23 Best & Worst Low-Sugar Protein Bars
If you’re looking to further your better body goals, would you eat a candy bar every day? What about high protein snacks or protein bars? 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, high protein snacks will be game changers—that is, as long as you pick the right one. See which low-sugar protein bars are the best for your belly and which are Not That!s below.
RELATED VIDEO: How to Snack Healthier
First… The Worst Protein Bars
ThinkThin Chocolate Strawberry
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—22 grams exactly. One of those is maltitol, a low-calorie, plant-based sweetener that a study in the International Journal of Dentistry found to be associated with stomach and abdominal pain as well as excessive internal gas and flatulence. Not something that makes us want to eat these high protein snacks.
Nature Valley Coconut Almond Protein Chewy Bars
It may look like your favorite of high protein snacks, 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 Crispy Lemon Bar
SimplyProtein Baked Chocolate Chip Bar
These bars may be high protein snacks, but their ingredient lists read more like supply lists from a chemistry lab than foods from your pantry: soluble tapioca fiber, vegetable glycerin, and “natural” flavors. None of the ingredients are harmful to 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
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). Not ideal in terms of high-protein snacks.
QuestBar Protein Bar Cookies & Cream Flavor
Don’t believe everything you read. QuestBar describes this bar as being made “with real cookie crumbles and delicious white chocolate 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 almost 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
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 and say no thanks to this protein bar.
PowerBar ProteinPlus Reduced Sugar Lemon Poppy Seed
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 Protein Bars
KIND Protein From Real Food, Crunchy Peanut Butter
With creamy nut butter and crunchy peanuts, this whole-food bar packs in a respectable amount of digestion-aiding fiber and muscle-maintaining protein.
EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
These Paleo, gluten-free bars are made from hormone-free pork and not much else. These high protein snacks are loaded with protein, so enjoy one after your workout to rebuild the muscles broken down during your gym sesh.
Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
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
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. Plus, it’s really one of the tastiest protein bars out there.
Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
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. Don’t you love simple high-protein snacks?
22 Days Nutrition Salted Caramel Bar
This organic bar is powered by a protein-packed blend of brown rice protein, creamy almond butter, and MCT-filled coconut oil as well as a touch of molasses and stevia for sweetness.
Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
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? In terms of high-protein snacks, crickets have about as much protein as chicken breast but with three times the calcium. And in this bar, they provide a big chunk of the protein in this bar.
ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
Unlike their chewy, Play Doh-like bars, this thinkThin bar gets most of its protein from whey, almond, and sunflower. protein and is sweetened with real dark chocolate.
RXBar Coffee Chocolate
Few things taste better than coffee and chocolate. Those ingredients—along with egg white protein and a couple of other whole foods—are all that are in this crave-worthy bar.
Health Warrior Organic Cinnamon Spice Pumpkin Seed Bars
Warming cinnamon and pumpkin come together in this protein bar that’s energized with an organic blend of ginger, wildflower honey, and milled quinoa. You don’t just get 8 grams of clean, muscle-building protein, you’ll also get some digestion-improving, satiating fiber.
Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
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 (CLA): fats that have been utilized in weight-loss pills.
Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
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.
Aloha Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Say “aloha” to a toned body when you include this bar in your diet. And don’t worry about the 24 grams of carbs: “Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Isabel Smith MS, RD, CDN and founder of New York-based Isabel Smith Nutrition.
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Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Chocolate Almond Butter
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
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 two grams 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. Go get your paws on this bar!
RELATED: No-sugar-added recipes you’ll actually look forward to eating.