Best Protein Bars

Many snacks are filled with sugar, too much fat and provide empty calories. Tasty as they may be, there is a healthier and more satisfying option — protein bars.

What makes a protein bar a better snack choice than chips or a couple of cookies? Aside from curbing your appetite and your need to snack, a protein bar is also a delicious and easy way to add carbs, protein, vitamins and minerals to your diet, while fueling a workout or supporting muscle repair after exercise.

There is a huge variety of protein bars available on the market. Many are draped in chocolate, filled with crunchy nuts or rice crisps, coated in gooey caramel or infused with blueberries, lemon or other fruit. They vary in the amount of protein, fiber, fat, carbs and calories per serving, so regardless of your taste or need, you will find what you are looking for.

To help you decide, we’ve curated a list of protein bars you can purchase online. Read on to find the one — or ones — you like best.

1. Editor’s Choice: Pure Protein Bars

Affordability is on a lot of people’s minds these days, even when it comes to choosing a protein bar. We get that, and that means our runner-up choice will cost you less but doesn’t skimp on the kind of taste or level of nutrients you’d expect from a more expensive protein bar.

This 12-pack of chewy chocolate chip protein bars is also available in seven other flavors including strawberry Greek yogurt, birthday cake and cookies and cream, each of which packs 20 grams of protein into a 1.76-ounce bar. The gluten-free chewy chocolate chip snack also has only 3 grams of sugar but will add 200 calories to your daily intake with each serving. If you are watching your calorie intake, you may want to pick some of the other flavors, such as lemon cake, which has 190 calories per serving, or the chocolate deluxe with 180 calories per bar.

The protein blend in these bars is derived from whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate, so they are not vegan or suitable for anyone who is avoiding dairy.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • 20 grams of protein
  • 3 grams of sugar
  • Gluten free

Cons:

  • Contains dairy and soy
  • Small size

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2. Runner Up: Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Bar

Many protein bars source their protein from dairy products to offer up nine complete amino acids in one serving, plus a large helping of protein, usually around 20 or 21 grams. While this is ideal for some people, if you follow a vegan lifestyle, then you want to steer clear of any food product that contains an animal by-product.

This pack of 12, 1.41-ounce each peanut butter chocolate chunk protein bars contain 10 grams protein per serving, with a totally plant-based protein sourced from brown rice, peas and chia seeds. The bars only contain certified organic ingredients and are available in two other flavors: peanut butter and s’mores. What you’ll also find in each of these vegan snacks are 6 grams of organic fiber and 3 to 5 grams of sugar per bar, depending on which flavor you choose. What you won’t find is gluten, soy, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. These protein bars are a bit pricey but are great as a vegan meal replacement, office snack, or on-the-go breakfast or lunch.

Pros:

  • Vegan
  • Certified organic
  • Non-dairy, gluten-free, non-GMO

Cons:

  • Contains nuts
  • Only 10 grams of protein per bar

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3. Best High-Protein Vegan: CLIF BUILDERS Protein Bars

If you follow a plant-based diet and like to exercise, then you’re going to want a post-fitness snack that is vegan and packs a powerful protein punch with each serving to help build and repair muscles.

These protein bars come in three tasty flavors — chocolate mint, cookies and cream and vanilla almond — with each large, 2.4-ounce bar offering up 20 grams of protein with essential amino acids. Gluten free and made with non-GMO, low-glycemic index ingredients, each individually wrapped bar in the 12-pack also contains some organic ingredients such as organic soy flour, organic rice flour and organic roasted soybeans.

These protein bars are larger than some of the others on our list and are ideal for anyone with a hefty appetite, but since there are 280 calories and a whopping 17 grams of sugar per serving, it’s best to keep that in mind if you are watching your sugar or calorie intake.

Pros:

  • 20 grams of protein per serving
  • Plant-based protein
  • Contains some organic ingredients

Cons:

  • High in sugar
  • Contains soy products

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4. Best Real-Food Ingredients: RXBAR Protein Bar

Protein bars contain lots of healthy, good-for-you ingredients, but they can also contain a long list of ingredients with things that are not that good for you such as fillers, corn starch, salt, mono and diglycerides, maltodextrin, palm kernel and palm oil — well, you get the picture. If you are a purist who likes a short, recognizable ingredient list, then you may want to consider this protein bar.

Each 1.83-ounce serving in this 12-pack of chocolate sea salt protein bars has only a handful of different ingredients; 3 egg whites for protein, 6 almonds and 4 cashews for texture, 2 dates to bind it all together, sea salt and 100 percent cocoa and chocolate flavor to add what chocolate brings to us all — a little slice of heaven.

These protein bars are available in 12 different flavors, including coconut chocolate, blueberry, chocolate raspberry, banana chocolate and mixed berry, all of which have the same, simple ingredients. They also have 12 grams of protein and between 3 and 5 grams of fiber, depending on the flavor. If you are following a low-sugar diet, be aware that a serving has between 13 and 15 grams of sugar, depending on the flavor.

Pros:

  • Only a handful of ingredients
  • 12 grams of protein
  • 12 different flavors to choose from

Cons:

  • High in sugar (from dates)
  • Contains nuts

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5. Best Large Size: MET-Rx Big 100 Colossal Protein Bars

You know the saying: Go big or go home! Usually referring to TV screens and electronics, we can also use it when talking about our appetite and large-sized portions. If you are really hungry after a good workout and want to build and repair muscle with a quick and hefty portion of tasty protein, then consider a big bar that packs a whopping 30 grams of protein per serving.

This pack of nine, 3.52-ounce protein bars are larger than the other options on our list. Made with the MET-Rx Metamyosyn protein blend, protein sources include soy, whey and milk solids. Each bar also contains a blend of 18 minerals and vitamins with a significant source of Vitamin A and C, and zinc, for added nutrition. The peanut butter pretzel flavored bars are good as a meal replacement or for an after workout recovery.

The bars also come in three other flavors: jelly donut crunch, peanut butter cup and super cookie crunch. With 30 grams of protein, they are high in calories (between 300 and 410 calories depending on the flavor) and have up to 28 grams of added sugar, with the peanut butter cup having the lowest sugar at 2 grams per serving.

Pros:

  • 30 grams of protein per serving
  • Contains a blend of 18 vitamins and minerals
  • Large portion

Cons:

  • High in calories and sugar
  • Contains allergens such as wheat, soy, dairy, peanuts

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6. Best Flavor Selection: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bars

What’s the biggest reason we steer away from healthy snacks? Boredom. That’s right, boredom. No matter how delicious or healthy a snack may be, it’s easy to get bored of the same flavor day in and day out. And if boredom is not an issue but you have lots of fussy eaters in your house, being able to satisfy a wide range of tastes is a bonus.

This organic, vegan protein bar comes in a 12-pack, with a selection of 14 different mouth-watering flavors, including banana almond butter, blueberry cashew butter, and lemon-lemon for fruit lovers, as well as mocha chocolate chip, oatmeal chocolate chip, salted chocolate chip and dark chocolate and almonds for the chocoholics on your list.

Depending on the flavor you choose, each 2.4-ounce bar contains between 11 and 12 grams of plant-based protein derived from brown rice, peas and nuts, calories that range from 270-290 per serving and 11 and 14 grams of sugar. And no matter which bar you choose, they are all certified organic, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, non-GMO and soy-free.

Pros:

  • Large selection of flavors
  • Certified organic
  • Vegan, gluten-free
  • Between 11 and 12 grams of plant-based protein per bar

Cons:

  • High in sugar
  • A bit pricey

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7. Also Consider: KIND Protein Bars

If you’re nuts about peanuts, then you know how these little legumes can add a delicious crunchiness to a snack, while providing a good dose of healthy, plant-based protein.

The main ingredient of these gluten-free protein bars from KIND are peanuts and smooth peanut butter, giving each 1.76-ounce serving 12 grams of protein. However, if you prefer almonds to peanuts, and perhaps a taste for chocolate or caramel, no problem. There are four flavors to choose from — crunchy peanut butter, almond butter dark chocolate, double dark chocolate nut and toasted caramel nut.

Regardless of which flavor you chose, each low-sugar bar in this 12-pack gives you only 7 grams of sugar, 250 calories, 6 grams of fiber and 135 mg of sodium. As mentioned, the protein bars are gluten-free, but contain milk powder and are not a good choice for anyone following a vegan lifestyle. They are also high in fat, with each serving containing 18 grams of total fat.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Plant-based protein
  • 12 grams of protein per serving
  • Kosher

Cons:

  • Contains dairy
  • Contains soy

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What to look for when choosing a protein bar:

It’s not always easy to eat healthy and avoid sugary or salty snacks that give you lots of calories and fat with no nutritional benefits. Even if you are a fitness freak and workout every day, you’re going to be hit with a snack-attack, either after you exercise or somewhere around three in the afternoon, or in the evening as you binge-watch your favorite show. Whether you need some quick muscle recovery, a meal replacement or a delicious, healthy snack, a protein bar is an excellent choice for many reasons: nutritious ingredients, high in protein and low in sugar and saturated fat.

Finding the right protein bar for your diet and lifestyle can be tricky, but luckily, there are a lot of different brands available on the market to ensure you find something to meet your needs. Before you make a choice, there are a number of factors you may want to consider.

Ingredients: While there are many different protein bars to choose from, not all are created equally in terms of the quality and kind of ingredients. The amount of protein, fat, sugar, calories and sodium can vary greatly as can the size of each individual bar and the source of the protein. Reading the ingredient list is vital, as it will tell you everything you need to know that will match your specific requirements.

Protein: How much protein you desire will depend on if you want the bar for an after-workout energy boost or muscle repair, or as a quick meal replace or snack. A bar with protein derived from dairy products will usually have more protein than one with pea or nut protein. The size of the bar will also contribute to the amount of protein per portion.

Sugar: If you are on a keto diet or watching your weight, be mindful of the amount of sugar in each bar. Some protein bars have only 3 or 4 grams of sugar, some use alternative sweeteners for zero grams of sugar, while others can pack a whopping 16 or 17 grams of sugar per portion.

Calories: As with sugar, the number of calories per protein bar will vary depending on the size and the flavor. A large bar with flavors that resembles a candy bar will have more calories than a smaller-sized one with simple ingredients.

Lifestyle, additives and allergens: It goes without saying that if you are following a particular diet, be it gluten-free, keto or vegan, or you have sensitivities to specific foods, you need to read the labels carefully to make sure the ingredients do not contain dairy, wheat, soy or whatever it is you should avoid. However, over and above the obvious, the not so obvious inclusions of added sugar, processed oils, colors and preservatives should be avoided as these ingredients can reduce the nutritional benefits of a protein bar.

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