If you’re looking to further your better body goals, would you eat a candy bar every day? What about a protein bar? We’re sure the latter sounds more beneficial, but unfortunately, most of the protein bars in the market are loaded with more of the waist-widening sweet stuff than a Snickers. And, because you consider them a health food you can eat every day (rather than a once-in-a-while treat), they can be more likely to hamper your weight-loss or tone-up efforts than help them.
Whether you’re looking for a nutritious, on-the-go option to tide you over between meals or to maintain muscle mass between workouts, low-sugar protein snacks will be game changers—that is, as long as you pick the right one. See which are the best for your belly and which are Not That!s below. And then don’t miss these 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss.
Each bar has no more than 13 grams of sugar and no less than 8 grams of protein.
First… The Worst
ThinkThin Chocolate Strawberry
Per bar (60 g): 250 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (1 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 12 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a deal with this sugar-free bar. To compensate for the lack of sugar, thinkThin loads this bar up with sugar alcohols—12 grams exactly. One of those is maltitol, a low-calorie, plant-based sweetener that studies have found to be associated with stomach and abdominal pain as well as excessive internal gas and flatulence.
Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Chewy Bars
Per bar (40 g): 190 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
It may look like your favorite GORP (good-old fashioned raisins and peanuts) in a bar, but what you’re really eating when you chomp down on this Nature Valley bar is more fillers than whole foods. It looks like roasted peanuts and coconut, but more of the protein and fat you see in the nutritionals is from soy protein isolate and palm oil than whole foods.
SimplyProtein Maple Pecan
Per bar (40 g): 150 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (7 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 16 g protein
SimplyProtein Apple Cinnamon Whey Bar
Per bar (40 g): 150 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (5 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 15 g protein
These bars may be high in protein, but their ingredient lists read more like supply lists from a chemistry lab than foods from your pantry: protein isolate, vegetable glycerin, calcium carbonate, inulin and xanthan gum. None of the ingredients are harmful for your health, but why miss out on the additional health benefits and micronutrients you get from whole foods for the same amount of protein?
ZONE Perfect Nutrition Bar Dark Chocolate Almond
Per bar (45 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Don’t be fooled by the name of this bar; the “dark chocolate” is less of what you’d picture in an 85 percent dark chocolate bar and more sugar, alkalized cocoa powder (which renders all antioxidants useless), milk powder and fractionated palm kernel oil (instead of healthy-fat-rich cocoa butter).
QuestBar Protein Bar Cookies & Cream Flavor
Per bar (60 g): 190 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (14 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 2 g erythritol), 21 g protein
Don’t believe everything you read. QuestBar describes this bar as being made “with real cookie crumbles and delicious cream,” but according to the ingredients, the only place that cream could be lurking is in “natural flavors.” Not to mention, the bar may be sugar free, but it’s made with a laundry list of additives and chemicals, including artificial sweetener sucralose, and the only whole food is almonds.
Pure Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 190 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g sugar alcohol), 20 g protein
Is 20 grams of protein worth having to eat fractionated palm kernel oil, artificial sweeteners, disodium phosphate, natural flavors, and laxative-like sugar alcohols? We think not.
PowerBar ProteinPlus Reduced Sugar Lemon Poppy Seed
Per bar (60 g): 200 calories, 7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 17 g sugar alcohols), 20 g protein
Unlike the bars below, those seven grams of fat and saturated fat in this bar don’t come as much from nuts as they do from palm kernel oil and canola oil.
And Now… The Best
KIND STRONG & Kind Honey Smoked BBQ
Per bar (45 g): 230 calories, 16 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 10 g protein
Time to throw away the chips. The first ingredient in this Honey Smoked BBQ bar is considered the best nut for weight loss. Not only are almonds rich in the amino acid L-arginine, which helps build lean muscle and reduces belly fat, but they also contain the minerals riboflavin, magnesium, and manganese, which are essential for a healthy metabolism.
EPIC Bar Bacon
Per bar (43 g): 130 calories, 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 15 g protein
These Paleo, gluten-free bars are made from hormone-free pork and not much else. Loaded with protein, enjoy one after your workout to rebuild the muscles broken down during your gym sesh.
Soul Sprout Sweet ‘N Salty Sprouted Nut Bar
Per bar (43 g): 220 calories, 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 8 g protein
Sprouting is a process that increases the bioavailability of certain active micronutrients in protein, making them more accessible for your body to use as energy. This bar harnesses that natural process by sprouting almonds and cashews. You can read more about it in our exclusive guide: Why Sprouted Foods Enjoy a Place in Your Diet.
Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
Per bar (45 g): 170 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Gluten free and made with real chocolate, this Luna protein bar won’t just maintain your better body, but it will also help crush those dessert cravings in a healthy way.
GoMacro Macrobar Protein Paradise: Cashew Caramel
Per bar (60 g): 260 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (1 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 11 g protein
You can thank the vegetarian dynamic duo of organic sprouted brown rice protein and organic pea protein for those 11 grams of protein. This bar is also loaded with healthy fats from cashews and flax seeds, which are a great plant-based source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
Per bar (60 g): 260 calories, 13 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 15 g protein
Just four simple ingredients make up this bar that tastes addictively similar to lemon shortbread: organic cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein, and lemon extract. That’s it.
22 Days Enlightened Pumpkinseed
Per bar (50 g): 250 calories, 16 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (5 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 11 g protein
This organic bar is powered by a protein-packed blend of nuts and seeds with just a touch of sweetness.
Exo Bar Cocoa Nut
Per bar (60 g): 300 calories, 20 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (7 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 10 g protein
It might remind you of Fear Factor, but eating insects is the next big thing. And did we mention that they pack a nutritional wallop? Crickets have about as much protein as chicken breast but with three times the calcium. And in this bar, they provide nearly all the protein, aside from some almonds.
ThinkThin Protein Nut Bar, Chocolate Coconut Almond
Per bar (40 g): 190 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 9 g protein
Unlike their chewy, Play Doh-like bars, this thinkThin bar gets most of its protein from whole foods like nuts and seeds and is sweetened with coconut and real sugar.
RXBar Coffee Chocolate
Per bar (52 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Few things taste better than coffee and chocolate. Those ingredients—along with egg white protein and a couple other whole foods—are all that are in this crave-worthy bar.
Health Warrior Superfood Protein Bar, Mint Chocolate
Per bar (50 g): 200 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (5 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 10 g protein
Refreshing mint and cool dark chocolate come together in this Superfood Protein Bar that’s energized with an ancient grain blend of chia seeds, oats, and organic quinoa. You don’t just get 10 grams of clean, muscle-building protein, you’ll also get 20 percent of your recommended daily intake of digestion-improving, satiating fiber.
GoRaw Zesty Lemon
Per bar (55 g): 240 calories, 14 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 55 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 12 g protein
Watermelon seeds don’t have to be a nuisance. In fact, they’re a great source of protein! GoRaw has made the first bar made from sprouted watermelon seeds, and in doing so, they’ve created a bar with an astounding 12 grams of seed-based protein.
Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
Per bar (28 g): 80 calories, 3.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 310 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 8 g protein
Organic, grass-fed beef isn’t cheap for a reason. Testing shows that when cattle graze on their natural food instead of inflammatory corn, their protein consists of more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids: fats that have been utilized in weight-loss pills.
Kashi GOLEAN Plant-Powered Bar, Honey Pecan Baklava
Per bar (45 g): 200 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (4 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein
No one said that losing weight and building muscle had to involve something that tastes like clay. In fact, it can taste like a crunchy, sweet, and delicious Kashi Honey Pecan Baklava bar.
KIND Plus Almond Walnut Macadamia with Peanuts
Per bar (40 g): 200 calories, 14 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2.5 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 10 g protein
This bar contains a whopping 10 grams of satiating protein and muscle-building amino acids, and it contains some of the best nuts for a shrinking waist.
Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
Per bar (56 g): 250 calories, 11 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein
If you’re hungry for a delicious protein boost without sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners or zero-calorie sweeteners, this bar will become your go-to. It’s the perfect blend of creamy nut butter and crunchy cashews.
Perfect Bar Almond Acai
Per bar (45 g): 220 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 8 g protein
One bite of this bar and you’ll never have to eat bland, textureless protein bars that you have to force yourself to finish again. They don’t call it a “Perfect Bar” for nothing.
Aloha Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Per bar (65 g): 270 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (6 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 18 g protein
Say “aloha” to a toned body when you include this bar in your diet. And don’t worry about the 12 grams of sugar: “Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Isabel Smith MS, RD, CDN and founder of New York-based Isabel Smith Nutrition.
Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Chocolate Almond Butter
Per bar (60 g): 250 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
Amazing Grass packs in 12 grams of plant-based protein, nut butter, greens, and superfoods in this nutrient-dense bar.
HONORABLE MENTION: Clif Bar Nut Butter FIlled Chocolate Hazelnut
Per bar (50 g): 230 calories, 11 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 27 g carbs (3 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 7 g protein
It doesn’t have the 8 grams of protein that we mandated bars to have to be on this list, but we still wanted to include this bar from a well-known and affordable brand. (Plus, it’s only one gram shy, and one of our editors said this bar “tastes like sunshine.”) You first bite through an oat-and-date blended energy bar, and then hit the creamy, nutty blend of hazelnut, cashew, and almond butter. You need to try one.