Healthy protein bars

Protein Bars

Combine Ingredients: Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Press into an 11×7 inch pan (or similar size -you could use a 9×13 pan, but not press them all the way to one side).

15 Best Healthy and Low-Sugar Protein Bars, According to Dietitians

Protein bars

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Whether you’re looking for a nutritious, on-the-go option to tide you over between meals or a portable snack to maintain muscle mass between workouts, low-sugar, high-protein bars are often the answer to your nutritional needs.

Protein bars are great for traveling, as pre-or post-workout snacks, as a snack to keep blood sugar balanced, or as a fast and easy breakfast. Because they’re shelf-stable and portable, protein bars are convenient to always keep stocked in your pantry, with you at your desk, or in your bag for a quick snack on the go.

When determining if eating protein bars is good for you, the protein source, how much there is, and what other nutrients it’s paired with all need to be taken into consideration.

That’s why we asked a handful of nutrition experts for help in determining what criteria make the best protein bars.

What makes a protein bar “healthy”?

If you’re looking to further your better-body goals, you may consider eating protein bars. While it might sound beneficial, unfortunately, most of the protein bars in the market are loaded with sugar alcohols or saturated fat and lack fiber. We spoke to Toby Amidor, MS, RD, Rachel Fine, MS, RD, Angie Asche, MS, RD, and Hillary Cecere, MS, RDN about what qualities you should be looking for in healthy protein bars:

  • Have a nice balance of healthy fats, protein, and fiber to keep you satisfied
  • Are between 200 to 400 calories
  • Contain up to 20 grams of protein per serving
  • Feature whole foods like nuts, whole grains, and fruit.
  • Use high-quality protein sources like whey protein isolate, pea protein, brown rice protein, and eggs.

The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.

Not just any protein bar landed a spot on our list of best protein bars. We compiled a list of over 100 protein bars so we could compare their nutrition and ingredient information. With the help of dietitians, we came up with specific nutritional and ingredient criteria we had to follow to select the best protein bars:

  • 8 grams protein minimum: To qualify as a “protein bar,” each bar had to have no less than 8 grams of protein. Cecere recommends aiming for 15-20 grams of protein if you’re looking to gain muscle and 7-12 grams of protein for a satiating snack. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule in our list below.
  • 13 grams sugar maximum: The best protein bars have no more than 13 grams of sugar, with a few exceptions that made the list (and the experts explain why).
  • 3 grams fiber minimum: When it comes to fiber, Fine recommends opting for a protein bar with 3 or more grams per bar or serving. “However, caution with those boasting more than 10 grams of fiber as these are likely loaded with isolated fibers that can cause stomach discomfort,” says Fine. You’ll find there are a few options listed below with only 1-2 grams of fiber, but this means the other ingredients in the bar are top-notch.

The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:

  • High-quality protein sources: We prioritized protein bars that sourced their protein from high-quality isolates and concentrates (such as grass-fed whey protein) as well as whole food ingredients (like nuts or antibiotic-free meat). “Nuts, nut butters, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds are my favorite whole food protein sources for a protein bar,” Cecere says.
  • Natural sweeteners: “Last, regarding added sugar, check ingredients and choose options with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit. Whole fruit (in comparison to fruit juice and fruit concentrate) is not considered an added sugar,” says Fine.
  • Whole-food ingredients: Whether they’re used to flavor or sweeten, the best protein bars only use whole food or natural ingredients—no artificial ingredients allowed.
  • Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and they also help to keep you satiated. We prioritized protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that use vegetable oils as fillers and binders.
  • Low to no synthetic or isolated fiber: “Ingredients I watch out for and advise athletes avoid (especially around the times they’re training as they can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain) include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol, and large amounts of synthetic fibers like soluble corn fiber or chicory root,” adds Asche.

The following 15 low-sugar, best protein bars deserve a spot in your pantry. After discovering the best of the best, keep reading to uncover the protein bars that are not all that below.

The Best Healthy Protein Bars

1. Best Protein Bar Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt

RXBAR chocolate sea salt protein bar

1 bar (52 g) : 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein

If you want to feel like you’re eating a decadent salted brownie while meeting all your protein needs, you’ve met your match with an RXBAR. Dubbed a favorite by many of the experts we spoke to, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian, particularly likes the simplicity of ingredients: “RXBAR does a nice job of making bars out of recognizable ingredients. They are very straightforward on their packaging and tell you that each bar contains dates, nuts, egg whites, and flavors. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Sea Salt, and I find that the 12 grams of protein really keeps me full.” 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e

Protein Bars

Homemade protein bars.

Homemade protein bars made with oats and peanut butter.

The BEST Protein Bars are healthy, no-bake, and contain nothing artificial! These are chewy, delicious, easy to customize, and are the perfect healthy snack. Looking for more healthy snacks? Try my Energy Balls, Applesauce, Carrot Muffins, or learn how to make The Perfect Charcuterie Board.

Why I love this recipe:

No Bake – No heating up the house, and only takes 10 minutes to throw the ingredients together and put in the fridge. Healthy – Nothing artificial here. These bars are filled with normal pantry ingredients and sweetened with honey. Taste Delicious – I’ve had one to many unappetizing protein bars in my life, so I’m all about making them from scratch, with ingredients I recognize, and they taste wonderful!

Ingredients in Protein Bars:

Labeled ingredients needed to make Protein Bars.

  • Rolled Oats – quick oats would also work.
  • Protein Powder – Add your favorite whey or plant based protein powder including Chocolate, vanilla, or plain flavored.
  • Peanut Butter – or substitute any nut butter or sunflower butter.
  • Honey – Naturally sweetened and no added sugar. You could substitute agave.
  • Ground Flax Seed
  • Banana – mashed, for sweetness flavor and binding.
  • Salt
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Mix-Ins – I like to customize my bars with chopped dates, dried fruit (blueberries, cranberries, or raisins), mini chocolate chips, or unsweetened coconut flakes.

How to make Protein Bars:

Combine Ingredients: Mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Press into an 11×7 inch pan (or similar size -you could use a 9×13 pan, but not press them all the way to one side).

Protein Bar ingredients mixed together in a bowl.

Refrigerate: Place pan in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars.

A pan with chilled protein bar mixture pressed into it, ready to cut into bars.

Cut Bars: Before cutting, press them down and together tightly. Cut into bars and store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

Freezing Instructions:

Layer bars in a freezer safe bag or container, with a piece of parchment paper between layers, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter before eating.

Recipe Variations:

  • Mix-Ins: Customize these bars with your favorite mix-ins! Some ideas: chopped dates, dried fruit (blueberries, cranberries, or raisins), mini chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut flakes, crispy rice cereal, chopped nuts, or anything you like!
  • Nut Butter: Swap out the peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower butter.
  • Protein Powder: Use your favorite kind. Chocolate, vanilla, or plain would all work great for this recipe!
  • Vegan Protein Bars Recipe: Use your favorite vegan protein powder.

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