The Best Protein Bars for Weight Loss: 20 Dietitian-Approved OptionsPosted: August 16, 2022
Are protein bars good for you? Are they healthy? Do protein bars help you lose weight? This blog post answers these questions and lists the top 20 protein bars that are dietitian-approved and can even help you stay on track with your weight loss goals.
Protein bars are a convenient grab-and-go snack when you're looking for something easy and quick while still aligning with your health and weigh loss goals. But not all protein bars are created equal and many are no better than candy bars.
There are a few factors to evaluate before determining if a bar can be considered a good choice for weight loss or if it's a candy bar in disguise. But first, let's discuss why protein is so important when it comes to your weight loss goals.
Protein and Weight Loss
There's a good reason that diets higher in protein are encouraged when you're trying to lose weight. Research has shown that higher-protein diets are linked to weight management, appetite regularity, decreased risk of health problems like cardiovascular disease and even decreased cravings throughout the day.
How much protein should you be consuming?
Specifically, the data suggests that diets containing between 1.2 and 1.6 g protein/kg and meals that contain at least 25-30 grams of protein per meal provide improvements in appetite, body weight management, and other health benefits. Also, protein helps preserve healthy muscle mass during weight loss which is very important since it's easy to lose muscle when you're in a state of reducing fat mass.
Furthermore, protein helps promote satiety (the feeling of fullness that you get when you've had enough to eat). Eating a diet higher in protein helps curb cravings and helps stabilize blood sugar levels which are also very important for your weight loss goals.
Click here for updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
Why you may need a protein bar
Do you need to eat a protein bar to lose weight? The answer is no. But it can definitely be helpful in certain situations including:
Easy post-workout snack. While a real food meal may sound great after a workout, it is not always feasible. This is especially true if you are someone on the go or if you're a busy mom with a tight schedule. Keeping a good protein bar on hand is easy, versatile and stores really well.
You want to change up your snacks. It's okay to change up your snacks and choose protein bars on your weight loss journey. I typically find those that have a hard time staying consistent get bored of their meals and snacks which causes them to give up on their goal. What I love about protein bars is that they come in so many different flavors which makes snacking a little more exciting.
You need help reaching your protein goals. Some people struggle with reaching their protein goals because protein takes time to prep and you may not be in the mood for some hard boiled eggs. So having a protein bar on hand is a great way to quickly get 10-20 grams of protein.
Easy choice when you're in a pinch. I get it, life gets busy and you don't want to grab fast food when you're in a pinch. Having a protein bar on hand can help save you money, time and can help keep you stay on track of your weight loss goals.
What to look for in a protein bar
When it comes to choosing a healthy protein bar, understanding what ingredients to look for on the packaging, and looking at the nutrition label, can help you make an informed choice.
First of all, protein bars aren’t necessary and I’m personally a huge advocate for eating whole foods first before any supplements. However, I do like to keep protein bars on hand for when I need a quick healthy snack that holds me over until my next meal.
Some of the best protein bars are made from whole ingredients including nuts and seeds adding a boost of healthy fats, are high in grams of protein, has at least 4 grams of fiber and is low in added sugar and artificial sweeteners. Depending on how you're eating a protein bar, whether it's as snack bars or meal replacements, the calorie count will highly vary. If you are eating a protein bar as a snack then choose one with fewer calories (between 200-250 calories), and if it is a meal replacement, choose one with higher calories (around 400 calories).
What makes a healthy protein bar?
- Protein content. Look for at least 10 grams of protein per serving.
- Protein type. Not all protein is created equal. The protein in bars usually comes from dairy or plant sources. The most common are whey protein, soy, eggs, milk, rice, peas, and hemp. If you have any allergies or sensitives, make sure to choose a bar that's based on a type of protein you can eat without side effects.
- Fiber content. Fiber is important to help keep you full so aim for at least 4 grams of fiber or more per serving.
- Look for whole foods as the main ingredients. While some bars are made entirely of ultra-processed ingredients, some are made from natural ingredients like whole foods. I always try to choose some that are filled with whole foods even if the protein content isn’t ideal. Personally, I choose bars with a better ingredient list than a protein bar that hits all requirements but is packed with additives, preservatives and sugar alcohols.
- Minimal ADDED sugars. The average protein bar is high in sugar so I look for ones with low sugar and no high fructose corn syrup. I’d prefer the bar be sweetened with more whole food sources such as dates and other dried fruits. Dried fruits add fiber and other nutrients versus sugar alcohols which could result in gastrointestinal discomfort like bloating, diarrhea and gas.
20 Best Healthy Protein Bars for Weight Loss
Before we get into the list, it's important to note that the perfect protein bar does not exist. If they are higher in protein and low in sugars, it's probably because they use sugar alcohols. And if they are made with whole ingredients, then the sugar content is usually a little higher because they do use dates and other fruits to sweeten the bars. Keeping this in mind, let's get into it!
This list is not exhaustive and these are listed randomly without being in a particular order.
RXBARs are pretty popular. The ingredients are printed on the cover of each bar making it one of the most eye catching protein bars out there. They are made with simple ingredients and are a great post-workout or on the go snack, however, they do contain egg whites which may not be ideal for vegans and vegetarians.
Nutrition Facts: 12g protein, 5g fiber, 0g added sugar, calories 210
GoMacro bars pride themselves on being "bigger than a bar". They are organic, vegan and are made with simple ingredients. They also have around 12g of protein per bar but added sugars can be a little high. However, the added sugars are from real sugar and not artificial sweeteners which may not be a bad thing as artificial sweeteners can cause some gut discomfort for some.
Nutrition Facts: 11g protein, 2g fiber, 12g added sugar, calories 290
Quest Protein Bars are also one of the popular options out there. They are high in protein and fiber making them a good bar between meals or post workout.
Nutrition Facts: 21g protein, 15g fiber, 1g Sugar, calories 190
4. Hungry Buddha
Hungry Buddha is a great plant-based protein bar for all lifestyles. It does not contain a high protein content but is one of the healthier options out there.
Nutrition Facts: 9g protein, 14g fiber, 1g sugar, calories 170
These ONE bars are not only high in protein but also fiber! It is a great snack to feel full post workout or during the day.
Nutrition Facts: 20g protein, 8g fiber, 1g sugar, calories 210
6. Perfect Bar
These Perfect Protein Bars are not only a great source of protein but also taste good! Although these bars are refrigerated, they can last up to 1 week out of the fridge making them a great on the go snack.
Nutrition Facts: 15g protein, 5g fiber, 12g sugar, calories 330
7. Pure Protein
Pure Protein bars are lower in sugar than other bars. They are a good snack for those trying to lose weight or gain muscle. They also have 20 grams of protein and are only around 200 calories making them one of the better choices if your goal is weight loss.
Nutrition Facts: 20g protein, 1g fiber, 2g sugar, calories 200
These Misfits Chocolate S'Mores bars are also plant-based and vegan. They contain 15g of protein making them a great on the go snack!
Nutrition Facts: 15g protein, 10.3g fiber, 3g sugar, calories 205
9. Epic Performance Bar
Epic are known for their meat bars but recently added their non-meat Performance bar! They are made with simple ingredients with 12g of protein and 0 grams of added sugars. If you want a 'natural' approach to protein bars, these bars are a great alternative and are a personal favorite.
Nutrition Facts: 12g Protein, 3g fiber, 0g added sugar, calories 210
These Aloha bars are made with great ingredients. They are plant-based which is perfect for those who cannot consume gluten or dairy. Although they do not have the highest protein content, they are still a great choice.
Nutrition Facts: 14g protein, 10g fiber, 3g added sugar, calories 240
11. Rise Bar
These Rise bars are a great bar if you do not like peanut butter protein bars. They are high in protein and made with 3 simple ingredients, including honey. This means that they are going to be a little higher in sugar content but the sweetener is honey, which in my opinion is a winner.
Nutrition Facts: 20g protein, 4g fiber, calories 280
12. Lenny & Larry's
The Chocolate Almond Sea Salt Cookie-fied Bar by Lenny & Larry's is made with plant-based protein. These bars are small, but are packed with 12g of protein. They are smooth, crunchy with a hint of sea salt!
Nutrition Facts: 12g protein, 5g fiber, 6g sugar, calories 170
13. Simply Protein
These Simply Protein bars are great for that 3pm hunger crash as well as being plant-based. They contain 13g of fiber and 11g of protein making them a very filling snack.
Nutrition Facts: 11g protein, 13g fiber, 0g added sugar, calories 190
These G2G bars are great if you hate the after taste of protein bars in general. They do not have artificial ingredients. They are a great on the go or post workout snack.
Nutrition Facts: 18g protein, 4g fiber, 15g added sugar, calories 300
If you are looking for options with low carbohydrates, these :Ratio Crunchy Bars are a great choice. They are packed with almonds and pumpkin seeds so they really deliver on healthy fats. This bar is great to satisfy hunger between meals and helps reduce cravings throughout the day due to the higher fat content.
Nutrition Facts: 12g protein, 3g fiber, 0g added sugar, calories 220
16. Built Bar
These bars are a great craving satisfier! They are one of the best tasting protein bars out there. Built Bars are low in calories with 17g of protein which make it a great sweet snack.
Nutrition Facts: 17g protein, 6g fiber, 4g sugar, calories 130
Luna Protein Bars come in many different flavors. This Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bar is lower in calories with an acceptable amount of protein!
Nutrition Facts: 12g protein, 2g fiber, 14g sugar, calories 180
Think! bars are high in protein and do not contain any artificial sweeteners which are great if you hate the after taste of protein bars. They are also gluten free making them a better option for those who cannot consume gluten.
Nutrition Facts: 20g protein, 1g fiber, 0g sugar, calories 230
These Clif Builder Bars are loaded with 20g of protein making it a great bar for both weight loss and craving suppressor. They are also inexpensive!
Nutrition Facts: 20g protein, 2g fiber, 12g sugar, calories 180
Kirkland Signature Protein Bars are loaded with protein and fiber making them a great everyday snack. They are also gluten free and made with real chocolate pieces for added sweetness and texture.
Nutrition Facts: 21g protein, 10g fiber, 2g sugar, calories 190
Healthy Protein Sources from Whole Foods
Even though this post discusses protein bars, I wanted to include some whole food high-protein options.
The richest sources of dietary protein are meats, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, milk and Greek yogurt. Protein can also be found in many plant-based sources including beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These are all foods that are easy to include in a healthy balanced diet so if you eat a variety of them daily, you most likely get enough protein from your diet.
With so many options on the market, it can be very overwhelming trying to find a healthy protein bar that tastes good and helps with weight loss. However, because protein tends to be the hardest macronutrient to get in to our diet as it usually requires preparation, many people find protein bars to be so convenient. Having a protein bar every now and then when you're in a pinch will not sabotage your weight loss goals, but I would highly recommend getting your protein from whole sources whenever possible.
I always say “food first,” but if you are needing an easy protein source, some protein bars are an excellent choice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Protein bars can be good for weight loss when you are careful on which ones you are adding into your diet. Protein is very important for weight loss and because many protein bars are filled with sugars and high grams of fat, it may sabotage your weight loss progress. However, it is very important to remember that in order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit. Even if you choose a healthier protein bar but you are not in a calorie deficit, you will not lose weight. Having said that, the quality of the ingredients does matter, not just for weight loss but also for your overall health.
Yes, it can as many protein bars are very high in calories and sugars. In order to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit and overeating protein bars can slow weight loss progress. If you are eating protein bars as snacks, look for bars with not more than 250 calories per serving. If you are eating a protein bar as a meal replacement, then choosing a bar closer to 400 calories is a better option as that will fill you up for longer and it’s considered a meal.
Yes, look for protein bars with quality ingredients, at least 20 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and less than 8 grams of sugar per bar. As always, I recommend getting your protein from whole foods instead of bars, but I completely understand needing something on hand when life gets busy. You can definitely eat a protein bar every now and then as a meal replacement but I would not make that the norm.
Skout protein bars and 88 Acres Triple Berry Seed Bar are made in bakeries free of peanuts, tree nuts, gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, and sesame. Gomacro bars are another great option, however, their bars are manufactured in a facility that processes peanuts and tree nuts.
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