The 9 Best Protein Snacks of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Tasty snacks with the good-for-you benefits of protein

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Protein is an incredible macronutrient—it satisfies hunger, builds muscle, supports tissue health, and is necessary for many of the body’s reactions and processes. Current USDA dietary guidelines suggest that adult men and women consume between 10 and 35% of their total calories from protein. You can also calculate your protein needs based on weight and activity level—moderately active, healthy adults generally need anywhere from 0.8 to 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For those who are very active or looking to build muscle, the factor increases to about 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The amount of protein that should be consumed in a snack depends on a person’s lifestyle and goals.

In general, look for snacks that have anywhere from 6 to 15 grams of protein and look for protein from whole food sources (meat, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes), rather than heavily manipulated ingredients that promise mega high amounts of protein. 

Here are the best protein snacks on the market.

Best Overall: Rise Pea Vegan Protein Bar

Pros
  • 15 grams of protein

  • Simple ingredient list

Cons
  • 12 grams of sugar from coconut nectar

  • High in fat (25% of the daily recommended intake)

When it comes to simplicity, these vegan bars provide 15 grams of protein and are made from only five ingredients: Sunflower seeds, coconut nectar, pea protein, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Made in a certified peanut-, gluten- and soy-free facility, these are a great option for consumers with food allergies.

Many consumers rank the Sunflower Cinnamon as their favorite flavor from Rise. We love that this bar is free of preservatives, is certified non-GMO, and contains no fillers.

Best Budget: Bada Bean Bada Boom Crunchy Roasted Broad Bean Snacks

Pros
  • 5 grams of fiber

  • No cholesterol or saturated fat

  • Simple ingredient list

Cons
  • Small portion

Looking for a protein-packed snack that won’t break the bank? Bada Bean’s crunchy broad bean (also known as fava bean) snacks contain only 100 calories and 1 gram of sugar while providing 7 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber per serving.

A box of 24 snack packs breaks down to less than $1 per snack, a score! These snack packs are non-GMO and gluten-free with zero cholesterol and saturated fat.

Best Vegetarian: BIENA Chickpea Snacks

Pros
  • 8 grams of fiber

  • 8 grams of plant-based protein

  • Three simple ingredients

Cons
  • Chickpeas are not a complete protein source

  • Very crunchy and dry

These roasted chickpea snacks are multi-functional. Eat them as is for an on-the-go snack or add them to soup or salads instead of traditional croutons. One ounce contains 6 grams of plant-based protein as well as 6 grams of fiber and 10 net carbs.

These snacks are simple and tasty with only three ingredients: chickpeas, sunflower oil, and sea salt. Biena’s snacks are vegan, kosher, and gluten-and GMO-free, as an added bonus.

Best Vegan: LUPii Lupini Bean Bars, Peanut Butter Cacao Nib

Pros
  • Complete plant-based source of protein

  • A sustainable snack option that is good for the earth

  • Simple whole ingredients

Cons
  • Higher in sugar (16 grams) than many protein bars

  • More expensive than other vegan protein bars

Lupini beans are having a moment and for good reason! These small but mighty beans are a complete source of protein, packed with all nine amino acids. In addition to being a great plant-based source of protein, these beans are good for soil health and require less water than other plant crops. The Peanut Butter Cacao Nib LUPii Bar provides 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of gut-nourishing fiber.

No need to take out your dictionary when reading this ingredient list, these bars keep it simple with five whole-food ingredients: dates, water, lupini beans, peanut butter, and cacao nibs. To note, this bar is slightly high in sugar; however, the sugar comes from the natural sweetness of dried dates.

Best Jerky: The New Primal Sea Salt & Pepper 100% Grass-Fed Beef

New Primal Beef Jerky
Pros
  • 100% grass-fed beef

  • Lower sodium option than many other jerky brands

Cons
  • Only two servings per container

  • Expensive, more than $6 per bag

The New Primal uses 100% grass-fed beef. The “100%” is important here because many beef products will say “grass-fed” but the cows may have been grain-finished. Grain-finished means that in the last month of life, cows are led back to feedlots and fed with grain and soy. This unfortunately eliminates all of the nutritional benefits of grass-fed cows, such as higher iron and essential fatty acid content.

The New Primal Jerky only has 110 milligrams of sodium (less than most jerky options on the market) and 4 grams of sugar from honey and pineapple juice.

Best Bar: RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt Protein Bar

RXBAR, Protein Bar, Chocolate Sea Salt
Pros
  • Whole-food ingredient list

  • Available in many grocery and convenience stores

Cons
  • Higher in sugar than other protein bars

  • Not a good option for those with common food allergies

Protein bars are often filled with heavily-processed ingredients and added fillers. Thankfully, RX Bar keeps it real with less than ten, simple, whole-food ingredients. The Chocolate Sea Salt flavor is made with 100% chocolate, egg whites for protein, dates to bind, and nuts for texture.

One bar provides 12 grams of vegetarian-friendly protein and 5 grams of fiber. These bars are kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO, and whole-30 approved as an added bonus.

Best Low-Carb: Whisps Cheddar Cheese Crisps

Whisps Cheddar Cheese Crisps, Keto Friendly Snacks
Pros
  • Provides 25% of the recommended daily intake of calcium

  • Only 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving

Cons
  • High in saturated fat

  • Contains over 300 milligrams of sodium per serving

A snack with 10 grams of protein, 25% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, and only 1 gram of carbohydrate? Enter, Whisps, the delicious, real cheese snack. Whisps are made with one thing: 100% real cheese that is rBGH-free (a lab-made growth hormone used by some dairy farmers). It’s sourced from Schuman, an Italian cheese company founded in 1945.

For those looking for an allergen-friendly snack, these are also free of gluten and are keto-friendly. A note on fat—there are 10 grams of saturated fat per serving, which is 50% of DRI (daily recommended intake) from the cheddar cheese, so this snack should be consumed in moderation. 

Best Dessert: Siggis Icelandic Style Strained Triple Cream Yogurt, Lemon

Pros
  • A good source of probiotics

  • A good source of calcium

Cons
  • High in saturated fat

  • Small serving size

Who knew satisfying your sweet tooth and filling up with protein could taste so good? Siggi’s Triple Cream Skyr Yogurt is the decadent protein-packed dessert you need in your life. Providing 9 grams of protein and only 8 grams of sugar, this is a healthier choice than most desserts.

Try adding cacao nibs and fresh berries to a yogurt cup for added nutritional value and deliciousness.

Best No Added Sugar: Organic Valley Good to Go Free Range Hard Boiled Eggs

Organic Valley Good to Go Free Range Hard Boiled Eggs
Pros
  • A good source of complete protein and fat

  • A good source of B vitamins and minerals

Cons
  • Needs to be refrigerated

  • Most enjoyable with seasoning

Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, B vitamins and iodine, eggs will not only help to uplift your mood, but they will keep you feeling full and satisfied longer.

Eggs are nutrient powerhouses and are the perfect on-the-go snack on their own, or as a protein option to add on top of a salad or have alongside some veggies.

Final Verdict

Rise’s Pea Vegan Protein Bars (view at Amazon) are our top pick for best protein snack. Great for travel, hiking, or the gym, these bars provide 15 grams of protein and are made from only five ingredients. Made in a certified peanut-, gluten- and soy-free facility, these are a great option for consumers with food allergies.

What to Look for in Protein Snacks

Sugar

When picking a protein-forward snack, you want to aim for more grams of protein than grams of sugar. Sometimes, it is hard to find products that follow this suggestion, as many bars are made with dried fruits like dates or figs to bind ingredients.

Sugar from dried fruits is better than added sugars, so check the labels to see how many grams of sugar are in the product and the source of the sugar (added vs. dried fruit).

Ingredients

Always check the ingredient list to make sure that all of the ingredients are safe for your individual needs. Try to keep added sugars to a minimum, and avoid artificial flavors and preservatives. Stick to short ingredient lists (ten ingredients or less), and make sure you can identify each ingredient as real food.

FAQs

What is a pure protein snack?

Whole foods are a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates, so there is no whole food that is purely protein. However, some foods have higher protein and either very few fats or carbohydrates. For example, an egg is primarily protein but also naturally contains 5 grams of fat but only 0.6 grams of carbohydrates. Whole foods with the highest protein percentages (compared to their carbohydrate and fat content) include animal-based proteins like meat, chicken, fish (and other seafood), and eggs.

Unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, beans, and cheese are also quality protein sources but contain higher amounts of either carbohydrates and/or fat than pure animal-based proteins. In general, look to incorporate a mix of all of these protein sources and look for products with simple ingredient lists and little to no additives. 

How much protein do i need a day

Protein needs vary person to person. A general guideline is to multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8 to 1.0 to find out a range of how many grams of protein you need per day. This number is a starting point. You may need more protein if you are very physically active or recovering from illness or surgery.

Why is protein important

Protein has a role in almost every single bodily function and process. It builds muscle, supports tissue health, and is fundamental in supporting the immune system. Protein is also critical for brain health and cognitive functioning. When it comes to hunger and weight maintenance, protein also helps regulate ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger cues.

What the Experts Say

"Protein-based snacks are a great way to fuel up and stay satisfied between meals. Look for snacks with whole, real ingredients like beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds, eggs or low sodium animal-based proteins. I encourage my clients to get a mix of both plant-based and animal-based proteins in their diet to ensure diversity of nutrient intake as well as adequate intake of all essential amino acids." — Anne Cook Carroll, MS, RD, CDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

As a Registered Dietitian, Sydney Greene takes snack recommendations seriously. Every product has been researched and vetted by her against clinical research, product reviews, and third-party testing websites. These are products she would not only feel comfortable recommending to her clients but she would take them herself if needed.

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Article Sources
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