It’s everyone’s dilemma. You’re looking for something healthy you can grab on-the-go that tastes great and doesn’t have a million ingredients. In my previous post, The Best Snack Bars Under 150 Calories, I reviewed the bars that are best for a snack between meals or for a quick source of energy before a work-out. To find the Best Protein Bars, I looked for a more complete bars with at least 10 grams of protein that can be used as a post-workout recovery food or even as a big part of lunch in a pinch if you’re out on the trail or stuck in your car.
It’s important to rely on packaged foods as little as possible and you don’t need to start incorporating protein bars into your daily routine, but it is great to have some healthier options on hand in times in need. The problem with protein bars is that they often have loads of artificial ingredients and are really no better for you than a Snickers bar.
I’ve rated the following bars based on taste, ingredients, nutrients and price. Since this is a popular post that I keep updated, some companies have sent me their bars to try but I have not been paid to review any of these products. All opinions are my own.
I skipped over all the bars with a million ingredients like Power Bar, ZonePerfect, Met-RX, Adkins, Muscle Milk, Detour, Myoplex, EAS, Probar and Balance Bar— do NOT eat this crap. They all get automatic F’s.
Oatmega Bar A
Oatmega made it to the top of the list because they pack 3 cups worth of green tea antioxidants in each bar as well as 300 mg of EPA and DHA (healthy fatty acids). They are non-GMO and organic with 190 calories, 5 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, 14 grams of protein from grass-fed whey and no fake sweeteners. My favorite flavor is the Dark Chocolate Mint. I didn’t care for the Blueberry Pomegranate or Vanilla Almond. Oatmega will typically cost you about $2 per bar.
STRONG & KIND A
Sometimes you just don’t want a sweet or chocolatey bar. Enter Kind’s STRONG Bars. Bold, savory flavors with made with 100% whole foods, non-GMO ingredients and 10 grams of protein per bar. The price is right at around $1.50 per bar or $4.77 per 4 pack. I really like the rest of KIND’s line of bars, but the STRONG bars are the only ones with 10 or more grams of protein.
Good2Go Protein Bar A
Good2Go (or G2G) is perfect for fueling athletes. No refined sugars, no preservatives and high in protein from whey, nut butters and oats. These bars are super filling, made from real food, and at 300 calories per bar are good on their own as a meal-on-the-go. If you like peanut butter or almond butter, you’ll love these bars.
*G2G is offering my readers 20% off any order from their website using the code “nutri”.
Only 8 ingredients? Sold. I love RxBar’s no nonsense packaging and simple message. They have no gluten, soy, dairy or added sugar and get most of their protein from egg whites. A bar made from real food that provides real fuel. They don’t have the intense sweetness or bitter aftertaste like some protein bars on the market that use sucralose or other artificial sweeteners. RXBARs are becoming more common and I found them at my neighborhood Publix the other day. The Coffee Chocolate is my favorite flavor.
Nugo Slim A
This bar was pretty perfect for me- 190 calories with 16 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber and only 2 grams of sugar. I loved the dark chocolate taste of the Brownie Crunch and that they used no artificial sweeteners. The Crunchy Peanut Butter was too dry and not as satisfying. Nugo tends to be cheaper than RXbars, Oatmega or Good2Go.
Pottentia Protein Bar A
Simple, super filling bars with all the right stuff. Only 7 ingredients: prebiotic fiber, grass fed whey protein, organic almond butter, organic dates, almonds, organic coconut, and organic vanilla extract. They are gluten free, have no artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols or syrups, and provide 22 grams of protein per bar. Pottentia is a small company and you can only find them on Amazon (for now). These bars are perfect for athletes or as a meal on the go. I can eat half of one for a snack and save the other half for later. They cost about $2.99 per bar. Remember, you’re paying for convenience
thinkThin Lean Protein and Fiber Bar A-
The macros are great: 150 calories, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar. They’re almost as good eating a candy bar. The flavor and texture of the Salted Caramel reminds me of a Tagalong Girlscout Cookie. The Cinnamon Bun White Chocolate and Birthday Cake hit the spot too. Don’t get me wrong here, these things are not real food. The ingredients are non-GMO, but the list is long. There are no fake sweeteners or fiber though, so I choose these over Quest bars—for taste, texture, price AND ingredients. They run between $1.50 and $1.75 per bar so they don’t break the bank, plus they are easy to find. I stock up on them for when I’m in the mood for something sweet. I’m a sucker for their seasonal flavors like Pumpkin Spice and Dark Chocolate Peppermint too.
thinkThin’s Lean Protein and Fiber bar is different from the thinkThin High Protein (B) bar. The high protein version packs 20 grams of protein in the 230-240 calorie bar but some of the flavors have a dry texture and bitter flavor. I did like the Chunky Peanut Butter.
Good Greens Wellness Bar, A-
This bar has a soft texture and is vegan, gluten, dairy, and preservative-free. It has added probiotics and superfood antioxidants, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber in 190 calories. The Pumpkin Spice flavor was my favorite. They have a few less favorable ingredients like evaporated cane juice, palm kernel oil, and agave but you also get an added bonus from superfoods like maca and camu powder, mangosteen, acai, and chorella.
Zing Nutrition Bar A-
Zing bars were made by registered dietitians who couldn’t find an adequate snack to recommend to their clients on the go. They get major bonus points for covering 15% of daily iron needs in one bar. They’re non-GMO and get most of the protein from a nut blend, rice protein concentrate and pea protein. The only downside is that you probably have to go to a specialty store like Whole Foods to find them and they cost between $2.50 and $3.50 per bar.
Perfect Bar, Carob Chip B
There’s nothing wrong with this bar, it’s very similar in texture and taste to the Good2Go bars just with a teeny bit more calories and sugar and less protein. The predominant flavor was honey which was a little too sweet for me. I prefer the Good2Go Bars over the Perfect Bar because the size of the Good2Go bar fills me up a lot more, but I’m willing to give another flavor of the Perfect Bars a shot before I write them off.
Vega Sport Protein Bar B
The Vega bars are the higher on the calorie end at 260 calories per bar and are designed for those with an active lifestyle. They get their protein from organic sprouted whole grain brown rice protein and pea protein and have bonus nutrients from alfalfa, and SaviSeed. Perfect for post-workout recovery. Unfortunately, they also 16-19 grams of sugar per bar and cost around $3-4, both of which are a little too high for me. For those needing the extra calories, carbs, and have the cash, go for it.
Dr. Mercola’s Pro Puff Protein Bar, Vanilla Almond B
The calories and macronutrients in this bar are great (only 1 gram of sugar). They’re non-GMO and have no artificial sweeteners. They have a really strong vanilla flavor and a chewy, almost sticky consistency with seeds scattered throughout. I definitely didn’t mind it but I just couldn’t wrap my head around paying $4 for a single bar. I’ve only seen them available online and if you really loved them, you could buy them by the box (12) for$3 a bar or in bulk from Dr. Mercola’s website and end up paying around $2.80 a bar (plus shipping). They’re also gluten and soy free.
Health Warrior Superfood Protein Bar
Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt, B
This bar is made mostly of an organic ancient grain blend of chia, oats and quinoa. The taste is just OK, very similar to the coconut chocolate RX bar with with the consistency of chia added. I just didn’t find it worth the 200 calories for only 10 grams of protein. The good part is that you get the extra benefit of omega 3s from the chia that you don’t get from most bars. It’s not bad, but the Oatmega bars are better.
Luna Protein Bar C
I’ve tried most flavors (the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Lemon Vanilla are my favorites). They taste decent and definitely curb my sweet craving but they are about half the size of other protein bars at 1.6 ounces. Lunas are on the high end for saturated fat at 3.5 grams and sugar at 14 grams. The upside is that they have 12 grams of protein and added calcium, iron, folic acid and vitamin D. They contain some organic ingredients but are not 100% organic. Luna’s website states that they use no hydrogenated oils and source non-genetically modified ingredients but they are not non-GMO certified. I wish these bars had a little less sugar than 14 grams and were less pricey considering there’s not a whole lot of “whole foods” ingredients.
Quest Bar C
The body building, figure competitor and Crossfit communities are absolutely obsessed with Quest. They come in about a million different flavors and the macronutrients are pretty incredible– all are under 200 calories, over 15 grams of fiber, 1 gram or less of sugar and 20 grams of protein. They’re big in size and have lots of bulk to fill you up so I can see why competitors love them.
The first flavor I tried felt was grainy and felt like I was just chewing on protein powder. It left a weird taste in my mouth– probably from the 6 grams of erythritol and the overpowering taste of sugar alcohols. I personally made the decision to stop adding any artificial sweeteners to my food so because of the high amount of artificial sweetener in Quest bars I won’t be making them a staple. Cookies & Cream was probably the best flavor I tried. Lemon Cream Pie was inedible. They’re not cheap at $2.50 per bar but it is better than hitting the vending machine.
Clif Bar B or F, depending on your activity
There are about 20 different flavors of Clif bars. Depending on the flavor they can run between 230 and 250 calories per bar and are geared toward someone needing a meal on the go, not just a snack. The 22-25 grams of sugar is high, but if you’re out trekking, climbing or mountain biking all day (which is what these bars were made for) you need the extra carbs for energy. Clif bars are 70% organic and use ingredients that are not genetically engineered. They’ve got lots of added vitamins and minerals and 10 grams of protein per bar. My favorites are the Peanut Toffee Buzz (with caffeine) and Carrot Cake. They fill you up and and are e probably the cheapest bars on this list at about 99 cents a piece.
I give them a B for an on-the-trail breakfast or during a long day of serious physical activity, but I’d still love for you to add more protein (like a hard-boiled egg) if you’re having it as a meal. F if you’re not active (going to sit at a desk all day) and don’t need the extra carbs/sugar.
Larabar ALT, Lemon Pound Cake Fruit and Nut Bar, C
This one was just OK. I’ve got to give them points for having only 9 ingredients, all of which I can pronounce. They are non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. Ten grams of protein is pretty good for this little bar and it tasted alright, but at 210 calories it just wasn’t as good as I expected something called Lemon Pound Cake to taste. I still wanted a cookie afterward. I also tried Chocolate Peanut Butter. The flavor was better but the texture wasn’t. The hard chunks and soft bar didn’t mesh well. It wasn’t worth the 270 calories.
The Larabar ALT is the only Larabar with 10 or more grams of protein, so I did not include the other versions in this list.
Power Crunch Protein Energy Bar C
If you’re really craving a vanilla wafer or a Kit-Kat but need some extra protein, buy one of these. Otherwise, I’d pick something else on the list. They’re not terrible as far as ingredients but they’re not the best either (palm oil, enriched flour, sugar, palm kernel oil, canola oil… all that oil= 6 grams of saturated fat per bar). All the flavors are decent and at least there’s no artificial sweeteners.
Perfectly Simple by Zone Perfect C
These bars have only 8 ingredients and 10 grams of protein but the first ingredient is invert dried cane syrup (sugar). I snagged this bar for a breakfast on the go in the airport, along with some strawberries I brought along. It’s not the worst thing I could eat, but it’s not the best either.
Chapul Aztec Bar D
At least I can say I tried it. This bar is made with cricket protein powder. Crickets are an environmentally sustainable complete protein source and high in iron and B-12. Crickets require little resources and some say they are the “protein source of the future.” Cricket protein and protein bars have been gaining popularity lately so I figured it was time to bite the bullet and give it a try. The Dark Chocolate, Coffee, and Cayenne was bad enough that I couldn’t bring myself to eat more than 2 bites. I give them points for innovation, but the flavor and macros (only 5 grams of protein and 25 grams of sugar) need significant improvement before I can get over the fact that I’m eating bugs.
GREENS PLUS Plus Bar F
I stopped in Whole Foods after a workout to try to find a new bar I hadn’t tried and landed on this. It was disgusting. It tasted like algae mixed with syrup and a little peanut butter and had the consistency of old chewing gum. Sure, the ingredients are ideal but there’s way too many options there to continue gagging these down.
NOW (No Opportunity Wasted) Energy Bars F
This bar is the worst of the worst. Not only does it have way too many ingredients and a bunch of syrup and sugar, it also tasted terrible.
Do you have any go-to bars that you’d like me to rate or you think belong on this list?
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