Do you eat protein bars? They can get addicting. Stash a bar at your desk, slip one into your purse, or have one handy in your gym bag for after your workout. Sometimes protein bars can be filled with filled with sugar and regret, while other times they are good in a pinch. But how to make sure your choice isn’t any better than that homemade chocolate chip cookie (cookies, let’s be real) you are craving?
How We Analyzed the Protein Bars
We looked a variety of nutrition and protein bars, channeling moms on the go that are trying to eat healthfully, maintain weight and avoid chemical additives. We looked for lasting options to bring sustained energy, sugar and sweeteners, the source of the protein, GMOs and hidden chemicals.
And chocolate- we looked at all the chocolate ones, because you deserve a little chocolate.
You know what we found – a large variety of choices based on YOUR priorities. We know in this market there’s a flavor for everyone, so use this list as a tool, but read the labels to see what else might be sneaking in from flavor to flavor to avoid.
What You Want to Look For in a Protein Bar
You want lasting energy and a full feeling? Look for low-glycemic carbs in the ingredients list such as whole grains, seeds, nuts and nut butters. They also give fiber, protein and fat. Whole food and superfood adds nutrition and benefits like omegas from chia seeds, fish oil, and antioxidants from dried fruit and berries. Protein from whey protein and isolate are better choices for anyone who is not vegan – but if you’re aiming for soy, make sure it’s non-GMO. And of course let it be just a little sweet – look for sweeteners like rice syrup, agave, honey and dates for sweeteners to help keep it naturally low glycemic.
What Ingredients to Avoid in a Protein Bar
Some of the nutrition bars list a combination of sugars for their special “energy blends” like sucralose, dextrose, corn syrup…but that just means a quick jolt then a hard crash. You want to avoid sugars and sugars labeled as corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, xylitol… even though some are low on the glycemic index. Because added together they are producing most of the carbs you are consuming, producing a short energy burst. Manufacturers also put them under several names to hide them, so always look at the grams per serving – and remember adult women should be aiming for 24 grams .
Includes artificial and ‘natural’ flavors, energy blends and carbohydrates created from sugar products, non-GMO soy, and poor ratios of protein to carbohydrates.
Fit & Active (Aldi)
Oh Yeah!/ Oh Yeah! One
These guys aren’t too bad. They have organic ingredients but a lot of sugar, or maybe a great ratio of protein to complex carbs but have possibly GMO ingredients. So these are still decent options – just look at the back t make sure they are fulfilling your priorities.
Lenny & Larry’s
Exo (shellfish allergy- use with caution)
Fit Joy Nutrition
The cream of the nutrition bar crop includes whole nuts, chia seeds, organic ingredients, and add a touch of sweetness with dried fruit, agave or brown rice syrup. They have good protein to carbohydrates ratios and use whole foods for fiber to keep you full.
Vega Snack Bar
Two Moms In The Raw
Julian Bakery’s Paleo Protein
This Bar Saves Lives
No Cow Bar
Which of these protein bars are you favorites? Were you surprised with how they ranked? Let us know in the comments OR if you wanted us to check anything else out.
And for more investigations like this pick up a copy of Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!) on Amazon today!
header photo credit: On The Way
How about IQ bars? I see them in Health Food stores
Look into Raw Rev Glo bars. A little lower in protein than some , but all ingredients seem to check out clean.
Leah, I’m very interested in cleaning up our bodies and environment and what your site is doing. Hope you don’t mind a male joining in…😊. I noticed a comment about Melaleuca being an MLM… it is not! .. it is consumer direct marketing , which shares some similarities with mlm’s but also distinct differences. It is one of the cleanest manufacturers in the US.. however, Usana is an MLM. I look forward to learning a lot on your site. Thank you
Hello, Kind and Simply Protein are in both BETTER and BEST categories. Is that an error or is this because there particular bars/flavours that are better or best? If so, which? Thank you!
Have you seen DANG bars? I’m hoping they make the grade because they are delicious and seemingly very healthy. Just hope I’m not missing anything!
What about the Garden of Life vegan protein bars with 20 grams of protein?? I use the chocolate mint.
Curious to know why Kind is both in Better and Best?
Linda Ann Golembiewski
Any research on Garden Of Life Fit bar. I love the fudge one and the peanut butter one. Only 1 gram of sugar and 14 grams of protein. Any thoughts on these? Thanks. Linda..
Have you done an investigation regarding protein shakes ? I’m curious.
Thank you in advance
yes i’d love to see something on protein shakes too!
How about QuestBar? I didn’t see them or maybe missed them? The chocolate chip cookie dough flavor tastes good. Thank you!
Thanks for that Kelly. I have to admit, I haven’t had one of these bars in YEARS. So I went to their site and right away I noticed something. They have an entire page dedicated to their ingredient list but making all the things they put in there sound nicer. And It’s very difficult to actually find a list of their ingredients. You can get nutritional facts…that’s something they are proud of…but not the ingredients. That would already make me mark them down for lack of transparency. They would likely be in the bad category.
What about ONE bars? I didn’t see them on the list as well.
I don’t see any of Melaleuca bars listed. Did you look at any of theirs?
We didn’t look at any MLM companies for this investigation. But we did do an investigation on most MLMs here, https://www.mamavation.com/beauty/best-mlm-companies.html
I lied. We did a couple but not all.
Have you found a protein bar that is not made with soy, nuts, seeds, whole grains such as oats, brown rice, chocolate, heavy green vegetables, and dried fruit? I have an allergy to nickel which the above foods are high in nickel. I can eat whey protein. The only bar I found with only whey protein was by isagenix and only the Lemon favor, but it is too expensive if you are not a member.
Thanks for any help you can provide.
I was going to say EXO which is made of cricket flour….but I noticed they also have almond flour in there. I’ll keep looking.