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Choosing the Right Protein Bar

Protein bars are a popular snack food for on-the-go or pre or post workout, but as with most foods, not all are created equal. With dozens of brands to choose from, the toughest part is knowing which one to buy.

Depending on the type of ingredients used, protein bars can either be glorified candy bars or a nutritious source of protein. Understanding the nutrition label can be beneficial, especially when deciphering ingredients, such as sugar content, from one brand to another. With so many options out there, you may be wondering what exactly to look for. It all comes down to the ingredients. Here are some guidelines to help make the protein bar decision process a bit easier. Look for:

  • High-quality protein sources: Prioritize protein bars that source protein from high-quality sources such as grass-fed whey protein, just as you would a clean whey protein powder or plant-based protein powder.

  • Natural sweeteners: Choose bars with natural sources of sugar like honey, agave, or from real fruit like dates.

  • Whole-food ingredients: The best protein bars use whole foods or natural ingredients. Look for minimal or no artificial ingredients, if possible.

  • Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and help keep you full. Opt for protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that use vegetable or hydrogenated oils.

Is it OK to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?

There is a time and a place for protein bars, make sure you choose one with real ingredients to provide good nutrition and keep you feeling satisfied. They are a great option in between meals, as a post-workout snack or for on-the-go nutrition.

It is important to note that protein bars should not be used as a meal replacement, as there are many nutritious ingredients that will be missing from your diet if you skip nutrient-dense meals. For many, protein bars are quick and easy for an early start to the morning on the way to work or the gym. While a protein bar does not replace a wholesome, nutritious breakfast made with real foods, some protein bars can be a decent substitute in a time crunch. If this is the case, opt for bars that are low in sugar and hydrogenated oils for sufficient energy.

The Different Types of Protein and How Much Should Be in a Bar?

In order to be considered a protein bar, the bar itself should contain at least 10-20% of the daily value of protein. However, protein needs vary from person to person, depending on weight and activity level. In most cases, 15-25 grams of protein at meals and 5-15 grams at snacks is recommended for optimal results and energy.

In relation to calorie content, this number is typically between 100-400 per bar, with about 15-20 grams of protein per serving. An aspect of protein bars that is often looked over is carbohydrate content, which is actually essential for providing ample energy for the body. Therefore, when looking at the label, consider these numbers as well.

When comparing the nutrition labels on the backs of protein bars, one of the most recognizable differences is the source of protein being used. Some of the most popular forms of protein within these bars include nuts and seeds, soy, pea, whey, eggs, legumes and quinoa. One of the best parts about protein bars is the accessibility to various types of protein sources. While there are subtle differences in the digestibility of various protein sources, the most important aspect is making sure we achieve enough total protein throughout the day. When this is achieved, the source is less important. Listen to your body and experiment with different types of protein bars to see what works best for you.

Ingredients to Avoid when Purchasing Protein Bars

Look at the label and avoid bars with lots of added sugars, artificial ingredients, and processed ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil. Artificial sweeteners can cause GI upset, harming the gut microbiome overtime. Instead, look for bars with natural sweeteners, such as honey or maple syrup.

A great place to start is with the ingredient list, where less is more. Choosing whole-food ingredients will be better than unrecognizable, complicated ingredient names. The best protein bar will depend on your specific goals, but here are some general criteria to aim for.

  • Energy: Natural protein bars should have a nice balance of healthy fats, protein, and fiber to keep you satisfied and between 100 to 400 calories per serving from real-food ingredients.

  • Protein: The difference between snack bars and protein bars boils down to protein. Aim for at least 10 grams.

  • Fiber: Look for natural protein bars with at least 3 grams of fiber.

Healthy Protein Bar Options

Here are five great options for your next protein bar pick.

1. GoMacro Bar

GoMacro bars are made with high-quality, plant-based ingredients containing 12 g of protein and 3 g of fiber, and are an excellent choice when you have a hankering for something sweet, but packed with protein.

2. ALOHA protein bars

These plant-based protein bars are packed with 14 g of a nutrient dense protein blend and healthy fats so you can stay energized for hours. They also contain 10 g of fiber and are amazingly low in sugar making it a clean, yet tasty choice.

3. Perfect Bar

Packed with 17 g of protein and 3 g of fiber, these bars make for an excellent protein bar option. Not to mention the several other nutritious benefits such as wholesome fats and magnesium from the peanuts. Sweetened only with organic honey, they are an excellent protein bar option. Note: You have to keep these in the refrigerator since they are made of whole-food ingredients.


​​Made with a few simple ingredients, egg whites for protein, nuts for texture, and dates to bind it all together, these bars could not be simpler or tastier. With 10 g of protein and 4 g of fiber they make a great addition to the pantry.

5. Kize Bars

With clean and simple ingredients, these bars provide a combination of energy and protein. Containing 10 g of protein, 3 g of fiber, and nut butter-based with a perfectly soft, chewy texture.

Erika Richter, MS


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