When you don’t have time for a meal, need a quick fix after the gym or when you’re on-the-go and want a balanced mini meal, protein bars can be a great solution. Finding the best bar can be overwhelming with so many choices and weeding through lofty nutrition claims. While we might associate the word “protein” with health, a lot of these bars can be full of sugar, artificial ingredients and saturated fats.
What makes a protein bar worthy of being on your grocery list? When it comes to nutrition, ingredients are always at the forefront of any testing we do. After analyzing dozens of protein bars in our Good Housekeeping Institute's Nutrition Lab, our choices focused on protein bars with a readable list of ingredients and a whole grain or whole food (i.e. nuts, oats, legumes, etc) as the first ingredient.
We capped calories at 300 per bar, and looked for choices with no more than 10 grams of added sugar. In order to be considered a protein bar, we required at least 10 grams of protein per serving. We also feel that fiber is important to help keep you full and balance out the bar, which is why all choices on our list have at least 3 grams of fiber or more per serving. We also tried to keep sodium counts under 300mg per bar.
After careful consideration, we rounded up our top choices for the best protein bars of 2021:
This plant-based protein bar is not to be missed. Packed with wholesome ingredients and no sugar alcohols or stevia, it's a vegan and low-carb option that's also USDA organic. Peanuts and pumpkin seed protein are the star of the show.
Nutrition Facts (1 Bar): 240 cal, 12g fat, 85mg sodium, 24g total carb, 13g fiber, 4g total sugar, 14g protein
Don't be fooled by its granola bar facade! This crunchy snack from KIND actually packs in 12 grams of plant-based protein and only has 6 grams of added sugar. We love the taste and texture on this nutty and chocolatey bar.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 250 cal, 17g fat, 125mg sodium, 17g carb, 5g fiber, 6g added sugar, 12g protein
Vegan protein bars can be hard to come by, and organic ones are even tougher to find. We love the chewy texture on this chocolate chip cookie dough flavored protein snack bar from Orgain that boasts 10 grams of plant-based protein and is both vegan and soy-free.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 140 calories, 5g fat, 125mg sodium, 20g carb, 3g dietary fiber, 5g total sugar, 4g added sugars, 10g protein
RXBAR's Layers bar is chewy, gooey, and nutrient-dense and comes in two flavors, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Almond. Packed with 14+ grams of protein, it boasts a wholesome ingredients list and is sweetened with dates and honey. It has that candy bar taste and texture, but only 4 grams of added sugar.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar, Peanut Butter Chocolate): 250 cal, 14g total fat, 180mg sodium, 20g carb, 3g fiber, 13g total sugar, 4g added sugar, 15g protein
We love the original RXBAR protein bar. Made with real ingredients that you can pronounce, these bars are loaded with 12 grams of protein and are gluten-free. They are sweetened with dates and contain no added sugar. Plant-based options are also available.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 210 cal, 9g total fat, 260mg sodium, 23g total carb, 5g fiber, 13g total sugar, 0g added sugar, 12g protein
Designed by registered dietitians, these chewy bars are completely plant-based and boast a strong 10 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. The Dark Chocolate Coconut Vitality Bar features macaroon-style shaved coconut and tastes just like an Almond Joy.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 210 cal, 11g total fat, 55mg sodium, 24g carb, 7g fiber, 9g total sugar, 10g protein
This plant-based, low-sugar bar is top-rated on Amazon and comes in a variety of flavors. It's a gluten-free, plant-based, low-sugar option that's both soft and tasty. We like that the protein blend comes from fava beans and brown rice, and that is has a whopping 11 grams of fiber.
Nutrition Facts (1 bar): 220 cal, 7g fat, 210mg sodium, 29g carb, 11g fiber, 10g total sugar, 15g protein
The first ingredient in this soft bar is almond butter, which helps to pack in 10 grams of plant-based protein per bar. You'll find actual dried blueberries throughout and a nice flavor, with no dairy or soy in the ingredient list.
Nutrition Facts: 260 cal, 13g fat, 50mg sodium, 23g total carb, 4g fiber, 11g total sugar, 10g protein
With only 6 ingredients these soft-baked, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free bars gain their plant-based protein from pumpkin seeds. Created with "truly real ingredients", they are a great choice for allergy sufferers because they're made in a dedicated bakery, free of all top 8 allergens.
Nutrition Facts: 260 cal, 19g fat, 130mg sodium, 15g total carb, 3g fiber, 7g total sugar, 12g protein
Developed by a registered nurse and natural foods chef who was challenging her patients to be vegan for a day. These low-sugar and high fiber nut-based bars could turn any skeptic into a vegan. They are loaded with antioxidants like chia seeds and flax seeds and have hearty 13 grams of fiber and only 3 grams of sugar.
Nutrition Facts: 180 cal, 11g fat, 100mg sodium, 19g total carb, 13g fiber, 3g total sugar, 11g protein
MOSH, which stands for Maria Owings Shriver Health, recently launched a line of protein bars with her son, Patrick, with a goal to improve brain health through adaptogens and nutrients. With four flavors and a waitlist, the bars contain 12 grams of protein, no added sugar and a percentage of sales go to Alzheimer’s research.
Nutrition Facts: 180 cal, 10g fat, 95mg sodium, 17g total carb, 4g fiber, <1g total sugar, 12g protein
Created by a Harvard grad in search of healthy, low-carb, and ready-to-eat options, these bars include 6 brain boosting nutrients including omega-3s, flavonoids and vitamin E, among others. Available in seven flavors, they are all soy, dairy and gluten free as well as vegan, keto-friendly and paleo approved.
Nutrition Facts: 180 cal, 15g fat, 120mg sodium, 10g total carb, 7g fiber, 1g total sugar, 12g protein
Low in sugar and high in fiber, these plant-based and gluten-free bars contain pre- and probiotics. They also contain a superfood blend of ingredients like mushrooms, acai powder and turmeric.
Nutrition Facts: 210 cal, 10g fat, 160mg sodium, 25g total carb, 11g fiber, 4g total sugar, 10g protein
With flavors like Birthday Cake, Marshmallow Hot Cocoa and Pumpkin Pie, this bar will not only cure your sweet tooth but it'll also pack in a protein punch post-workout. These bars are super flavorful and have 20 grams of protein, which is far more than most on the market. They now also come in minis for a portion-controlled treat.
Nutrition Facts: 220 cal, 8g total fat, 140mg sodium, 24g carb, 8g fiber, 1g total sugar, 0g added sugar, 20g protein
Created by a chef who was looking for a healthy snack during her long hours working in restaurants, Slow Up bars are made with whole, real ingredients. With claims of being the very first fresh food bar, these bars are perishable, free of gluten, dairy, soy and preservatives. They are available in sweet and savory flavors.
Nutrition Facts (red pepper pesto): 240 cal, 16g fat, 280mg sodium, 13g total carb, 5g fiber, 2g total sugar, 11g protein