The Skinny on Protein Bars

Protein bars fill the need for a quick, easy, on-the-go snack, post-workout refueling or even meal replacement. However, they’re not all made equal – and how most of them are made leaves a lot of room for improvement. 

(So much room for improvement, that making your own protein bars can be way healthier – more on this in another post; you control what goes in them, and they’re freshly made without preservatives – no sitting on store shelves for months or years!)

Protein bars really run the gamut from providing balanced and nutritious protein to being more of a sweet dessert-like treat. There is a lot of detail we could get into in evaluating different bars, ingredients and additives. I’m going to keep it simple here, for practicality’s sake.

Here’s what I look for in a protein bar:

  • More grams of protein than grams of sugar
  • Less than 10g of sugar (ideally less than 5g)
  • Whole food ingredients (example: almonds vs. pea protein isolate)
  • First ingredient is a whole food, and hopefully so are the rest
  • No sugar, syrups, nectar, or other sugar names/derivatives (like dextrin, sucrose, etc.)
  • No hydrogenated oils or “syrup solids”
  • No long chemical-sounding names
  • Quality company 

Here’s what I AVOID in a protein bar:

  • More than 10g sugar
  • Sugars, syrups, nectars, etc. (see above)
  • Protein isolates
  • Hydrogenated oils and “syrup solids”
  • Chemical-sound ingredients
  • Weight loss or low calorie bars (and other marketing-related claims)

Here are some protein bars I like:

  • Aloha bars (low sugar, plant-based)
  • Zuda (plant-based, organic)
  • b.t.r. bar (plant-based, whole ingredients)
  • RX bars (clean, whole ingredients)
  • Larabar (whole ingredients, simple)
  • Zing bars (plant-based, a little more processed)
  • Bulletproof (collagen, a little more processed)
  • No Cow bars (dairy-free)

(Obviously, you should always consider your specific dietary restrictions/needs and any health concerns.)

The bottom line: All protein bars are going to be processed. Minimize the highly processed ingredients and keep it simple to get the most nourishment from your protein bar, with the least junk. 

Quick recap: more grams protein than sugar, whole food ingredients, no sugars or chemicals. 

Happy eating!

This blog and website do not provide medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Always check with your own healthcare provider before taking a new supplement and before making any significant diet, lifestyle, exercise or other changes. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on this site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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