May 18, 2024

Protein bars are the ultimate snacktime savior: They’re portable, easy to eat, and can help you get more protein in between meals. “Protein has many health benefits, including improved recovery after exercise, building lean muscle, helping maintain a healthy weight and maintaining fitness levels as we age,” says Courtney Pelitera, M.S., RD, CNSC, a dietitian specializing in sports nutrition with Top Nutrition Coaching. 

Taste-wise, though, protein bars can be hit or miss. Many bars come in dessert-inspired flavors that rival your favorite candy bar, while others, well, not so much. To find both a tasty and healthy protein bar, we tried 120 different protein bars and evaluated them based on flavor (and aftertaste), texture, nutrition and value. Here are the best protein bars you’ll actually look forward to unwrapping.

Our Top Recommendations 

Best Overall: Kind Dark Chocolate Nut Protein Bars

Amazon


What we like: It doesn’t taste processed and isn’t too sweet, and it’s well-rounded with 12 grams of plant protein and 5 g of fiber.

What to know: If you’re not a fan of nuts (and specifically roasted peanuts and almonds), this isn’t the bar for you.

KIND delivers whole-food nutrition, and this bar’s satisfying taste and texture are bound to keep you satisfied on the go. One bar has 12 g of protein derived from peanuts, almonds and soy protein isolate, plus 5 g of hunger-satiating fiber. These protein bars have 6 g more protein than the original KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bar. “This pick is great for vegans because it has plant protein. The first two ingredients are peanuts and almonds, and you can actually see the whole nuts,” say the Nutrition Twins, Tammy and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT. “Nuts are beneficial for heart health and are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.”

In our tests, we especially liked that the bar tasted exactly like the flavor described on the wrapper: Dark Chocolate Nut. The flavor is consistent throughout and isn’t overly sweet, and we got a strong but pleasant aftertaste of roasted nuts. We found the salt content to be perfect, just enough to bring out the natural toastiness of the nuts and the bittersweet taste of the chocolate. 

The bar’s texture was quintessentially KIND: It’s crunchy and very nut-forward, with a soft glaze on top and chocolate coating on the bottom to add to the bar’s rich flavor. There’s an even mix of almonds and peanuts, so you get a consistently crunchy texture throughout the bar. The bar is made with whole nuts (not crushed), so those flavors and textures overpowered the chocolate. But we liked the simplicity of this bar and the fact that it tastes like real food. 

Price: $17 | Source of protein: Peanuts, almonds, and soy protein isolate | Diet type: Gluten-free; kosher

Nutrition info per Dark Chocolate Nut bar: 240 calories, 17 g total fat (4 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar (6 g added sugars), 12 g protein

Eating Well / Joy Kim


Also Great: Trubar Smother Fudger Peanut Butter

Amazon


What we like: The chewy texture and strong peanut butter flavor are satisfying, and these bars are free of sugar alcohols and other additives.

What to know: The flavor may be too overpowering if you’re not a huge peanut butter fan.

You might mistake Trubar for a candy bar, but it only tastes indulgent. Each bar has just 190 calories and delivers 12 g of protein sourced from a combination of peanuts and pea protein. We also like that these don’t contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, which may cause GI issues in some people. The Smother Fudger bar is a peanut butter lover’s dream and rivals a peanut butter cup. 

In our tests, we found the texture to be soft, smooth, chewy and very satisfying—much like fudge. Unlike many other protein bars, Trubar was pleasantly easy to eat without getting stuck in our teeth. While the Smother Fudger bar has a smooth chocolate coating, its peanut butter flavor stands out the most. We also appreciated that the flavor was authentic, and the peanut butter really shined without tasting artificial or overly sweet or salty. And the aftertaste—a mild, pleasant peanut butter flavor—didn’t linger too long. 

If you’re not big on peanut butter, Trubar also comes in other delightful dessert-forward flavors, such as Oh Oh Cookie Dough and Daydreaming About Donuts, which taste just as good as they sound.

Price: $43 | Source of protein: Peanuts and pea protein | Diet type: Vegan; gluten-free; soy-free

Nutrition info per bar: 190 calories, 9 g total fat (4 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrates, 13 g fiber, 7 g sugar (6 g added sugars), 12 g protein

Eating Well / Joy Kim


Best Tasting: Perfect Bar

Amazon


What we like: They taste deliciously rich and boast a solid 17 g of protein and 3 g of fiber from whole foods.

What to know: They’re higher in calories and added sugars than your average protein bar. 

This is another bar that’s great for peanut butter fanatics. Perfect Bar tastes overwhelmingly like peanut butter—and it makes sense because that’s the first ingredient. When testing this bar, we found the texture dense and creamy, and the flavor was very peanut butter-dominant, though you can taste the honey as well. It truly tastes like a treat.

Upon unwrapping this bar, we knew we’d enjoy it. The scent was peanut buttery and inviting, and the flavor matched the aroma. This bar boasts a milder peanut butter flavor than the jar you’d get at the supermarket. That’s probably because it’s blended with other ingredients, including dried fruit, veggie powders, and flaxseed and sesame seed oil, among others. It makes sense that we found the outer layer of the bar to be a bit oily, and the sesame oil did make a mild appearance on our taste buds. 

Perfect Bar tastes super rich and sweet, so it’s worth noting that it’s relatively large and dense, and each one has 19 g of sugar (13 g of which are added sugar) and 340 calories (the highest on this list). 

Price: $22 | Source of protein: Peanut butter, whole egg powder, rice protein | Diet type: Organic; gluten-free

Nutrition info per bar: 340 calories, 19 g total fat (3 g saturated), 15 mg cholesterol, 50 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 19 g sugar (13 g added sugars), 17 g protein

EatingWell / Jhett Thompson


Best High Protein: Promix Protein Puff Bars

Amazon


What we like: Each bar has 15 g of protein for only 160 calories, and we loved how this tasted just like a crispy rice treat. 

What to know: It has an enticing coconut smell, but we found the flavor a bit strong during our taste tests.

Think of these as a protein-infused crispy rice treat. Promix Protein Puff Bars boast the airy, chewy texture of your favorite childhood treat plus 15 g of protein for only 160 calories. The protein comes from grass-fed whey, which is an excellent source of protein because it contains all the essential amino acids (including BCAAs) needed for muscle growth, the Lakatos twins say. That also makes this Promix bar an excellent post-workout treat. Plus, it’s low in added sugar and high in fiber.

When we tested these, we especially loved how the chocolate chip version had a delicious, milky cocoa cereal flavor without that fake chocolate aftertaste many protein bars tend to have. However, although it’s listed far down on the ingredient list, we did find that the coconut oil had a very strong presence taste-wise. Still, we loved that this bar wasn’t overwhelmingly chocolatey, and the puffs had a satisfying crunch and mouthfeel that’s very different from your average protein bar. So if you’re getting bored of the usual candy bar-like protein options, you may want to mix up your snack stash with one of these Promix Protein Puffs, which come in other tasty flavors, including Vanilla, Snickerdoodle, Birthday Cake and Blueberries and Cream.

Price: $36 | Source of protein: Whey protein concentrate and isolate | Diet type: Gluten-free

Nutrition info per Chocolate Chip bar: 160 calories, 4 g total fat (3 g saturated), 25 mg cholesterol, 60 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugar (4 g added sugars), 15 g protein

Eating Well / Joy Kim


Best Vegan: 88 Acres Banana Bread Pumpkin Seed Protein Bar

Amazon


What we like: It has a short ingredient list and is made up of mostly pumpkin seeds, a nutrient-dense, whole-food source of protein.

What to know: This seedy bar doesn’t quite achieve an authentic banana bread flavor.

This bar from 88 Acres gets its protein from pumpkin seeds, a nutrient-dense, whole-food source, the Lakatos twins say. We especially love that this bar’s ingredient list is short with just six ingredients. Each bar has 12 g of protein and 3 g of fiber, with only 4 g of added sugars.

In our tests, we found this protein bar to be soft with a slightly crunchy texture due to the densely packed pumpkin seeds. We liked the complex soft and crunchy sensation that was fairly consistent with each bite, and the bar was moist but not gummy enough to stick to the teeth. The cinnamon scent hinted at the flavor (Banana Bread), but we couldn’t initially place it. After a few more rounds of chewing, the banana notes became more pronounced but were ultimately overpowered by the pumpkin seeds. There was a balanced aftertaste of both sweet and savory towards the end of the bite.

This bar is vegan and free of nuts, gluten and other top allergens, so it’s a good option for people with food sensitivities and allergies looking for a quick, portable protein snack that isn’t too processed.

Price: $29 | Source of protein: Pumpkin seeds | Diet type: Vegan; gluten-free; tree nut-free; peanut-free; kosher

Nutrition info per Banana Bread bar: 260 calories, 19 g total fat (3.5 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar (4 g added sugars), 12 g protein

Eating Well / Joy Kim


Best Anti-Inflammatory: Mosh Blueberry Almond Crunch

Amazon


What we like: It’s comprised of a handful of functional ingredients for brain health and boasts a respectable protein and fiber content. 

What to know: The flavor was a bit bland. 

Mosh’s Blueberry Almond Crunch Bar is the perfect fuel for busy mornings. In addition to 12 g of filling protein and 7 g of fiber, this bar is packed with a “brain fuel blend” of flaxseed, vitamin B12, as well as adaptogens including lion’s mane and ashwagandha. “Adaptogens help the body regulate stress and inflammation,” the Lakatos twins say. Each bar also delivers a bunch of anti-inflammatory ingredients, including flax seeds, which have ALA omega-3s and lignans (plant compounds with anti-inflammatory effects). This bar doesn’t contain any added sugar—instead, Mosh sweetens its snack with the natural sugar substitute allulose.

In our taste tests, we found the texture of the Mosh Blueberry Almond Crunch to be gummy but surprisingly not chalky. In between the chewy bites, we loved the little pops of crunch and jammy dried blueberry bits. We liked that the crunch added dimension to the bar and complimented the berry flavor without making the bar taste too nutty. We found that this Mosh bar tastes less natural than the KIND Protein bar, but we chalk that up to the added protein powder blend—and this bar has more protein for fewer calories than the KIND bar. We could taste the protein right on the finish, but the aftertaste was mildly nutty and clean, and it didn’t leave a coating or film on the teeth. 

Overall, we enjoyed the blueberry almond flavor but wished it was more complex. We didn’t get much of the almond flavor as it was overtaken by the strong blueberry notes. Upon revealing the brand and reviewing the wrapper, we were surprised that the bar is keto-compliant and has no added sugar.

Price: $44 | Source of protein: Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, grass-fed milk protein isolate | Diet type: Keto; no added sugar

Nutrition info per Blueberry Almond Crunch bar: 160 calories, 8 g total fat (7 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 105 mg sodium, 19 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 1 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 12 g protein

EatingWell / Jhett Thompson


Best Low Added Sugars: CanDo Krisp Keto Friendly Bar

Amazon


What we like: The flavor matches the description, and these bars have just 2 g of natural sugars and 4 g of net carbs.

What to know: We wish it had a bit less sea salt, as the higher sodium content was very obvious upon the first bite.

Here’s another bar that delivers if you want protein, not sugar. Most bars contain more than 2 g of sugar, the total amount in these CanDo Krisps. You won’t find any added sugar from glucose or cane sugar in these; plus, they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, the Lakatos twins say. Instead, these are sweetened with a bit of stevia and erythritol. Each bar has 11 g of whole-food protein from almonds in addition to an impressive 8 g of fiber.

This protein bar is crunchy in the middle, with scattered crispy soy protein pieces and soft chocolate chips throughout. We enjoyed the complex flavors when testing this snack and thought the texture enhanced the overall taste. The Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt flavor tasted like chocolate, but we also got the sea salt, the crunch of almonds and a hint of sweetness, making it a great tasting experience. It’s worth noting that this bar has a generous sprinkling of salt crystals on the top and bottom, contributing to the 200 milligrams of sodium—and we found it too salty for some palates. Given the sodium content, this pick could be good for replenishing electrolytes after a sweaty workout. 

Price: $36 | Source of protein: Almonds | Diet type: Keto; low-carb

Nutrition info per Dark Chocolate Almond Sea Salt bar: 190 calories, 13 g total fat (7 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrates, 8 g fiber, 2 g sugar (0 g added sugars), 11 g protein

Eating Well / Joy Kim


The Bottom Line

The Kind Dark Chocolate Nut Protein Bars (view at Amazon) won our top spot because the first two ingredients are almonds and peanuts, which are whole-food sources of protein; plus, this bar isn’t too sweet and doesn’t taste processed or artificial. We also loved the Trubar Smother Fudger Peanut Butter (view at Amazon) because of its satisfying chewy texture, deliciously rich peanut butter flavor and the fact that it’s free of sugar alcohols and other additives.

Choosing a Protein Bar

EatingWell / Joy Kim


Protein

Aim for at least 10 g of protein (more than an egg!) to satisfy hunger longer and help muscles rebuild and recover after a workout. You’ll also want to scan the ingredient lists for the protein sources in the bar, especially if you have food allergies or sensitivities. 

The most widely used protein source in bars is whey protein, and while it comes from dairy milk, it’s often well-tolerated by lactose-sensitive individuals, Pelitera says. “Soy protein is another common protein source used in bars, particularly those that are plant-based, and is a great complete protein option.” Remember: a complete protein means it delivers all of the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. 

Other protein sources you might see in bars include pea protein, brown rice protein or pumpkin seed protein. “Ideally, bars with these [vegan] protein sources should contain a combination of at least two of these options to create a complete protein source,” Pelitera says.

Calories

Many protein bars are made with ingredients such as palm oil, coconut oil and chocolate, which all increase saturated fat content. Some bars can contain as much as 10 or 12 g of saturated fat—which is about the maximum limit for saturated fat for the entire day. “I always recommend looking for bars with 5 g of saturated fat or less per serving,” Pelitera says.

Sugar and Other Sweeteners

With flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough and salted caramel, many protein bars straddle dessert territory. Always check the nutrition label for added sugars, which will be listed under the ‘‘total sugar” count. Since the goal of these bars is to increase protein, Pelitera recommends finding a bar with less than 10 g of added sugar.

However, many bars will often contain artificial sugars or natural sugar substitutes, which keeps the added sugar count down, but still infuses sweetness. Alternative sweeteners like sugar alcohols can cause stomach upset and GI issues in some people, so if this is something you know you’re sensitive to, check the label and limit these ingredients. 

Our Protein Bar Tests

To find the best protein bars, we tried 120 popular brands in two different taste tests. We blindly assessed the taste, texture, flavor, aftertaste and smell of the protein bars. Then we separately assessed their nutritional composition and value. In our list, we included the bars that scored the highest in these categories, and only seven made the cut. 

We Also Considered

EatingWell / Jhett Thompson


ALOHA Protein Bar Sample Pack (view at Amazon): It has a good amount of protein (14 g) and is low in added sugar, but the Vanilla Almond Crunch bar was lacking in vanilla flavor. 

Honey Stinger Almond Pumpkin Nut + Seed Bar (view at Amazon): We loved the contrast in textures between the bar’s crunchy caramel and almond outer layer and the smooth inside, but it got stuck in our teeth.

RXBar Variety Pack (view at Amazon) We love that these are high in protein and fiber and low in added sugar, but we just couldn’t get past the sticky texture and how much effort this bar required to chew.

GoMacro Macro Bar Protein Purity Sunflower Butter + Chocolate (view at Amazon) We found this organic, vegan, gluten-free bar to be very dense and chewy, and its flavor profile was a bit underwhelming. 

No Cow Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bar (view at Amazon): While this bar is very high in protein (with 20 g), we found it to be extremely chalky, and the sweetener blend of monk fruit, stevia and erythritol overpowered the flavor.

Common Questions

Are protein bars good for you?

Protein bars should be treated like any other supplement in our diet. “As a dietitian, I am always going to recommend starting with a food-first approach to your diet—this means that we want to accomplish our nutrient goals for the day, including protein, with food before supplements like protein bars,” Pelitera says.  

However, protein bars are a great on-the-go option for active individuals and people who might struggle to reach their protein goals for the day. They make for a solid post-workout snack and can hold you over until you can get some of those whole foods in your diet.  

Instead of using protein bars as meal replacements, Pelitera suggests pairing the bar with a good source of fiber, such as fruits and/or vegetables, and a source of healthy fats, such as a handful of almonds, to create a more complete, balanced meal.

Will eating protein bars help with weight loss? 

Protein bars can help you lose weight, if that’s your goal, because they make it easier to meet your protein goals. “Higher protein intake will help with overall satiety and reduce snacking throughout the day, thus reducing overall calorie intake,” Pelitera says. “A modest increase in protein intake (about 30% of total calories) has been shown to aid in weight loss and help to maintain a healthy weight.”

But as with any food, too much of a good thing isn’t so great. You still have to be mindful of your daily calorie intake. If adding protein bars to your diet increases your total daily calorie intake so that it’s higher than the number of calories you burn in a day, you could gain weight, Pelitera says. If you’re adding protein bars to your diet, experiment with removing a source of carbs and/or fat to avoid adding extra calories to your diet. 

Is it bad to eat protein bars every day? 

You can eat a protein bar every day so long as you’re not relying on it as your primary source of protein. “As long as you have protein coming from other sources in the diet, such as meat, fish, tofu, beans, nuts and dairy, protein bars can be eaten every day,” Pelitera says.  

Are protein bars good for people with diabetes?  

If you have diabetes, make sure to pick a protein bar that’s low in sugar and high in fiber, Pelitera says. The low-sugar, high-fiber combo can help stabilize blood glucose levels and keep hunger at bay. 

Our Trusted Expertise

Our writer, April Benshosan, has been reporting on nutrition, health and expert-recommended products from the start of her journalism career. She’s tested many of these bars herself and includes them in her own high-protein diet. She also interviewed registered dietitians—Courtney Pelitera, M.S., RD, CNSC and the Nutrition Twins Tammy and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, CLT—for insight into what to look for in a quality protein bar.

The original version of this article was written by Joyce Hendley, M.S. This version includes some of her original work.  

This article was edited and reviewed by Brierley Horton, M.S., RD, senior commerce editor, who has 15 years of experience reporting, writing, and editing nutrition and health content.

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