Quest and Cliff aren’t in here, suffice it to say that they are far from meeting our criteria for healthy protein bars.
With that being said, there are other bars out there that are low in protein content that (like most Kind bars) that did not make the cut despite being healthy snacks.