If you’ve ever felt personally victimized by the snack drawer, please raise your hand. You know what we’re talking about—it’s 3 p.m. and your eyes start wandering to the kitchen pantry. You grab the family-size box of Cheez-its. “Just a few,” you tell yourself, as you reach in for a handful. And then another handful. And then some of the trail mix (which, if we’re being honest, is 99% M&Ms anyways). And then some of the pretzels on the shelf below. Soon enough, 10 minutes have gone by and while you’ve eaten enough calories to feed two humans for a day, you still feel empty. What the heck?!
Blame the protein (or rather, the lack thereof). The macronutrient is what keeps you fuller for longer—which is exactly why so many nutritionist moms, fitness influencers, and just all-around healthy eaters swear by protein bars. But with so many options out there, which ones are actually healthy and, more importantly, actually taste good?
To help you snack smarter—and keep your hand out of the candy jar—we’ve rounded up the best protein bars, from the best vegan protein bar to keto certified bars to a bar made entirely out of meat.
Buddha Brands, maker of better-for-you, plant-based coconut products, just launched Hungry Buddha Keto Bars to help us all out when we need a surge of energy. Certified Keto by the Paleo Foundation, each of these bars is low on sugar and low on carbs. These vegan bars are great as a quick on-the-go breakfast, post-workout, or simply for whenever hunger strikes. They’re vegan and non-GMO, and are the first keto bars in the market made without the use of peanuts, sugar alcohols, dairy, soy or GMOs; they are also free from palm oil and gluten! The taste is YUMMY— with chocolate chip, coconut cocoa and espresso brownie being the flavor choices.
One reviewer left her very first review saying, “what is so great about these bars, is that they have lots of good, healthy ingredients in them…sunflower seeds, flax seeds, fiber…and lots of times when those good ingredients are in a bar, they can taste “cardboard-y”…because they don’t have enough moisture…too dry. But, the Hungry Buddha bars have MCT oil and coconut oil in them…and that gives it plenty of moisture…and gives me the fat that I look for, on the keto diet. That fat-based moisture makes these bars taste awesome!”
You know what the youths are saying these days: Kind is cool. And while we doubt they’re talking about Kind bars (although us olds will never really know), they might as well be—because unbeknownst to many, the popular snack brand has a protein version of its beloved granola bar. Full of roasted almonds, peanuts, and unsweetened dark chocolate, the Kind protein bars (which are 25 percent larger than the standard Kind bars) have 12 grams of plant protein along with five hearty grams of fiber. Reviewers love that the bars keep them full for hours and that, thanks to the whole nuts, they have that satisfying crunch that so many protein bars lack.
Before we get too far, yes, these are keto approved. But, we must tell you that the organic cacao, silky almond butter and the natural monk fruit really leave you feeling cookie-dough satisfied. Low on sugar and net carbs, these are completely gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, palm oil free and non-GMO. MCTbar tested for several years in order to create the cleanest possible fuel for body and mind while maintaining excellent macros and amazing taste. Their brand new flavors, coming soon, include Banana Beautiful, Lemon Boost and Berry Beautiful. The latter contains biotin and vitamin E for skin health and apparently tastes just like a fresh berry muffin (hello!).
Amazon reviewers are very pleased, “This bar is my new best friend. As someone trying to cut down on carbs and sugar having these bars around has helped tremendously. They’ve got good flavor and are packed with nutrition. I feel great after eating them and find I can focus even better and have much more energy.”
If a fitness influencer hasn’t posted a picture holding a Quest bar and flexing within an inch of their life in a skintight crop-top-and-legging set, are they even a fitness influencer? And while you might roll your eyes at yet another #fitspo selfie, those gym junkies are onto something—because Quest bars are delicious. Not only do the bars have an average of 20+ grams of protein and an equally impressive fiber content, but the flavors are above and beyond your average protein bar. For instance the blueberry muffin bar has real blueberries and white chocolate while the oatmeal chocolate chip bar has creamy chocolate chunks and the chocolate sprinkled doughnut bar has, you guessed it, a generous coating of rainbow sprinkles.
Running is hard. Running when your tank—a.k.a. your stomach—is empty is even harder. Fuel your next sweat sesh with these protein-packed energy bars. With a combination of fast-acting carbs and long-lasting fats (plus seven grams of protein), Picky Bars are made with all natural ingredients and zero fillers so even the pickiest of healthy eaters (pun intended!) will be satisfied. To be honest, even if these bars—which are also gluten-free and vegan—didn’t have all the aforementioned great qualities, we’d probably pick them on their names alone. Some of our favorite punny flavors include Chai and Catch Me; Need for Seed; Moroccan Your World; and Ah, Fudge Nuts.
Fact: Just like bras and face creams, protein bars are not one-size-fits-all. I.e. you need different bars depending on the day. And GoMacro—the mother-daughter-owned brand that uses 100% organic and plant-based ingredients—understands that. That’s why they have 15 deliciously unique flavors, one for every occasion, activity, or mood. Like Sweet Awakening (with whole bean coffee and chocolate chips) for when you need an energy boost, Sunny Uplift (sweet cherries and berries) for when you need some more antioxidants in your life, and even Protein Purity (sunflower butter and cacao powder) for when you have a nut allergy. No matter which you choose, though, you’ll be getting a solid 10 to 12 grams of protein per bar.
Keep scrolling, vegetarians—this one is for carnivores only. After all, it’s quite literally just a bar of meat, which, if you think about it, is the OG protein (before powders existed). Epic Bars come in 13 savory flavors: chicken sriracha; bison bacon cranberry; venison sea salt pepper; beef apple bacon; turkey, sweet potato, and egg yolk; chicken, egg yolk, and apple; bacon and egg yolk; beef habanero cranberry walnut; smoked maple bacon; wild boar with bacon; chicken sesame BBQ; turkey almond cranberry; and lamb currant mint. Bonus: Not only are all of the bars gluten-free, but thanks to their minimal ingredients (a.k.a. meat), they’re also approved for anyone on the Paleo, Keto, or Whole 30 diets.
Have your cake and eat it, too—in bar form, that is. This “Happy Birthday” protein bar from One Brands tastes just like a frosting-covered, sprinkle-topped slice of your favorite vanilla Funfetti cake. But don’t be fooled by the super sweet deliciousness—along with 20 grams of protein, each bar only has one gram (!!) of sugar. Plus, while birthday cake itself can set you back over 800 calories per slice (depressing, we know), this bar is a mere 210 calories, so you can feel like you’re indulging without actually, you know, indulging. It might not be the real thing but it comes pretty dang close, if the 5,000+ rave reviews on Amazon are any indication.
“But I’m vegan—I can’t eat protein bars,” I hear you say, as you reach for yet another depressing bag of kale chips. And while you’re right that the majority of protein bars are made with whey protein (which, yes, has dairy), there are also plenty of vegan options out there. One of the most popular of those is No Cow. The bars—which are made with 22 grams of pea and rice protein—are completely dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. As for flavors, you can choose from 14 delicious options, including sticky cinnamon roll, chocolate fudge brownie, lemon meringue pie, and carrot cake (all of which have just one gram of sugar!).
One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make in life is what snack to eat: Do you want something chewy (like those fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies) or something crunchy (like a sleeve of double-stuffed Oreos)? Never have to make that decision again—and get the best of both worlds—with these Fit Crunch bars, which were created by celebrity chef Robert Irvine. With a staggering 30 grams of protein (thanks to a high-quality blend of whey protein isolate and whey protein concentrate), there’s a layer of ooey gooey cookie dough, a layer of chocolate chips, and a layer of crunchy protein crisps—all covered in a thick coating of creamy chocolate. Yes, please.
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