One of the most popular questions we get is “Is _____ protein bar ok”?
And we get it. There are so. many. protein. bars.
How are you supposed to pick the best one…when they all claim to be the best? Ugh.
So, to help you out, this is your unofficial official guide for picking out the best protein bar for YOU.
You’re going to want to flip that box or bar over and peek at the label. What are the first few ingredients? If sugar, honey, agave, or any type of syrup is one of the first 3, it might not be the best option and may be high in added sugar overall.
Since we’re looking for a PROTEIN bar, make sure it actually has decent protein! You’d be surprised that some bars have 5 grams or less. We don’t have time for this. We need something that is satiating and keeps our blood sugar balanced. Aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein.
Another thing about the protein: avoid soy protein isolate as the source of protein. Soy is not bad, but we do want to avoid this processed type if it’s something we’re eating on a regular basis.
Make sure it has at least 5 grams of fat and avoid seed oils like soybean, vegetable, safflower, corn, sunflower, palm, and cottonseed oil as these are inherently inflammatory as omega 6 sources.
Note: most of these oils are really hard to avoid entirely. Cooking more at home is one of the best ways to do it though. You can fully control your cooking oils and swap for olive and avocado oil, for example. The goal is to prioritize more omega 3 sources vs. omega 6 to have a healthier ratio.
See this post for more information.
When finding good packaged and processed options like protein bars, it’s extremely common to run into palm and sunflower oil. There are good options that do not include these but it’s also unrealistic to expect you to NEVER eat a bar without them. Moderation is key!
Don’t stress about the fiber content so much vs. how many NET carbs it has. You don’t need a lot of net carbs in a protein bar. Subtract the total amount of fiber from the total amount of carbs and if this number is higher than the fat and protein grams combined, you can opt for something else.
Ok cool, so now you have a quick checklist to run through when you come across some options at the grocery store or gas station. But because I love you, here is a list of some no-brainer good protein bar options below.
Remember: these are just some ideas! There are so many bars out there so I want you to be able to identify good choices for yourself too.
*None of the links below are affiliated, just for convenience.
*Also note that many of the bars below may have artificial sweeteners/sugar alcohols. You may need to consider this in your protein bar choice as it can upset the gastrointestinal tract depending on the person.
The following all meet the criteria from above:
(depending on the flavor)
This bar gets an A- because while they are delicious and have mostly great ingredients, they do include sunflower oil as an ingredient in most flavors. The primary fat source is typically peanut butter, cashew butter, or almond butter though. The added sugar is somewhat high, but, again, lots of healthy fat and good protein to help buffer blood sugar spikes.
The following have generally good macros, but more of an “as-needed” bar due to certain ingredients:
Contains some sunflower oil, soy protein isolate, and artificial sweeteners.
Contains some sunflower oil, palm oil, and artificial sweeteners depending on the flavor.
Contains soy protein isolate, vegetable glycerin, and sunflower oil. Higher in sugar alcohols as well.
Contains palm oil and vegetable oil.
Biggest concern is the low fat content, which may not be as satiating as other options. Otherwise, pretty good ingredients if you tolerate the sugar alcohols.
The following are not bad examples, but they just don’t quite meet the criteria to be an overall great protein bar option:
Both great bars with good ingredients, but just not a protein bar. You would need an additional protein source on the side if using for a balanced meal or snack.
24-25g net carbs
The protein is on the low end with higher net carbs. Also contains sunflower and palm oils.
These would not be a good choice for balanced blood sugar and fat loss goals:
Go Macro Bar – Depending on the flavor, the carbs are on the higher side at 37g net carbs with moderate protein to help compensate. Organic brown rice syrup is also one of the first ingredients.
Cliff Bar – Depending on the flavor, can have up to 38g net carbs with only 10g of protein and 6g of fat. Brown rice syrup is one of the first ingredients. Also include soy protein isolate and sunflower oil.
After all the considerations above, I also think cost and taste are important factors too! After some trial and error, I hope this helps you find some good protein bar options that fit into your lifestyle, help support your goals, and are yummy AF!
-Elle, MM Coach
pssst…want to learn more about what ingredients help you feel best? Hop on the waitlist for Metabolism Makeover!