Protein bars are often confused with candy bars. In fact, some supposed “protein bars” have more sugar than a Snickers bar.
Good protein bars are healthy and are a perfect way to:
- Replace a snack and eat between meal replacement shakes
- Protein supplement after your workout, a healthy way to build muscle.
How to pick a healthy protein bar?
There are so many protein bars available on the market today. In order to find a healthy bar, we have to know what really makes a protein bar healthy.
I’ve defined a set of rules, like I’ve done previously for the meal replacement shakes.
The 7 most important features of a healthy protein bar
1 – High quality protein (minimum 5 grams)
Protein helps you feel full for longer and reduces cravings.
2 – Low sugar (8 grams or less)
The lower the sugar content, the better. If you’ve been following my site, you’ll know how I’ve been replacing added sugar and fighting sugar cravings with healthier alternatives.
3 – Low carbs (20 grams or less and containing at least 3 grams of fiber)
Low carb bars are ideal for weight loss purposes. Higher carbohydrate bars are ideal for after exercise and for athletes. Protein bars for after workouts should have between 20 grams and 30 grams of carbs.
4 – Low Calorie (Women 140 up to 200 calories. Men between 170 to 300 calories)
When replacing a snack, low calorie bars are recommended.
For after a workout, bars for women should be at least 300 calories and for men from 300 to 380 calories.
5 – No artificial sweeteners and no sugar alcohols
Artificial Sweeteners are not considered a healthy option by a lot of studies. Sugar Alcohols may result, for some people, in bloating, diarrhea or stomach discomfort and can cause sugar cravings.
6 – Contain healthy fats and be low in saturated fats (3 grams or less) with no trans fats
Healthy fats play an important role on your body. Low saturated fats are ok, but trans fats should be avoided.
7 – The fewer ingredients the better.
A good protein bar doesn’t need to contain lots of exotic ingredients. In fact, the best ones tend to have the shortest ingredient lists.
Would you like to know more in detail ? Read my “How to Pick a Healthy Protein Bar” article.
The Best Protein Bars
Knowing the seven most important features a healthy bar must have, here are my personal recommendations.
Ideal Bar Snack Replacement Chocolate Peanut Butter by IdealShape
Packed with 10 grams of high quality protein, only 7 grams of sugar, and a total of 140 calories, this is my personal recommendation for a protein bar for weight loss, especially for women.
It’s a low carb bar with only 19 grams of total carbs. It contains 5 grams of dietary fiber, which makes you feel fuller for longer, keeps your digestive system healthy, and reduces bloating.
No artificial sweeteners and no sugar alcohols.
Sweetened with Slendesta (a natural hunger blocker extracted from potato, lear more on my post “What is Slendesta”), making it tasty and satisfying.
Keeps you full for at least two hours. Don’t forget to drink a glass of water after you eat the bar to activate the hunger blocker.
Low fat with only 3.5 grams of total fat. Contains no cholesterol, and no trans fats.
This bar tastes very good, especially if you are a chocolate lover like me. I also recommend the strawberry yogurt flavor if chocolate is not your thing.
Since taste is very subjective I’ve searched other customer reviews and most customers are very happy with the taste. In fact, the taste is considered by many as one of the greatest things about this bar since a lot of the others don’t have such a good taste.
Compared to the other two protein bars on this list, this is the most expensive ($2.43 each bar). Although, considering the ingredients and the great taste, it’s really worth the extra money you’ve got to spend.
Slendesta is the best feature of IdealBar. It’s a natural sweetener and hunger blocker making this bar tasty and satisfying. You will feel full for two hours after eating.
It’s low in sugar and, after my 20 no sugar days, I only buy low or no-sugar products (my 20 no-sugar days story here). It’s dense, but not too difficult to eat
The taste of protein bars, like meal replacement shakes, may not be very pleasant the first time you try them but IdealBar tastes very good. If it’s your first time buying protein bars, this is your best option.
If you are looking to lose weight by replacing unhealthy snacks, this protein bar is my best recommendation. It’s perfect for midday cravings or as a meal delayer.
If you don’t like chocolate, I recommend you Strawberry Yogurt flavor. It’s also available Cinnamon Caramel Crunch.
Available at IdealShape official site.
Quest Nutrition Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Contains 21 grams of high quality milk and whey protein and only 1 gram of sugar.
With a total of 190 calories and 21 grams of carbs, this is moderate carbohydrate bar and is my recommendation for after a workout.
High in dietary fiber, 17 grams per bar, it makes you feel full for a long period of time.
Sweetened with erythritol, stevia and sucralose. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol, but Quest bars only contain one gram so it should not upset your stomach.
Contains healthy fats from real chocolate, cocoa butter, and almonds.
It’s gluten and soy free.
Not as tasty as IdealBar, although you’ll soon get used to the flavor. If it’s your first time buying protein bars, I would recommend you to try IdealBar first (my first recommendation), as the taste is better.
The bar costs $2.04 while IdealBar costs $2.43. It’s cheaper but, in my opinion, the extra 39 cents is worth it because of the superior taste of IdealBar.
21 grams of high quality protein and 20 grams of carbs makes this protein bar the best candidate for after your workout. The 17 grams of dietary fiber will definitely help you to feel full for a couple of hours.
I love the fact that’s very low in sugar, containing only one gram.
The healthy fats from real almonds and cocoa butter are also a very good feature.
Although it contains only very small quantities, the one gram of sugar alcohol may upset your stomach if you are very sensitive to this ingredient.
It’s suitable for people who are allergic to gluten.
The taste is not as good as IdealBar and it helps if you put it in the microwave for 10-15 seconds before eating to soften it up.
If you’re looking for an after workout bar, this is your best choice.
However, if you’re worried about the taste, I recommend you to try IdealBar.
Quest Nutrition Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is available on Amazon.com.
Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe
This protein bar contains 21 grams of high quality protein (milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate).
At only 3 grams of sugar, it’s a low sugar bar. Total of 180 calories, making this protein bar suitable for both men and women.
With 17 grams of carbs, it’s a good snack replacement but not the best bar for after workout.
No trans fat and only 4.5 grams of fat.
Contains four grams of sugar alcohol, so it may irritate your stomach.
It’s gluten free.
It has a flavor of dark chocolate so it’s not sweet. Like the Quest Nutrition bar, you’ll need to get used to the taste. It tastes pretty good chopped up and mixed with a natural yogurt! If you’re looking for more “friendly” taste, IdealBar is a better option.
Costing $1.16, this is the cheapest bar of the three. If you are looking for a cheaper protein bar, this is your best option.
The best feature of this protein bar is the price, only $1.16.
It’s low sugar and low carbs, making it a good replacement snack bar.
Some people get an upset stomach from sugar alcohol, and as this bar contains four grams, you need to consider this is you have a sensitive stomach.
Suitable for people with gluten allergy.
Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe is available on Amazon.com.
The Best Taste, Ingredients and Price.
When comparing the three best protein bars available on the market, it comes down to three things: Taste, Ingredients, and Price
In terms of taste, IdealBar is our winner. It has the better “friendly” taste and it’s the perfect bar for those trying protein bars for the first time.
Quest Nutrition and Pure Protein are recommended for those used to the flavor of protein bars.
The natural hunger blocker Slendesta used in IdealBar does an amazing job to make you feel satisfied for two hours. I started using protein bars to reduce cravings between meals so this, for me, is the winning ingredient.
Quest Nutrition Chocolate contains real almonds, the best protein quality and it’s gluten and soy free.
Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe is the lowest in carbs but contains sugar alcohols which, for some people, may upset the stomach.
Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe is the cheapest but, in term of overall price and considering the taste and ingredients, IdealBar is my winner.
Which Bar is the Best for You?
Are you looking for a protein bar to use for replacing a snack ? Is it your first time using protein bars? If so, IdealBar (available on IdealBar official site) is my personal recommendation.
Are you looking for an after workout bar ? Are you used to the flavor of protein bars? In this case, Quest Nutrition Chocolate (available at Amazon.com) is my recommendation.
Are you looking for a cheaper protein bar ? My recommendation if you are looking for the best value is the Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe bar, available on Amazon.com.