If you’ve ever had a protein bar, you know how amazing they are. They’re designed to deliver the protein you need to support your muscles’ growth while boasting familiar flavors.
Unfortunately, the bitter truth is, many of these protein bars are just bonbons in disguise and are poor sources of protein. They’re often filled with empty calories and even more sugar.
Finding a healthy protein bar out there that contains the right ingredients can be tricky—and finding one that actually tastes good can be even more challenging.
So, what are the characteristics of a quality protein bar? First and foremost, fiber. Look for protein bars with at least 20 grams of protein from a dairy-based source, 300 calories or less, 15 grams of fat or below, and about five grams of fiber. Read on to discover the best healthy protein bars—and get ready to stock up on a few of them.
Nutritional Criteria for Protein Bars
A lot went into making this list of the best protein bars. We gathered a catalog of hundreds of bars and compared their ingredient and nutrition information. To qualify as a “protein bar,” your bar should meet the following criteria.
- Protein: minimum of 8 grams (If you’re looking to increase muscle mass, it should be 15-20 grams of protein and 7-12 grams of protein for a satiating snack.)
- Sugar: maximum of 3 grams
- Fiber: minimum of 3 grams
Ingredient Criteria for Protein Bars
- High-quality protein sources, such as nuts, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds
- Natural sweeteners like cane sugar or fruit
- Whole-food ingredients – stay away from artificial ingredients
- Healthy fats
- Low to no synthetic or isolated fiber (artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like xylitol, and erythritol, and large amounts of synthetic fibers)
- No sugar alcohols
Best Protein Bars in 2020
Blueberry Muffin Protein Bar – QUEST NUTRITION
The Blueberry Muffin protein bar from Quest packs 20 grams of protein and a whopping 15 grams of fiber. However, this bar contains erythritol, a sweetener that experts say may lead to gastric distress.
Chocolate Sea Salt – RXBar
If you want to feel like you’re eating a good brownie while meeting all your protein needs, grab an RXBAR. RXBAR does an excellent job of making protein bars out of essential ingredients. Each bar contains dates, nuts, egg whites, and flavors. We absolutely love the Chocolate Sea Salt, and the 12 grams of protein will fill you up until dinnertime.
Slim Dark Chocolate Brownie Crunch – NUGO
This protein bar from Nugo is proof that a low-calorie bar can really satisfy that deep chocolate craving. The Slim Dark Chocolate Brownie Crunch flavor delivers 16 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar for only 190 calories.
Almond Honey – RISE
Having a simple ingredient bar like Rise in your bag makes it easy to avoid buying junk food when you’re running low and out of options.
They are a little higher in monounsaturated fats from the nuts, along with being high in protein. With 280-calorie, 20 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber, this bar is an ideal protein snack to help you feel fuller longer.
Cookie Dough – PROBAR
Probar’s plant-based, cookie dough flavored protein bar contains 20 grams of protein, no added sugar, and all nine essential amino acids, which is excellent for post-workout recovery.
Brownie Crunch – THINKTHIN
This bar is another fantastic option for people wanting high protein intake during weight loss or to support muscle gain. With its high protein content, zero sugar, and only 230 calories, you’ll meet your fitness goal sooner than later.
Collagen Protein Bar – BULLETPROOF
With 9 grams of net carbs, the Collagen Protein Bar from Bulletproof is a bit higher in carbs than your average protein bar. It gets its protein from grass-fed collagen, a popular protein obtained from bovine or marine origins. This bar is particularly helpful because it helps the production of collagen in the body, which can benefit your joints, hair, nails, skin, and even gut health. Furthermore, this bar is rich in MCT oil, which studies reveal can inhibit long-term weight gain.
Salted Caramel – VEGA
Vega makes vegan protein powder, so when it comes to bars, you can trust them with that as well. The Salted Caramel flavor packs 20 grams of brown rice, pea protein, and 3 grams of fiber.
Chocolate Fudge Brownie – EXO
Insect-eating enthusiasts, you’re in for a treat. Eating insects has become the next big thing, and this bar contains crickets. In terms of high-protein bites, crickets contain as much protein as chicken breast but with three times the calcium count. If you’re concerned about taste, there is no reason to be! EXO’s formula has made sure of that. The Chocolate Fudge Brownie flavor is delicious.
Soft Baked Whey Protein Cookie – MUSCLETECH
The Soft Baked Whey Protein Cookie from Muscletech packs 18 grams of protein and only 200 calories. The best part? The chocolate chunks are a subtle touch to make it seem like you’re actually eating a cookie.
Whether you’re in the market for a nutritious, on-the-go snack to grow muscle mass or a low-sugar, high protein bite to meet your keto or vegan diet needs, protein bars are often the answer you’re looking for. However, when deciding which protein bar is ideal for you, the protein source, count, and the other nutrients it has, all need to be taken into consideration before committing to one.