Best Protein Bars Reviewed & Rated for Taste
There’s no reason to avoid protein bars. They're one of the most delicious health foods you can eat out there right now. They’re sweet, they’re filling enough for a car ride to work or a snack during a lull in the job hours to keep you going. Or if you’re working out, they make the perfect snack during your breaks. And we’re counting down the top 10 here today! So, get ready for a fun and fulfilling day, because we’re counting down the:
In a Hurry? The test winner after 183 hrs of research
Sweet without having to use much sugar
Uses plenty of fiber
Top 10 Protein Bars
Sweet without having to use much sugar
Uses plenty of fiber
If you’re lactose intolerant or have an easily upset stomach, the whey proteins in this may not agree with you
Kicking off our list, as well as our top 3 segment, we have Oatmega Protein Bars. These bars have quite a bit going for them in terms of health benefits. Not to mention, of course, they’re quite tasty, to boot.
Sweet Without Much Sugar
It’s quite the feat indeed to be able to manage a sweet taste without the aid of much sugar. Not to say there isn’t any sugar, but a measly 5g isn’t going to throw a monkey wrench into anyone’s diet. The trick is picking ingredients that complement the sugar and add to the sweetness.
Plenty of Fiber
If you need more fiber in your diet, then this is the protein bar for you. True, 7g of protein may not sound like a lot, but considering that that’s 7g of protein per bar, it adds up.
Cost and Value
A box of these protein bars won’t cost you all that much. Not to say it’s cheap of course but considering what’s usually charged for an entire box of protein bars, this is a pretty good deal.
2. Quest Apple Pie
Great apple pie taste
Contains zero sugar
Gluten and soy free
Box contains only 12 bars, while generally costing twice that at least
In our 2nd place spot, a rather unorthodox creation, as far as protein bars go. Not to say there aren’t any fruit-based protein bars out there, but there are significantly fewer pie based ones. However, don’t let that fool you, Quest Apple Pie protein bars aren’t just as delicious as the name implies, they’re also incredibly healthy.
One thing people hate about healthy food is that it always tastes like healthy food. But Quest’s Apple Pie bars manage to perfectly simulate the great taste of the greatest American dessert, without sacrificing even a bit of the health benefits.
Your head is probably spinning at that revelation, filled with all the various (and probably vulgar) ways to call our bluff. But it’s true! Using a mixture of Erythritol, Sucralose, and Stevia, as well as baking in tiny chunks of actual apples, this protein bar gets around the problem of sweetening without any sugar with ease.
Cost and Value
This package of protein bars costs a fair bit more than the previous entry, but considering how much healthy deliciousness they managed to cram into each of the 12 bars that come with each box, we’d call the deal more than worth it.
3. Kind Sweet and Spicy
Great pick for vegetarians
Delicious BBQ taste
Good source of protein
Finishing up our top 3 section, we have KIND Sweet and Spicy Bars. Kind is an interesting bunch in the health food world, mostly because they’re one of the biggest names in one of the health foods’ niches: whole food bars. Yes, the Kind bars are almost always made from whole food ingredients. What does this mean for you?
Great Option for Vegetarians
Note that the line reads “vegetarians” not “vegans.” Sorry vegans, but there is a bit of honey contained within these bars, which does make it just barely miss the vegan quota. However, if you are of the less intense “vegetarian” variety, then you’ll find the 10g of protein from the nuts and pea protein isolate rather welcoming.
Great BBQ Taste
If you’re hitting a new diet, then you’re probably missing the sweet, meaty taste of barbeque. Well despair no longer, friend, as Kind’s bar carry that same succulent taste without reneging on the health benefits. Providing the protein and meaty taste, without the mess of barbeque sauce.
Cost and Value
The main drawback is the price. While not the most expensive entry on this list, it could definitely still be cheaper, especially considering the fact that, as is the default for protein bar boxes, it only contains 12 items.
4. GoMacro Organic
Completely allergen free
Maintains a proper nutrient balance despite this
Boosts immune system
Contains brown rice syrup, a form of sugar
In the #4 spot, we have GoMacro Organic MacroBars. Not only is this a great bar for people on a diet, but it’s also a great choice for people who are allergic to certain foods or ingredients. How does it manage this? Simple:
If you physically need to avoid ingredients such as gluten, nuts, soy, dairy, and eggs, you’re looking at the right protein bar. This bar manages to avoid all of those ingredients that could potentially harm someone who is allergic to them. But what’s doubly impressive is what they manage to achieve on top of that.
Good Nutrient Balance
You would think that cutting out so many food groups would hurt the nutrient balance, but you would be dead wrong. With a balance of 10g protein, 9g sugar, and 260 calories, this bar maintains an excellent balance of all the nutrients that need to be in a bar like this, without resorting to allergens of any kind.
Cost and Value
The price for a 12 pack of these bars is pretty fairly priced, all things considered. Not the cheapest, mind you, but it gets by, and it won’t break the bank to add this into your grocery list.
5. Luna Gluten-Free
Gluten-free, yet satisfies the sweet tooth
Prolonged level of energy
May melt in transportations, so when they reharden, they become tougher to bite into
Coming in straight in the middle of the list, we have our #5 spot, Luna Protein Gluten Free Bar. Made from dark chocolate (the healthy kind of chocolate, this protein bar maintains a bittersweet taste while still delivering a delicious flavor at the same time.
Gluten-Free, Yet Satisfies the Sweet Tooth
This bar lives up to its title, being completely gluten-free while still being able to have chocolate and vanilla mixed into its recipes. Talk about having your chocolate cake and eating it too. But one definite upside this has is the fact that you can eat this healthy snack as an alternative whenever you feel your sweet tooth calling for you.
Prolonged Level of Energy
You’ve probably heard the term "low glycemic index" tossed around when discussing health foods like this, with everyone talking about it like they already know what it is, leaving you in the dust. Basically, it means that it digests deliberately slower than other foods. For this protein bar, that’s a good thing because that means its effects last for longer periods of time. So, you have more energy, for longer.
Cost and Value
The cost of a box of 12 of these bars is actually rather cheap at most retailers compared to other protein bars on this list. Which is definitely a good thing if you’re trying to stick to a diet but are having trouble keeping down your sweet tooth.
9 essential amino acids
4g fiber keeps you satisfied longer
Mint flavor is so subtle; it may as well not even be there at all
In our #6 spot, there’s Probar Protein Bars. This plant-based protein bar consists of 20 grams of protein, quite a lot for a simple protein bar. But that’s far from being all that this line of protein bars has going on under the hood.
9 Essential Amino Acids
The human body needs 9 amino acids to remain functioning at peak efficiency. These amino acids are exhausted as you perform certain tasks for certain periods of time. This line of protein bars contains those 9 essential amino acids, making these bars a very popular choice among athletes for post-workout recovery.
Keeps You Satisfied Longer
One of the things that keep your appetite from cropping up even after you’ve already eaten if fiber. And with over 4g of fiber contained in each of these bars, just one after a decent meal is enough to keep that appetite in place until you definitely need to eat again.
Cost and Value
A 12 pack of these bars come in at a very modest price for these bars. Nothing really worth noting, since this price is fairly even across retailers. Not too high, but not too low either.
Helps support digestion with 3g of fiber
Helps lean muscle with 9g of protein
Contains artificial sweetener maltitol, which can cause allergic reactions in some people
Other ThinkThin bars have been not unfairly criticized for their texture is a bit too chewy, like putting play-doh in your mouth despite every warning on the planet yelling at you not to. However, this bar gets around that by getting the majority of its ingredients from whole foods, such as nuts and seeds, and its sweetness from coconut flavoring and a dash of real sugar. What else does it have going for it?
Helps Support Digestion
Everyone has problems with digestion at some point in their lives. Which is why everyone keeps subscribing you fiber when it does happen because fiber helps your digestive tract move at peak smoothness. In fact, laxatives are basically concentrated fiber that help you when you’re backed up. Which is why this bar comes with about 3g of fiber.
Helps Lean Muscle
There’s nothing quite like a good, delicious protein bar before or after a good workout, and in that sense, this is one of the best protein bars you can invest in for that purpose. Containing 9g of protein, this bar helps lean muscle, helps you grow and recover muscles, and even improves satiety.
Cost and value
The best part about this box of protein bars is its price. This 12 pack comes at a much better deal than some of the prior entries on this list, regardless of what retailer you consult.
8. Epic All Natural Meat
Almost nothing but fiber
Perfect for post workout
Sweet maple syrup flavor
If you aren’t a fan of pork, avoid these bars like the plague
Kicking off our final 3, we have Epic All Natural Protein Bars. Now, these bars may be a bit of a hard sell to most people. They’re essentially protein bars...made from pure meat. As in, very little else but hormone free pork, essentially making this beef jerky, except in the form and thickness of a protein bar. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it? Fortunately, it has enough going for it to help convince you.
Perfect for Post-Workout
If you’re looking for protein, you can’t get much more of it than with this bar, shy of just eating a steak after every workout. And while that would make the epitome of manliness, it’s understandable if you want something a tad more convenient. Have a bar or two of these after an intense workout, to help revive those broken down muscles.
Meaty, Yet Sweet
Anyone who’s had bacon with pancakes knows the pure unadulterated bliss of just dipping your bacon into your syrup. And that joy is repeated with these bars, which include a dash of maple syrup flavoring in with the meat.
Cost and Value
You’ll find this 12 pack of pure meaty delight for a very average price across all retailers where this is found.
9. Rise Bar Non-GMO
15g plant-based protein per bar
Taste might not be the best for some
In our second to last entry, we have the Rise Bar Non-GMO Protein Bar. This is what’s known as a good, simple protein snack. There’re no experimental mixtures or whole food ingredients that you don’t usually find, instead just a perfect example of doing what you’re expected to do, but doing it very well.
There are only 4 ingredients that make up this protein bar: Organically grown cashews, pea protein, coconut nectar, and lemon extract. What this results in is a protein bar that tastes deliciously similar to lemon shortbread, that’s also high in proteins. Combine that with pure pea protein isolate, and you have the perfect protein-rich snack.
One of the benefits of being a smaller company like Rise, is that you can still afford to do things the right way without having to forego efficiency. Each one of these bars is individually and artisanally crafted and packaged, making each one unique, but expertly made nonetheless. Perfect for the traditionalists among us.
Cost and Value
Once again, we have a 12 pack of protein bars priced very modestly, very much keeping to the default price of such a product.
10. Exo Cricket Flour
Cricket flour is high in protein
Also, extremely high in calcium
The fact that these are made from crickets is often enough to turn people off
In our final entry of this list, we have the Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bars. And no, they are not kidding with that title. If that turns you off immediately, know that there is no judgment. But if you’re intrigued by this setup, read on to see exactly where they’re going with this.
It may seem like the craziest thing in the entire world, and on some level, it is, but there is actual merit to this argument. Crickets have been proven healthy to eat if prepared right, containing as much if not more protein than chicken breast, and as much as 3 times the calcium.
Not only is this protein bar packed to the brim with protein, but it’s then packed further with as many other nutrients as the manufacturers could fit. This includes materials like fiber and monounsaturated fats taken from ultra-premium real food ingredients.
Cost and value
One of the bigger problems with this pnumberars is its price. It simply does not have the quantity of bars needed to justify the large price tag that this box generally comes with.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Obviously, this goes at the top. One would think the top spot would go to protein levels, but the level of protein doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. Of course, there’s going to be a high amount of protein in a protein bar, so what we looked for when we evaluated the contestants for this list was how well the protein was balanced out with everything else that was in there. Was there calcium? Fiber? How much of it? And what does it all add up to do to your body once consumed? These are all pertinent questions, all of which were asked when evaluating the entries for this list, and how high those entries made it on the list.
To make a long story short, if the protein was all that mattered, then the Epic entry would’ve been at the top.
When judging anything meant to be eaten, obviously how it tastes is a big priority for getting on the list. Taste has actually brought down some of these entries, though not by much since taste is a very subjective concept. What was delicious to us may be disgusting to you, and what we wanted to throw out the window into a raging trash fire, you may want to build a shrine to, based on nothing else than how it made your taste buds dance with joy. So, this criteria is a bit less important than you would think it’d be because what tastes good to one person isn’t going to taste good to another. You have to buy one or more of these and decide for yourself which one you like.
This refers to how the protein bar feels when you bite into it and feel it in your mouth. This is a big part of the taste and how much you like eating something. Even if you think it’s objectively delicious, if it doesn’t feel good to put in your mouth, you’re going to be reluctant to put it in at all. This is why a lot of protein bars try to coat their bars in something like dark chocolate, to add that extra bit of flavor while also adding to the texture of the bar. A lot of people can put up just fine with the scratchy feeling of a protein bar (basically just a bunch of food chunks superglued together) going down their throats, but many more can’t. So again, it all depends on what you like to feel in your mouth. Do you prefer your food to feel smooth and silky as it slides down your mouth, or do you prefer to feel every chunk of delicious food going down into your stomach individually?
It’s one thing to taste good or feel good to eat, it’s another thing entirely to leave you feeling satisfied after you finish eating. This is done through a number of ways, but the most common is to make these bars with a non-glycemic index, which makes food digest slower. This makes it harder for your appetite to come rearing its ugly head after you just finished eating. Satisfaction is key with a protein bar because you’re likely on a diet if you’re regularly eating these things, so you need to make sure that when you eat it, you don’t feel like eating much afterward.
Now, this is where it gets tricky because the ingredients refer to a lot of factors. It could refer to how many ingredients there are and how that affects the recipe, it could mean how few ingredients there are and what health benefits are thus prioritized over others, and so much more. For this list, to keep things simple, we chose to focus on protein bars that had more ingredients and a wider array of health benefits. Which is why things like Epic, while still getting onto the list for the sheer amount of protein alone (this is a list of protein bars, after all, so a bar composed primarily of protein would, of course, get on this list for the sake of novelty alone).
And then there are entries that put in ingredients that no one else does. The obvious example is EXO, but then you have Probar, with its inclusion of all 9 essential amino acids to fill a niche and scratch an itch that had gone unscratched by the other entries, at least not as thoroughly as Probar.
Ingredients will always be the most complex topic when it comes to any kind of food. Because it doesn’t matter what kind of food you’re making, there are always countless different ways to accomplish what you’re trying to do. And it’s always interesting to see what you come up with in the end.
And finally, we have a cost. This is rather simple since you’re usually going to be buying protein bars in one of two ways. You’re either going to be buying them in single units on your way out of the gas station after paying for a refill, or you’re going to be buying an entire box online, so you have something to snack on at home while you’re on your diet. So, the cost should be judged under those circumstances, but there’s usually no need to worry. Even when buying an entire box of the things, it’ll barely cost you all that much. And even when it does, it’s usually not all that hard to pencil it into your grocery budget.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
The one piece of advice we have when it comes to protein bars is to max out your protein. That's why you're eating them after all right? The more protein you can get in your belly the more fuel you'll have and the fuller you'll feel. So the more grams of protein the better. And do we really need to say keep the sugar low?
Frequently Asked Questions
q: So why is it so important that I have protein bars in the first place? I eat plenty of meat, so I don’t see why I should need protein bars on top of that.
Because there are going to be times when you have to have some protein in your system really quick, but the nearest steakhouse is a mile away. This usually comes after a big workout when your muscles have all broken down from the strain of the workout. Protein gets those muscles back up and running at top speed again when you take enough of it in at once. But besides that, protein is important to help build lean muscles normally. In short, never discount the importance of protein in your daily diet.
q: How do protein bars get around the fact that you typically need sugar to make things taste sweet, at least to some degree?
Most protein bar companies just tend to make up their own methods, because there are a plethora of ways to go about it. From adding in equally healthy chemicals to just adding in fruits or nuts that are sweet already, such as with Quest’s Apple Pie bars back in the #2 spot, putting in tiny chunks of real apples into their protein bars.
Now, even when a company does this, that might not stop them from sneaking in just the tiniest dash of sugar to keep things nice and tasty. It’s never all that much, at least not with the ones on this list, but if you prefer not to have any sugar in your protein bars, you need to be on the lookout for that.
q: I’m backed up and need help getting regular again, can protein bars help with that?
They can indeed, but you need to be very particular about the kind of protein bar you buy when you’re looking for something to help you with your very specific problem. What you’re looking for is a protein bar that is high in fiber. It seems strange, looking through protein bars for fiber, but the two go hand in hand more often than you’d think. Fiber helps your digestive system work through food faster and convert it into defecation at a more consistent, healthier rate. Nd protein bars can contain enough fiber to tide you over for more than half a day.
q: Why is it so important that my protein bars, or any kind of food for that matter, have a non-glycemic index?
It’s always nice to be able to digest food faster, but the problem with that is that, once it’s digested, then it’s gone. As are any of the effects that it was having on you. Sure, the proteins will do their job, but now that the main source has been passed through the system, it’s only a matter of time before you’re right back where you started. This is where the concept of non-glycemic indexes comes into play. A non-glycemic index makes something take longer to digest. This is not the same as being harder to digest, but rather deliberately taking its time to pass through the digestive system. This accomplishes two tasks at once.
One, it accomplishes the task of satisfaction. When you eat a protein bar, you expect that thing to stay in your stomach for a few hours. Because you’re on a diet, and you need to limit how much you eat. Non-glycemic indexes make food take longer to digest, meaning it will be long before your stomach starts to have cravings. This keeps your appetite from potentially wrecking your diet.
Secondly, it prolongs the effects of the food you’re consuming. Not only will this mean that you’re consuming a protein bar that’s high in protein, fiber, and has all 9 essential amino acids, but its non-glycemic index ensures that those effects will last for even longer.
Is a non-glycemic index vital for a protein bar to be on the list? No, it would’ve gotten its own section in the criteria portion then. The point is that this is still a highly important factor to consider when buying protein bars. Not only should you try to find one that benefits your body, but one that benefits your body for long periods of time.