10 Best Keto Protein Bars, According to Experts
It can be a struggle just to "cut back" on carbs, so when your new diet plan requires eliminating them from your diet almost entirely, those first few days and weeks can be tough. That's particularly true if you're trying the keto diet: a low carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet in which 70 percent of your total daily calories come from healthy fats and protein. Luckily, there are plenty of store-bought keto snacks that you can buy to help you meet your macros, and keto protein bars are among your best options.
What are keto protein bars?
Keto protein bars are exactly what they sound like: Protein bars tailored to meet keto diet standards.
"Keto protein bars can be any protein bar that is sufficiently low in carbohydrates, has moderate protein, and higher fat content," says Brad Dieter, PhD, Chief Operating Officer of Macros Inc., and co-author of the NASM-CNC.
According to Dieter, keto protein bars are often made with:
- nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts)
- seeds (sunflower seeds)
- oils (palm, coconut)
- functional fibers
- sugar alternatives (sugar alcohols, monk fruit, stevia, artificial sweeteners)
What purpose do keto protein bars serve?
Contrary to what you might assume, you don't have to be an avid gym-goer (or an athlete in any capacity, really) to benefit from keto protein bars. Keto protein bars can offer a boost of energy and help aid in post-workout recovery, but they provide a range of other benefits as well, says Kajsa Ernestam, in-house Dietitian at the digital health app, Lifesum.
"No matter what diet you're on, there are numerous benefits to eating regularly and including 1-3 snacks between your main meals. That said, when you're on the keto diet, it can be challenging finding snacks that don't have too many net carbs," Ernestam tells Eat This, Not That! Ergo, keto protein bars can help fill in the gaps.
Keto protein bars can also help your body stay in a state of ketosis, in which the body burns fat as a source of energy rather than the glucose from carbs, says Rachel West, RD a dietitian at eMeals.
"Protein bars can be helpful when you're eating on the go while trying to stay in ketosis, because they have the mix of macronutrients that keto dieters need. Most are around 175 to 250 calories, which can be a grab-and-go breakfast for some or work as a snack when hunger strikes," says West.
How to choose the best keto protein bars?
When shopping around for keto protein bars there are certain things you need to be mindful of.
- Check the label for keto-related claims. just like any other dietary supplement, experts stress that reading through nutritional labels is key. For example, most protein bars specifically made for keto dieters will have "keto" or "keto-friendly" on the packaging.
- Do the macro math. Even if a bar claims it is keto, you should still do the macronutrient math for yourself as a way of double-checking that the percentages meet your individual ratios.
- Check what foods are in the keto protein bars. It's important to note what food sources are behind those percentages as well. Bars that rely on whole food ingredients rather than processed and artificial additives should be your go-to. The majority of fat should come from plant-based sources, and the bars should have no more than 20 percent of your daily value of sodium per serving, advises Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.
- Watch out for irritating ingredients. Because keto protein bars need to be low in carbs and sugars, many brands will replace added sugar with sugar alternatives. The most common alternatives are sugar alcohols, which your body does not digest, which means they have no calories. Keto dieters with sensitive stomachs should be on the lookout for sugar alcohols like mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt and maltitol as they can cause digestive irritation.
- Look for fiber. In addition to healthy fats and protein, Ernestam suggests paying attention to the amount of fiber in keto protein bars. "Since fiber takes longer for the body to digest, it will make you feel fuller for longer. Plus, your stomach will thank you," says Ernestam.
What are the best keto protein bars to buy?
Below, experts reveal the 10 best keto protein bars and what makes them stand out among other options on the shelves.
3g net carbs, 6g protein, 20g fat
"Containing low amounts of net carbs, the Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond Keto Bar is a keto-friendly option," says Ernestam. "Compared to other keto protein bars, the protein content in this one is a bit lower – however, it still contains as much protein as a small egg."
1-2g net carbs, 20g protein, 9g fat
Looking to curb a major sweet tooth? Julian Bakery's bar fits the bill sans any actual baked goods: "With only 1 gram of net carbs, the Pegan Protein Bar Chocolate Lava is a good option even if you are on a very strict keto diet," says Ernestam. "This bar has the highest protein content compared to the other ones on my list, with 20g protein per bar. (Protein is good for saturation and a lot of functions in the body, such as our muscles.)."And while some of its ingredients may not sound super familiar, no worries. The majority are from natural sources, as it's vegan-friendly," assures Ernestam.
5g net carbs, 16g protein, 11g fat
Particular about flavor? Atlas Keto Protein Bars are a great option for picky eaters because they come in so many flavors, says Ernestam. However, note that "this bar contains 5 grams of net carbs per serving, which means that it will contribute half of the daily net carb limit for someone on a very strict keto diet (net carbs <10g per day)."
5g net carbs, 9g protein, 16g fat
Gluten-free? Zenwise has what you need: "The Zenwise Health Keto-Crave Energy Bar is gluten-free, which makes it a great option for people that can't (or don't) eat gluten," says Ernestam. "It also contains a fair bit of protein which is good for weight management, muscle function, and cardiovascular health."
3g net carbs, 13g protein, 7g fat
For those who prefer savory over sweet, Epic Provisions Chicken Egg Yolk and Apple Bar is one of plenty savory keto protein bars on the market: "This bar is deliciously savory, making it a better option for someone struggling with sweet-tooth cravings," says Ernestam. "Compared to other bars, this bar has a 'cleaner' ingredient list, as many of the ingredients are actually spices. [What's more,] mainly made with animal products, this bar contains no sweeteners, making it a more friendly option for those with a sensitive gut."
1g net carbs, 14g protein, 9g fat
Speaking of savory options, Palinski-Wade is a big fan of the DNX bar line as "this variety combines a lean beef along with uncured bacon and natural flavorings for a protein-packed bar with only 1 gram of net carbs."
7. Dang Bars
4-5g net carbs, 14g protein, 9g fat
In addition to Asian-American snack brand Dang Foods delivering delicious coconut and Thai rice chips to your pantry shelves, they've also added low-carb, keto-friendly bars to their resume.
"If you are looking for a plant-based keto option, the Dang bars are the perfect choice," says Palinski-Wade. "Made from a mix of nuts and pea protein, these bars have a clean label, provide a good source of fiber, and are one of the lowest in sodium of all the keto bars on the market."
10g net carbs, 21g protein, 6g fat
Traditional birthday cake isn't exactly keto-friendly, but if you're committed to sticking with your diet through the celebrations, Quest has some tasty alternatives that let you have your (sort-of) cake (or cookie or pie) and eat it, too.
"If you are looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, the Quest bars can meet that need on a keto diet," says Erin Palinski-Wade. "With just 4 grams of net carbs, these bars are sweetened with the sugar alcohol erythritol. Unlike other sugar alcohols that can cause gas and bloat, erythritol has a minimal impact on the GI system."
2-3g net carbs, 10-11g protein, 17-19g fat
"Having an ingredient list filled with ingredients you can identify is the best bet to finding the healthiest keto protein bar options," stresses West. "Perfect Keto bars are a good option for this reason. They have a range of flavors and the ingredients are easy to recognize [like organic almond butter, grass-fed collagen, organic vanilla extract, and cacao butter]."
10. Bhu Keto Bars
2-3 g net carbs, 8-11 g protein, 1-2 g of sugar
"Each variety has a bit different ingredients and nutrition stats, but the high fat count makes the Bhu Keto Bars filling," says Ernestam. "They could work for an afternoon snack, or if you're just craving something sweet."