15 Best Healthy & Low-Sugar Protein Bars
Maintain lean muscle and curb cravings by munching on these high-protein, low-sugar bars.
Whether you’re looking for a nutritious, on-the-go option to tide you over between meals or a portable snack to maintain muscle mass between workouts, low-sugar, high protein bars are often the answer to your nutritional needs.
“Protein bars are great for traveling, pre- or post-workout snacks, and as a snack to keep blood sugar balanced during busy days,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Krista King, MS, RDN, LDN, CPT, of Composed Nutrition. “They are convenient to keep with you at your desk or in your bag for a quick snack on-the-go. They can also be a great addition for a fast and easy breakfast on-the-go,” she adds.
When determining if eating protein bars is good for you, the protein source, how much there is, and what other nutrients it’s paired with all need to be taken into consideration.
That’s why we asked nearly a dozen nutritional experts for help in determining what criteria make the best protein bars.
What makes a protein bar “healthy”?
If you’re looking to further your better-body goals, you may consider eating high protein bars. While it might sound beneficial, unfortunately, most of the protein bars in the market are loaded with sugar alcohols or saturated fat and lack fiber.
Registered dietitian Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, FAND, and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition tells Eat This, Not That! that they key in selecting a clean and healthy protein bar is to “look for a nice balance of healthy fat, protein, and fiber to help keep you satisfied. Choose a protein bar with between 200 to 400 calories and up to 20 grams of protein per serving.”
It’s not just macronutrients that matter when it comes to determining the best protein bar. Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, of To The Pointe Nutrition says ingredients are equally important. “Look at the ingredient list and identify transparent foods like nuts, whole grains, and fruit.”
Angie Asche, MS, RD, CSSD owner of Eleat Sports Nutrition adds that she looks for good sources of protein, “like whey protein isolate, pea protein, brown rice protein, and eggs.”
The nutritional criteria for the best protein bars.
Not just any protein bar landed a spot on our list of best protein bars. We compiled a list of over 100 protein bars so we could compare their nutrition and ingredient information. With the help of dietitians, we came up with specifical nutritional and ingredient criteria we had to follow to select the best protein bars:
- 8 grams protein minimum: To qualify as a “protein bar,” each bar had to have no less than 8 grams of protein. Hillary Cecere, RDN of Eat Clean Bro, a meal delivery service, recommends aiming for 15-20 grams of protein if you’re looking to gain muscle and 7-12 grams of protein for a satiating snack.
- 13 grams sugar maximum: The best protein bars have no more than 13 grams of sugar.
- 3 grams fiber minimum: When it comes to fiber, Fine recommends opting for a protein bar with 3 or more grams per bar or serving. “However, caution with those boasting more than 10 grams of fiber as these are likely loaded with isolated fibers that can cause stomach discomfort,” says Fine.
The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:
- High-quality protein sources: We prioritized protein bars that sourced their protein from high-quality isolates and concentrate (such as grass-fed whey protein) as well as whole food ingredients (like nuts or antibiotic-free meat). “Nuts, nut butter, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds are my favorite whole food protein sources for a protein bar,” Cecere says.
- Natural sweeteners: “Last, in regards to added sugar, check ingredients and choose options with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit. Whole fruit (in comparison to fruit juice and fruit concentrate) is not considered an added sugar,” says Fine.
- Whole-food ingredients: Whether they’re used to flavor or sweeten, the best protein bars only use whole food or natural ingredients—no artificial ingredients allowed.
- Healthy fats: Fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and they also help to keep you satiated. We prioritized protein bars that contain healthy fats from nuts and seeds rather than those that use vegetable oils as fillers and binders.
- Low to no synthetic or isolated fiber: “Ingredients I watch out for and advise athletes avoid (especially around the times they’re training as they can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain) include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol, and large amounts of synthetic fibers like soluble corn fiber or chicory root,” adds Asche.
- No sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols have risen in popularity recently because they are a low-calorie way manufacturers can sweeten protein bars; however, dietitians advise against consuming large quantities of this ingredient. “In some people, sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress,” says Cecere.
The following 15 low-sugar, best protein bars met our nutritional requirements and deserve a spot in your pantry. After discovering the best of the best, keep reading to uncover the protein bars that are Not That!s below.
The Best Healthy Protein Bars
1. Best Overall: RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
1 bar (52 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 12 g protein
If you want to feel like you’re eating a decadent salted brownie while meeting all your protein needs, you’ve met your match with an RXBAR. Dubbed a favorite by many of the experts we spoke to, Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian, particularly likes the simplicity of ingredients: “RXBAR does a nice job of making bars out of recognizable ingredients. They are very straightforward on their packaging and tell you that each bar contains dates, nuts, egg whites, and flavors. My personal favorite is the Chocolate Sea Salt, and I find that the 12 grams of protein really keeps me full.” $38.88 at Amazon Buy Now
2. Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 bar (50 g): 250 calories, 18 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (5 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 12 g protein
With creamy nut butter and crunchy peanuts, this healthy snack bar packs in a respectable amount of digestion-aiding fiber and muscle-maintaining protein. $15.36 at Amazon Buy Now
3. Best for Muscle Gain: ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant-Based Protein
1 bar (56 g): 220 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (14 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein
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 the protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Isabel Smith MS, RD, CDN and founder of New York-based Isabel Smith Nutrition. $29.99 at Amazon Buy Now
4. Best Vegan: GoMacro Macro bar Protein Paradise, Cashew Caramel
1 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
Asche notes that “excellent option for athletes looking for a vegan protein bar.” 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. $25.75 at Amazon Buy Now
5. Best for Weight Loss: Primal Kitchen Almond Spice
1 bar (38 g): 200 calories, 16 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein
If you want to lose weight, you’ll want to keep your blood sugar balanced to remove those dreaded spikes in blood sugar that can leave you hungry. “This bar has 8 grams of protein and minimal sugar, which helps keep blood sugar balanced by preventing a blood sugar spike (and subsequent drop),” says King. “This flavor, especially, contains cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown to improve fasting blood sugar levels, making it a great addition for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin sensitivity, and those with PCOS experiencing blood sugar irregularities.” $24.99 at Amazon Buy Now
6. Best Whole Ingredients: ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar, Coconut Almond Chia
1 bar (62 g): 260 calories, 12 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (10 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 10 g protein
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. $16.49 at Amazon Buy Now
7. Best Meat Bar: Mighty Bar Grassfed Organic Beef, Cranberry & Sunflower Seed
1 bar (28 g): 70 calories, 3.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 4 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 (CLA): fats that have been utilized in weight-loss pills. $35.88 at Amazon Buy Now
8. Best for Men: Clif Bar Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew
1 bar (56 g): 250 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 25 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. $9.58 at Amazon Buy Now
9. Best for women: Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars
1 bar (36 g): 180 calories, 12 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 12 g carbs (2 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 8 g protein
“Pumpkin seeds are a great source of plant-based protein, essential fatty acids, and minerals like zinc, iron, and magnesium,” says King. And these nutrients are particularly important for women’s health. “Zinc plays a crucial role in hormone balance. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help ease period pain, it helps to balance excess androgen levels (like testosterone) that are often seen in PCOS, it helps to clear the skin, plays a vital role in thyroid hormone synthesis, and helps ease the stress response. Magnesium plays a role in regulating blood sugar and insulin levels, in the production of hormones, supports the thyroid, and calms your nervous system to help ease the stress response.” Plus, as women are more prone to osteoporosis, adding magnesium-rich pumpkin seeds to your diet will help the formation and maintenance of healthy bones. $14.99 at Amazon Buy Now
10. Best Paleo Protein Bar: EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon
1 bar (43 g): 150 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 590 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 8 g protein
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. $25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
11. Best Keto-friendly: Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar
1 bar (45 g): 220 calories, 14 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
With nine grams of net carbs, Bulletproof’s bar is a bit higher than your average keto protein bar, but it’s a worthwhile carb expenditure. Its protein comes from grass-fed collagen, a trendy protein derived from bovine or marine sources (in this case, it’s from grass-fed cows). It’s particularly beneficial because it “helps to boost collagen production in the body, which has benefits for hair, skin, nails, joints, and gut health,” says King. Plus, this bar is rich in MCT oil, which studies show can prevent long-term weight gain due to increased energy expenditure.
While this bar is great for those following the Bulletproof or cyclical keto lifestyle, King also likes to recommend it in general for a snack for those working on blood sugar balance. $34.95 at Amazon Buy Now
12. Best for Fiber: Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie
1 bar (60 g): 210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (16 g fiber, 7 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? In terms of high-protein snacks, crickets have about as much protein like chicken breast but with three times the calcium. And in this bar, they provide a big chunk of the protein in this bar. $27.95 at Amazon Buy Now
13. Best Indulgence: Luna Protein Mint Chocolate Chip
1 bar (45 g): 170 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (2 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. $13.07 at Amazon Buy Now
14. Most Natural: Rise Bar Lemon Cashew
1 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. Don’t you love simple high-protein snacks? $25.99 at Amazon Buy Now
15. Best Whey: Naked Nutrition Peanut Butter
1 bar (52.5 g): 210 calories, 8 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (6 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 15 g protein
Do you hate reading through ingredient lists on the back of protein bars wondering when you’re going to run into a sketchy ingredient or something you know you should avoid? Us too. Which is why we’re giving extra points to Naked Nutrition’s Naked Bar. This protein bar is made of just five fully transparent ingredients (no “natural flavors” here). Fuel your active lifestyle with this grass-fed whey protein powered bar. $ 29.99 at Naked Nutrition Buy Now