The 12 Best Tasting Protein Bars of 2023, According to a Dietitian

RXBAR AM Protein Bar Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter is high in protein and fiber

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Best Tasting Protein Bars

Verywell Fit / Kristin Kempa

Protein bars can be a convenient way to help you meet your protein needs, whether you’re looking for a between-meal snack or a post-exercise boost. “Having a portable, shelf-stable snack on the go that you actually enjoy eating is key. I’m often encouraging clients to make a point of eating consistently throughout the day, so the portability and convenience factor you’ll find in a bar are uniquely helpful to meeting this need no matter where you are,” says registered dietitian Jaclyn London, MS, RD.

Unfortunately, convenient and tasty don’t always come in the same package. It can be challenging to figure out which protein bars actually taste good and meet your nutrient needs. London suggests focusing on protein bars that use whole food ingredients such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and chickpeas, and checking ingredient labels for protein and fiber content. Bars that have a good amount of protein and fiber (ideally 4 grams or more of each) can help keep you feeling satisfied and energized until your next meal.  

When selecting our top best-tasting protein bars, we considered the ingredients; protein, carbohydrate, fiber, and fat amount; and sweetener source. We prioritized bars with whole food ingredients and a balanced nutrition profile.

Verywell Fit Approved Protein Bars

  • Best Overall: RXBAR AM Protein Bar Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter contains 10 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber to help you meet your protein needs and feel satisfied. We like that it’s made with whole food ingredients with no artificial sweeteners.
  • Best Budget: KIND Protein Bars Double Chocolate Nut are vegan-friendly bars made with whole food ingredients. Each bar contains 12 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, and is available at an affordable price.

Best Overall

RXBAR AM Protein Bar Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter

RXBAR AM Protein Bar Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter

Amazon

Pros
  • Whole food ingredients

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors

  • Higher in carbs for post-workout

Cons
  • Not suitable for vegan diets

  • Not free of common food allergens

RXBAR AM Protein Bar Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter is our top choice for a delicious and well-balanced protein bar. With 10 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, this bar is a great choice for a snack or as part of your post-workout recovery. It is made with whole food ingredients including oats, honey, peanut butter, egg whites, and pumpkin seeds, and is sweetened with honey and coconut sugar. We like that it doesn’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, as these can cause stomach upset in some.

With 29 grams of carbohydrates per bar, this bar is a bit higher in carbohydrates when compared to others. London suggests this can be beneficial when you’re looking for a post-workout protein bar, since carbohydrates are necessary for recovery. They help restore glycogen stores, or stored forms of carbohydrates, after exercise.

Many RXBARs are date-based, but these bars are made primarily with oats and peanut butter. This allows for a texture that is more reminiscent of a granola bar. You can break it into pieces and sprinkle it on top of yogurt for a higher-protein snack. Note this bar is not vegan and not suitable for those with a tree nut, peanut, egg, soy, or milk allergy.

Price at time of publication: $22 ($1.83 per bar)

Protein: 10 grams | Protein source: Egg whites, peanuts, peanut butter | Fat: 10 grams | Fiber: 4 grams | Carbohydrates: 29 grams | Calories: 230 | Sweetener type: Honey, coconut sugar | Vegan: No | Nut free: No

Best Budget

KIND Protein Bars, Double Dark Chocolate Nut

KIND Protein Bars Double Chocolate Nut

Amazon

Pros
  • Suitable for vegans

  • No artificial flavors or preservatives

  • 5 grams of fiber

Cons
  • Not suitable for those with tree nut, peanut, or soy allergies

If you’re looking for a tasty protein bar that won’t break your wallet, consider KIND protein bars. These bars contain 12 grams of protein mainly from soy protein isolate, making them suitable for vegans and vegetarians.

All of the KIND protein bars contain 12 grams of protein, and they come in a variety of flavors. In addition to double chocolate nut, these bars come in crunchy peanut butter, almond butter dark chocolate, and caramel nut flavors. They contain 17 grams of fat, and due to the almonds and peanuts it is mostly heart-healthy fats.

London says, “I’m keen on KIND bars for the transparency factor. They’re made from real food (you can actually see), simple ingredients, provide protein and fiber from nuts, and are committed to keeping added sugar in check (most provide less than 2 teaspoons of added sugar per serving). Plus, they’re super tasty!” These bars are artificial sweetener free and are sweetened with glucose syrup, honey, and sugar.

Price at time of publication: $17 ($1.46 per bar)

Protein: 12 grams | Protein source: peanuts, almonds, soy protein isolate | Fat: 17 grams | Fiber: 5 grams | Carbohydrates: 18 grams | Calories: 240 | Sweetener type: Glucose syrup, honey, sugar | Vegan: Yes | Nut free: No

Best Texture

Perfect Foods Perfect Bar Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

Perfect Bar Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

Amazon

Pros
  • Whole food ingredients

  • Wide variety of flavors

  • Higher in protein

  • Good source of minerals

Cons
  • Need to be refrigerated

  • Not suitable for most common food allergies

Perfect Bar Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter is made with organic whole food ingredients including peanut butter, honey, and nonfat dried milk. The makers of these bars say you should refrigerate them or you can enjoy them for one week on the go. When refrigerated, the texture is similar to cookie dough—making these bars taste like a delicious treat.

These bars have 15 grams of protein from nonfat dried milk, dried whole egg powder, and rice protein, so note they’re not suitable for vegans. Perfect Bars contain around 330 calories each and 20 grams of fat mostly as heart-healthy fats.

They also contain a dried whole food powders blend with kale, flax seed, rose hip, orange, and others, which may or may not suit your preferences. The variety of whole food ingredients helps make this a nutrient-dense bar that is a good source of many minerals. 

In addition to dark chocolate peanut butter, Perfect Bars come in flavors such as chocolate mint, chocolate hazelnut crisp, coconut peanut butter, dark chocolate almond, almond butter, salted caramel, and peanut butter. These bars also come in snack sizes, which can be a good choice when you want a lighter snack.

Price at time of publication: $25 ($2.50 per bar)

Protein: 15 grams | Protein source: Nonfat dry milk, dried whole egg powder, rice protein | Fat: 20 grams | Fiber: 4 grams | Carbohydrates: 24 grams | Calories: 330 | Sweetener type: Honey | Vegan: No | Nut free: No

Best Flavor Varieties

Go Macro Dark Chocolate + Almonds

 Go Macro Dark Chocolate + Almonds

Amazon

Pros
  • Suitable for vegans

  • Higher in carbs

  • Organic, non-GMO ingredients

  • Unique flavor options

Cons
  • Not suitable for those with nut allergies

  • Expensive

Flavor is of course subjective, so finding a tasty choice is challenging when a protein bar comes in only one or two flavors. GoMacro produces protein bars in a variety of delicious flavors, making it easier to appeal to a wide range of tastes.

Whether you tend to go for chocolate flavors or fruity ones, GoMacro likely has an option for you. Some flavors include dark chocolate and almonds, peanut butter chocolate chip, salted caramel and chocolate chips, banana and almond butter, oatmeal chocolate chip, lemon and lemon, blueberry and cashew butter, maple sea salt, cashew caramel, and more.

In addition to the wide range of flavors, we like that GoMacro bars are made with organic non-GMO ingredients and are suitable for vegans. The dark chocolate and almonds flavor contains 10 grams of protein from sprouted brown rice protein and pea protein.

These bars are also higher in carbohydrates, with 37 grams per bar, and a moderate amount of fiber (3 grams), making them a great choice before a workout. They could also be used as a post-workout snack to help restore muscle glycogen.

Price at time of publication: $34 ($2.87 per bar)

Protein: 10 grams | Protein source: Organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic pea protein | Fat: 10 grams | Fiber: 3 grams | Carbohydrates: 37 grams | Calories: 270 | Sweetener type: Organic brown rice syrup, organic chocolate chips, organic coconut sugar | Vegan: Yes | Nut free: No

Best Vegan

Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars Wild Blueberry

Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars Wild Blueberry

Amazon

Pros
  • High in fiber

  • No added sugar

  • Seven ingredients

Cons
  • Not suitable for nut allergies

  • Needs to be refrigerated after 45 days

Papa Steve’s No Junk Raw Protein Bars Wild Blueberry are an excellent option if you follow a vegan diet. These tasty bars are made mainly with raw almonds, hemp seeds, and oats. Pea protein, dried wild blueberries, tapioca fiber, and natural blueberry flavor make up the rest of the seven ingredients.

We like that Papa Steve’s bar has 12 grams of protein along with an impressive 14 grams of fiber. This higher fiber content can help keep you full and satisfied, and high fiber foods can help support digestive health, heart health, and healthy blood sugar levels. 

These bars do not contain added sugars, but rather get their sweetness from dried wild blueberries. The blueberries and the oats provide a total of 25 grams of carbohydrates, which could make this bar a good pre-workout or post-workout option as well. Just keep in mind the higher fiber amount may not be best for everyone before certain workouts like running.

This bar comes in other flavors including apple cinnamon pecan, almond coconut crunch, banana oat choco chip, cranberry almond, and others. Papa Steve’s also makes a non-vegan option made with whey protein which could be a good option if you want a higher protein option with 20 grams per bar.  

While these bars are dairy, soy, and wheat free, note they are processed in a facility that processes these ingredients along with egg and peanuts. Papa Steve’s recommends storing these bars at room temperature no longer than 45 days and or in the refrigerator for up to three months. They can be stored in the freezer for up to six months.

Price at time of publication: $35 ($3.50 per bar)

Protein: 12 grams | Protein source: Pea protein | Fat: 9 grams | Fiber: 14 grams | Carbohydrates: 25 grams | Calories: 200 | Sweetener type: Dried wild blueberries | Vegan: Yes | Nut free: No

Best Nut-Free

88 Acres Banana Bread Protein Bar

88 Acres Banana Bread

Amazon

Pros
  • Free from common food allergens

  • Gluten-free and vegan

  • Good source of iron

Cons
  • Limited flavors

  • Expensive

If you have a nut allergy, finding a protein bar can be a challenging task, as many bars use nuts as a main ingredient. But 88 Acres makes bars that are seed-based, so you get the convenience of a protein bar without worrying about allergic concerns with nuts. Their bars are made in a bakery that is dedicated to being allergen-friendly, so you don’t have to be concerned about potential cross-contamination.

The Banana Bread Pumpkin Seed Protein Bars from 88 Acres have a short ingredient list from whole foods: pumpkin seeds, banana, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, cinnamon, sea salt, and expeller-pressed sunflower oil.

They contain 12 grams of protein from the pumpkin seeds, which also provide a source of zinc, magnesium, and iron. These bars have 15 grams of carbohydrates, 7 of which are from sugar, which may or may not suit your preferences.

These bars are suitable for vegan and gluten-free diets, and they have a soft and chewy texture. One drawback is 88 Acres vegan bars only come in two flavors, banana bread and dark chocolate brownie. They do, however, make other oat and seed bars in different flavors that have 5 to 6 grams of protein per bar.

Price at time of publication: $29 ($3.22 per bar)

Protein: 12 grams | Protein source: Pumpkin seeds | Fat: 19 grams | Fiber: 3 grams | Carbohydrates: 15 grams | Calories: 260 | Sweetener type: Banana, maple syrup, brown rice syrup | Vegan: Yes | Nut free: Yes

Best Gluten-Free

Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bars

4.8
Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Bars Dark Chocolate

Amazon

Pros
  • Suitable for those with nut allergies

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Lower protein content

  • Not vegan

If you follow a gluten-free diet, Health Warrior bars can be a tasty protein bar snack. In addition to being gluten-free, some may appreciate these bars are made with organic and non-GMO ingredients. Plus, the first ingredient in these bars is pumpkin seeds.

London says she likes to check what ingredient is listed first on a label: “The first ingredient listed is the one with the most predominance by weight in the food itself, so you’re automatically closer to what you might eat if you had time to sit down and have a proper snack.” 

Note these bars are somewhat lower in protein when compared to others, with 7 grams per bar, making them a bar with one of the lowest protein amounts. They also have 11 grams of carbohydrates with 2 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar. These bars are sweetened with honey, giving them a subtly sweet flavor. This means they are not however suitable for vegans.

Health Warrior also makes pumpkin seed bars in honey sea salt, dark chocolate peanut, and dark chocolate coconut almond flavors. These crunchy bars can be added to your gym bag for a tasty, lighter snack on the go.

Price at time of publication: $16 ($1.33 per bar)

Protein: 7 grams | Protein source: Organic roasted pumpkin seeds | Fat: 13 grams | Fiber: 2 grams | Carbohydrates: 11 grams | Calories: 180 | Sweetener type: Organic honey, organic chocolate liquor | Vegan: No | Nut free: Yes

Best Whey Protein Bar

Rise The Simplest Protein Bars 12 Pack

Rise Whey Protein Bars Almond Honey

Amazon

Pros
  • High protein content

  • Good source of calcium

  • Whole food ingredients

Cons
  • Not suitable for vegans

  • Not suitable for nut or dairy allergies

Rise Whey Protein Bars have many things we like in a protein bar. They are high in protein, are made with whole food ingredients, and don’t contain any artificial sweeteners or preservatives. 

We particularly like that these bars contain 20 grams of protein, which can be hard to come by in a bar. They also contain 20 grams of carbohydrates and 16 grams of fat, making this a more well-rounded bar that can help keep you full until you’re able to have a regular meal.

This bar comes in a variety of flavors including chocolate banana, chocolate chip almond, mint chocolate chip, mocha almond, and snickerdoodle.

This bar has a short ingredient list: It is made with only almonds, honey, and whey protein isolate. Whey protein isolate is a form of whey, a protein from milk, that is lower in fat and lactose, and is typically easy to digest.

Because of the whey protein and almonds, each bar provides 15 percent of your daily calcium needs and 6 percent of your daily iron needs.

While that means this bar is not appropriate if you’re following a vegan diet or have a dairy allergy, it may be suitable if you are lactose intolerant depending on your level of sensitivity. Note Rise does make vegan versions of their bars using pea protein, which come in lemon cashew, sunflower cinnamon, and coconut carob flavors.

Price at time of publication: $28 ($2.37 per bar)

Protein: 20 grams | Protein source: Whey protein isolate | Fat: 16 grams | Fiber: 4 grams | Carbohydrates: 20 grams | Calories: 230 | Sweetener type: Honey | Vegan: No | Nut free: No

Best Pre-Workout

Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar Cherries and Pistachios

Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar Cherries and Pistachios

Amazon

Pros
  • Higher in carbohydrates

  • Lower in fat and fiber

  • Suitable for vegan diets

Cons
  • Not suitable for those with nut allergies

  • Lower in protein

Skratch Labs Anytime Energy Bar is a high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein bar that can be ideal before exercise. When choosing a pre-workout snack, consider snacks that are high in carbohydrates, low in fat and fiber, and moderate in protein. 

Most people do better with lower amounts of fiber and fat before exercise because fat and fiber can take longer to digest. Getting too much of these nutrients before exercise can lead to stomach upset during exercise. Including low to moderate amounts of protein along with carbohydrates before and after exercise can help build and repair muscle.

Skratch Labs bars fit the considerations of a pre-workout snack, as they are lower in fat and fiber, higher in carbohydrates, and have 5 grams of protein. They are made with whole food ingredients such as nut butters, oats, dried cherries, and pistachios.

Skratch makes bars in other flavors as well such as chocolate chips and almonds, peanut butter and strawberries, raspberries and lemons, and peanut butter chocolate. We also like that these bars are suitable for those following vegan diets.

Price at time of publication: $30 ($2.50 per bar)

Protein: 5 grams | Protein source: Nut butter blend | Fat: 9 grams | Fiber: 3 grams | Carbohydrates: 30 grams | Calories: 220 | Sweetener type: Tapioca syrup solids, coconut nectar, apple juice concentrate | Vegan: Yes | Nut free: No

Best Post-Workout

Clif Builders Chocolate Mint

Clif Builders Chocolate Mint

Amazon

Pros
  • Balanced carbs and protein for recovery

  • Suitable for vegan diets

  • Good source of iron

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Not suitable for most common food allergens

Following a workout, you should aim to consume both carbohydrates and protein to help promote recovery. Carbohydrates are needed to restock glycogen stores, while protein is needed for muscle repair.

While other protein bars contain both carbs and protein, we like that Clif Builders protein bars are higher in both nutrients with 20 grams of protein and 31 grams of carbohydrates per bar. You can throw these bars in your gym bag to help you kickstart your recovery right away.

The protein in Clif Builders comes mainly from soy protein isolate, which is derived from soybeans, making them suitable for vegan or plant-based eaters. They also contain 4 grams of iron, which is 20 percent of your daily needs. This is notable, since individuals who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are at greater risk of iron deficiency.

In addition to chocolate mint, Clif Builders protein bars come in vanilla almond and cookies and cream flavors. While these bars are gluten-free, they are not soy-free and may contain peanuts, tree nuts, or milk from manufacturing.

Price at time of publication: $20 ($1.65 per bar)

Protein: 20 grams | Protein source: Soy protein isolate | Fat: 9 grams | Fiber: 3 grams | Carbohydrates: 31 grams | Calories: 280 | Sweetener type: Cane syrup, cane sugar, brown rice syrup | Vegan: No | Nut free: May contain tree nuts

Best With Collagen

Vital Proteins Performance Protein Bar Chocolate Almond

Vital Performance Protein Bar Chocolate Almond

Amazon

Pros
  • High in protein

  • Contains 10 grams of collagen

  • Sourced from grass-fed cows

Cons
  • Not suitable for vegans, dairy, or nut allergies

  • Has sugar alcohols

If you are looking for a tasty protein bar that also is a source of collagen, we recommend Vital Performance Protein Bars. Each bar contains 20 grams of protein including 10 grams of collagen sourced from grass-fed cows. 

Collagen is a protein our bodies produce that is a main part of skin, cartilage, muscles, bone, and connective tissue. As we get older, we stop producing as much collagen, which can contribute to wrinkles. Some research shows that consuming collagen may improve skin appearance and joint pain.

Vital Performance Protein Bars get their protein from a mix of collagen peptides, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, and whey protein hydrolysate. These bars are therefore not suitable if you follow a vegan diet or have a dairy allergy.

Collagen on its own, such as in powder form, is low in the amino acid leucine, which is necessary for muscle building after exercise. But this bar also contains whey protein, which is high in leucine, making it a good post-workout option for encouraging muscle repair.

Note this bar is lower in fiber compared to other protein bars, as it only has 1 gram per bar. It only provides 3 grams of sugar, so it may be a good choice if you are looking for a lower-sugar protein bar choice. Note it does have 4 grams of sugar alcohols, which in large quantities could cause digestive discomfort for some.

Price at time of publication: $30 ($2.50 per bar)

Protein: 20 grams | Protein source: Collagen peptides, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate | Fat: 11 grams | Fiber: 1 gram | Carbohydrates: 12 grams | Calories: 280 | Sweetener type: Coconut nectar | Vegan: No | Nut free: No

Best Savory

Epic Provisions Chicken Sriracha Protein Bar

 Epic Chicken Sriracha Protein Bars

Amazon

Pros
  • No added sweeteners

  • Unique savory flavors

Cons
  • Not suitable for vegans and vegetarians

  • Expensive

For a savory, low-sugar protein bar, we recommend Epic Chicken Sriracha Protein Bars. While many protein bars have an oat, date, or nut base, Epic protein bars are unique in that they are made with meat. They are flavored with spices, rather than sweeteners, so this bar provides more of a salty, savory experience.

These bars contain 11 grams of protein from chicken, and have 0 grams of sugar. They’re also made with garlic, crushed red pepper, paprika, dried onion, and black pepper, which give this bar a bit of a kick. These bars are, however, higher in sodium when compared to others, with 760 milligrams per bar, or 33 percent of your recommended daily allowance. 

Some may not appreciate the higher sodium in these bars, but if you are exercising in the heat for over an hour, higher-sodium foods and drinks like Epic bars can help you replenish sodium after exercise.

In addition to the chicken sriracha flavor, Epic protein bars come in other flavors including bison bacon cranberry, venison sea salt pepper, beef apple bacon, and uncured bacon and pork. These bars are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians, and note they are not certified kosher.

Price at time of publication: $35 ($2.92 per bar)

Protein: 11 grams | Protein source: Chicken | Fat: 5 grams | Fiber: 2 grams | Carbohydrates: 3 grams | Calories: 100 | Sweetener type: None | Vegan: No | Nut free: Yes

Are Protein Bars Beneficial?

Protein can be found in a variety of foods including meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, tofu, tempeh, beans, and lentils. However, if you have a hard time meeting your protein needs, a protein bar can be a convenient addition. 

Protein bars may be beneficial for:

  • Active individuals: Recommendations for most adults are to consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For active individuals, the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends increasing this recommendation to around 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight with an emphasis on timing around workouts and spaced evenly throughout the day.
  • People short on time: If you are on the go and don’t have time for a balanced meal, a protein bar may be a quick way to get in some protein until you’re able to have a meal. Some bars are higher in protein, fiber, and fats, which can be a more filling snack or meal replacement when needed.
  • Older adults: As we age, we often experience muscle loss. Older adults may require more protein in conjunction with resistance exercise to offset muscle losses. Protein bars can be one helpful way to meet these heightened needs for older adults.

Who May Not Benefit From Protein Bars?

Protein bars are not a necessary addition to the diet. While they can be convenient and easy, there are certain groups who may not benefit from protein bars. 

Protein bars may not be beneficial for the following:

  • Those consuming a balanced diet: If you are able to get enough protein from foods, protein bars are not necessary. While protein bars can be a popular before or after workout snack, they are not necessary for fueling a workout or muscle repair. You can also rely on whole foods for a pre-workout snack or to start the recovery process post-workout.
  • Those with allergies: While it is possible to find protein bars that are free of common food allergens, many bars are made with these ingredients, such as dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, and wheat. If you have a food allergy, it may be best to eat other protein foods instead of a bar. Besides containing a food allergen as an ingredient, protein bars can often be manufactured in a facility that makes other foods with common food allergens. This could result in a protein bar being cross-contaminated with a food allergen. If you have an allergy, be sure to carefully check labels before eating, as they will state food allergens and potential cross-contamination risks. 
  • Individuals who need to watch protein intake: If you have a condition that requires being aware of protein intake, such as kidney disease, it may be best to consult with a healthcare provider before adding protein bars to your diet.

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We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

Protein Bars We Do Not Recommend

Since there are many protein bars on the market, it can be helpful to what you may want to avoid in a protein bar.

Bars High in Sugar Alcohols

In general, we would recommend avoiding protein bars that are high in sugar alcohols, as these can cause digestive upset in large quantities. Those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or following a low FODMAP diet may want to avoid bars with any sugar alcohols in them. 

You’ll be able to spot sugar alcohols on the ingredient list, as they end in -ol, such as with xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, or maltitol. The nutrition label will also list how many grams of sugar alcohols are in a bar. The amount of sugar alcohol that can cause digestive upset can vary based on which one is used, but in general it is recommended to stay under 10-15 grams of sugar alcohol per day. 

We chose protein bars that had little to no sugar alcohols for our top picks. Some protein bars like Quest, Pure Protein, or One Protein bars can have 6 grams or more of sugar alcohol per bar. If you consume more than one bar or other foods or drinks with sugar alcohols throughout the day, your intake of sugar alcohols could be high enough to cause some stomach issues.

Bars High in Artificial Sweeteners

We also recommend checking labels for what kind of sweetener a bar uses. Besides sugar alcohols, some artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, can be used in bars. The research remains mixed regarding their health impact, especially in large quantities.

Some research suggests large quantities of artificial sweeteners may negatively impact gut health, but more research is needed. The taste can also be impacted by artificial sweeteners, and for many people, the use of these can make foods intensely sweet sometimes with an aftertaste. Therefore, our top picks for tasty protein bars do not have artificial sweeteners.

What to Look for in Protein Bars

General Ingredients

When possible, we recommend opting for protein bars with whole food ingredients. London says to check on the first ingredient listed in the ingredient list. This can help you get closer to what you might eat if you had time to sit down and have a whole food snack or meal.

We like bars that contain ingredients such as oats, nuts, nut butters, and dates as opposed to ones with many added fillers and sweeteners. In general, the fewer ingredients in a bar, the better.

Aim to select a bar with fewer than 10 ingredients. When possible, choose bars made from whole food ingredients that you can recognize like nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dried fruit.

Protein bars range in calories from approximately 100 to 250 calories. Consider your needs when selecting a bar. If you're choosing a bar as a small snack, you may want a lower-calorie option, whereas if you are using a bar as a meal replacement, you may want a bit more.

Protein Type and Amount

Protein bars contain varying amounts of protein from different sources. The protein type you choose may depend on factors such as allergies or whether or not you follow a plant-based diet.

In terms of amount, it comes down to what you’re using the protein bar for: “When you’re looking for ones to snack on between meals, I typically recommend looking for satisfying bars that provide a minimum of 4 grams each protein and fiber, the combo of which will help to keep you fuller, longer, helping you stay satisfied and energized until your next meal," London says. "If you’re looking for a snack post-workout, I recommend looking for bars that provide a 2:1 carbs to protein ratio (e.g., 8 grams protein, 16 grams carbs).”

When searching for a protein bar, look for a bar with more grams of protein than grams of sugar. Also, consider the source of the protein. If you prefer plant-based or vegan products, a nut- or seed-based bar is likely best for you. If you want a higher-protein bar, choose one that includes a protein powder such as whey, hemp, pea, or brown-rice protein.

Carbohydrates

If you’re using a protein bar before or after working out, then we would recommend choosing a bar that is higher in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel, and will give you energy for your workout.

After longer workouts of at least one hour, it can be beneficial to replenish your body’s stores of carbohydrates. Note that fiber, which is included in the total carbohydrate amount, is not used by the body for fuel.

Any form of sugar or other carbohydrates in a bar can be used to help replenish muscle glycogen. However, not everyone may want or need added sugars, so be sure to check labels for sugar amount.

Some people may want to avoid bars that use artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols, as these can cause stomach upset especially in large quantities. We recommend choosing a protein bar that uses natural sweeteners like fruit, maple syrup, or honey.

Aim to select a bar with 10 to 15 grams of total sugar at most to stay below the recommended 50 gram limit per day, or 10 percent of total daily calories for added sugars. Try to choose a bar with 3 or more grams of dietary fiber to help meet your recommended fiber needs.

Fat

Some bars are higher in fat than others, although the type of fat can differ. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting saturated fat consumption to less than 10 percent of calories per day. It is recommended to replace saturated fat with unsaturated fats, which may be listed on the ingredient label as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat.

Bars with nuts as a main ingredient will be higher in heart-healthy fats and lower in saturated fats.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should I eat a protein bar?

    Protein bars can be eaten at any time of the day, but many people like to incorporate them before or after a workout, or when they’re on the go and in need of a quick source of protein.

  • Is it OK to eat a protein bar every day? How many per day?

    We recommend you first meet your protein needs through whole food sources. If you find that you have a hard time reaching your protein needs, it is OK to eat a protein bar every day. If you do eat protein bars regularly, it can be beneficial to vary your choices. For example, alternate between nut-, soy-, or whey-based bars to still get a variety of nutrients from these food sources.

    However, bars should not come at the expense of whole food sources of protein and complete meals.

  • When should I replace meals or snacks with a protein bar?

    We do not recommend replacing meals with protein bars. London says protein bars are often lacking key nutrients that real food contains. However, you can always pair a protein bar with food to make up for the nutrients your bar is missing.

    For example, if your bar is low in fiber, add a piece of fruit, and if it is lower in protein, pair it with string cheese. Plus, some protein bars are high in calories yet do not contain a lot of volume.

    This means you might end up eating more than you would if you ate regular food. You can use a protein bar as a snack any time you might normally want a snack.

  • Which snack bar has the most protein?

    From among our list, the bars with the most protein are Rise Whey Protein Bars, Vital Performance Protein Bars, Perfect Bars, and Clif Builders Bars, which all have between 15 and 20 grams of protein per bar.

  • Why do many protein bars taste bad, and how do I avoid this?

    Protein bars are made with different ingredients that you may or may not find suits your personal taste preferences. Some protein bars are sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, which some may find overly sweet.

    Other bars have preservatives added that can impact taste. You can avoid this by testing out different bars to find one that you enjoy.

  • How much do protein bars cost?

    Protein bars differ in their prices depending on ingredients, but often range from around $1-4 per individual bar. Bars with whole food ingredients and few fillers or preservatives may be more expensive.

    Our top pick, RX AM Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter Bars, is $22 for a box of 12 bars, or about $2 per bar. It is made with whole food ingredients and does not contain artificial sweeteners or fillers.

20 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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