Protein Bars: How to Choose the Most Nutritious

Are you overwhelmed with the numerous protein bars that are being offered these days?  Not sure how to pick the most nutritious protein bar?  Let’s first describe what makes a healthy protein bar.

The Nutritional Criteria for the Best Protein Bars

  • 8 grams protein minimum
  • 13 grams sugar maximum
  • 3 grams fiber minimum: Caution with those boasting more than 10 grams of fiber as these are likely loaded with isolated fibers that can cause stomach discomfort

The ingredient criteria for the best protein bars:

  • High-quality protein sources: source their protein from high quality isolates and concentrates (such as grass-fed whey protein) as well as whole food ingredients (like nuts or antibiotic-free meat). Nuts, nut butters, grass-fed meats, egg whites, and seeds are great whole food protein sources for a protein bar.
  • Natural sweeteners: regarding added sugar, check ingredients and choose options with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar or fruit. Whole fruit (in comparison to fruit juice) is not considered an added sugar.
  • Whole-food ingredients: the best protein bars use only whole food or natural ingredients – no artificial ingredients allowed.
  • Healthy Fats: fats are essential for your body to absorb certain nutrients and help keep you satisfied. Fats from nuts and seeds are more healthy than those that use vegetable oils (for fillers/binders).
  • Isolated Fiber or low to no synthetic fiber ingredients: ingredients that can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain include artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols like maltitol, erythritol, xylitol and large amounts of soluble corn fiber or chicory root.
  • No sugar alcohols: sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress.

So, given all of this information, what protein bars rate the highest? 

To answer that question, I reviewed the nutrition profile of twenty different protein bars and have decided that there are many good protein bars but for different reasons dependent upon the given ingredients.

I will categorize the protein bars into the following categories: Best Overall; Best Tasting; Best Indulgence; Best for Muscle Gain; Best Vegan; Best Keto and Best Organic.

To better understand the ingredient lists, here are some key standards for your comparison:

Protein: 7g protein is equivalent to 1oz of meat or cheese. Usually 3-4 ounces of protein is recommended for lunch/dinner meals and 1-3 ounces (including dairy) for breakfast. Snacks can be with or without protein.

Sodium: 2400mg sodium is the daily recommended allowance.

Sugars: 4g sugar is equal to 1 tsp of sugar.

Carb Servings: 1 carb serving is 15g. A snack is recommended to be no more than 2 carb servings 30g.  If counting your carb servings, you can deduct the fiber grams from the total carb grams to get a net carb amount.

Fat: the saturated fat content should be no more than 1/3 of the total fat content consumed per day, which tends to be a good guideline for an individual packaged food item as well.

Calories: a snack is usually recommended to be about 200 calories and should be included within your total daily recommended calories for weight maintenance.

Best Overall: RX Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

1 bar (52g): 210 calories, 9g fat (2g sat fat), 240mg sodium, 24g carbs (5g fiber, 13g sugar), 12g protein. No artificial preservatives, added colors, animal products, synthetics, or GMO’s. Gluten Free.


Best Tasting: KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter

1 bar (50g): 250 calories, 18g fat (3g sat fat), 95 mg sodium, 25g carbs (14g fiber, 4g sugar), 14g protein. Gluten Free.  Not allergen free, contains peanuts and soy.


Best Indulgence: LUNA Protein, Mint Chocolate Chip

1 bar (45g): 170 calories, 5g fat (3g sat fat), 250mg sodium, 21g carbs (2g fiber, 13g sugar), 15g added sugars, 12g protein. Contains many organic ingredients. Not allergen free, contains macadamia nuts, milk and soy. Gluten free.


Best for Muscle Gain: Aloha Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Plant Based Protein

1 bar (56g):  220 calories, 10g fat (3g sat fat), 95mg sodium, 25g carbs (14g fiber, 4g sugar), 14g protein. Gluten free, Non-GMO, vegan, no sugar alcohols.

Also, Clif Protein Bar – Whey Protein Salted Caramel Cashew

1 bar (56g): 250 calories, 11g fat (3.5g sat fat), 200mg sodium, 25g carbs (3g fiber, 5g sugar), 14g protein. Gluten free, no artificial flavors, high quality ingredients. Not allergen free, contains nuts.


Best Vegan:  A Three Way Tie

GoMacro Protein Paradise, Peanut Butter

1 bar (60g): 260 calories, 11g fat (2g sat fat), 35mg sodium, 30g carbs (1g fiber, 10g sugar), 11g protein. Vegan, organic, gluten free, low sodium. Not allergen free, contains nuts.


I Q Peanut Butter Chip

1 bar (45g): 180 calories, 12g fat (3g sat fat), 140mg sodium, 13g carbs (10g fiber, 1g sugar), 12g protein. Vegan, gluten free, Non-GMO, low sugar.  Not allergen free, contains peanuts, almonds, coconut.



1 bar (40g): 210 calories, 16g fat (5g sat fat), 45mg sodium, 11g carbs (6g fiber, 1g sugar), 9g protein. Vegan, plant-based keto, gluten free, low sugar.


Best Keto: BULLETPROOF Collagen Protein Bar

1 bar (45g): 220 calories, 14g fat (6g sat fat), 115mg sodium, 14g carbs (5g fiber, 2g sugar), 12g protein. Keto, low sugar, low carb and high fiber and protein which makes this protein also recommended for those working on blood sugar balance.


**100% Organic: Whey Protein Bar HAMMER BAR

1 bar (40g): 170 calories, 8g fat (3g sat fat), 10mg sodium, 17g carbs (5g fiber, 8g sugar), 11g protein. Grass fed whey.


All of these protein bars plus many more can be found at Fresh & Natural Foods.  Enjoy trying the numerous ones to pick from!

Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!