Top 5 Balanced Protein Bar Picks

 
balanced protein bar

If you watch my Instagram stories, I mentioned last week that one of my most commonly asked questions is about protein bars - do I recommend them, and what kind?. While I'm not the world's biggest proponent of protein bars because I don't believe they're usually as satisfying as a real food snack, you know what? Life happens. The one sucky thing about protein is that most protein sources need to be refrigerated, and your Louis Vuitton and/or Mossimo bag is not refrigerated (brb about to become a billionaire w my refrigerated bag idea). But protein is SO important to keep your metabolism revved up and if you are trying to lose weight, it's twice as important to be sure you're eating enough protein throughout the day. 

good protein bars = instant snack

I have my biased favorites, but I picked up several protein bars from my local Whole Foods and regular grocery store to test out a bunch. I chose my top 5 picks based on ingredients and the amount of protein, fat, carbs and fiber in each bar. I did not choose my top 5 based on taste. Why? There are several delicious bars that taste great but are mostly carbs and sugar and low on protein. Shocking. And while they might taste good, these types of bars wreck havoc on your blood sugar...and your metabolism.

Too many carbs and sugar make our blood sugar spike and with the absence of enough fat and/or protein, this blood sugar spike is going to promote more insulin, our fat-storing hormone, to be released. We want our blood sugar to stay steady throughout the day, because a stable blood sugar promotes fat BURNING (I go into a lot more detail about this here and here).

ANYWAYS - let's get to what you actually care about.

THE GROUND RULES | Each bar had to contain the following:

  1. 12g or more of protein
  2. 8g or more of fat
  3. 25g or less of carbs
  4. 2g or more of fiber
  5. No artificial sweeteners, preservatives, natural or artificial flavors, gluten or anything weird*

AND ALSO 

  1. This post is not sponsored. I bought all of these bars on my own.
  2. I wasn't able to purchase these all in the same flavor, which would have made my reviews fairer.
  3. I judged the bars based on nutritional profile, ingredients, texture, and taste.
  4. The 5 bars chosen are my top 5 picks for the most nutritionally sound protein bars according to the guidelines above.

*I don't think I really need to explain this. If you look at a label and think, hmmm that doesn't sound like food, then it's weird.

Sprouted Grow Raw Plant Protein Bar (flavor tried: mint chocolate)

Texture: 3 – chewy and seedy (from the watermelon seeds), slightly dry

Flavor: 1 – subtly sweet, but a very strong, bitter aftertaste

Fat: 15g

Protein: 12g

Carbs/Fiber: 24g/4 g

Ingredients: sprouted watermelon seeds, dates, cacao, chocolate extract, vanilla extract, mint extract, salt, rosemary extract

Overall impressions: The only thing that killed this for me was the aftertaste - I'm not sure if it was from the cacao or the sprouted watermelon seeds. I would give this another shot with a different flavor, but if I got that same bitter taste, I wouldn't buy it again.

Who this bar is good for: Those who prefer plant protein and raw bars.

Rise Protein Bar (flavor tried: cacao banana)

Texture: 1 – difficult to chew - a little sticky on my teeth. Very dense.

Flavor: 3 – subtly sweet, no aftertaste. This flavor had a strong banana flavor, which is great if you like banana.

Fat: 16g

Protein: 16g

Carbs/Fiber: 20g/4 g

Ingredients: almonds, honey, whey protein isolate, cacao, banana extract

Overall impressions: Only 5 ingredients, which I love. The flavor was pretty good, but the banana flavor was artificial. I would not buy this flavor again. The tough part about this bar was the texture. It was difficult to chew and I didn't feel satisfied after eating it. I felt like I wanted 'real food' (even though it's full of real food ingredients)

Who this bar is good for: Someone who needs a meal replacement on the go. This bar is higher in fat, calories and protein than many other bars, while still being made with real food. A much better option than the vending machine.

Square Organics (flavor tried: almond spice)

Texture: 4 – soft and chewy like a brownie, very subtle graininess

Flavor: 4 – perfect amount of sweetness, no aftertaste, but slight chalky flavor

Fat: 10g

Protein: 12g

Carbs/Fiber: 22g/2 g

Ingredients: Coconut nectar, brown rice protein, dark chocolate, coconut oil, oats, almonds, cocoa liquor, cinnamon, sunflower lecithin, sea salt

Overall impressions: While I don't think it tasted like almond spice (it was more chocolatey as it was coated in chocolate), this was a good bar for someone with a sweet tooth. It was brownie-esque and had a nice texture. The first ingredient is essentially sugar, but the stats have a good balance of PHFF for a snack.

Who this bar is good for: Anyone who can't get to a real food afternoon snack, especially if you prefer plant-based protein.

RX Bar (flavor tested: mint chocolate)

Texture: 3 – chewy, like a very dense brownie

Flavor: 4 – subtly sweet, and tastes like real food -  no aftertaste, no chalkiness

Fat: 9g

Protein: 12g

Carbs/Fiber: 24g/3 g

Ingredients: dates, egg whites, cashews, almonds, cacao, peppermint oil, sea salt

Overall impressions: This is about as real food as you get. Protein is boosted by egg whites, and there is no added sugar. This bar has my favorite ingredient profile, while still being tasty. Note: the mint chocolate that I tested for this post was my least favorite flavor I've tried, but the blueberry, maple sea salt, chocolate sea salt, and peanut butter flavors are FIRE.

Who this bar is good for: Anyone, but these bars don't have nearly enough protein to make it a meal. These are for snacks only.

Perfect Bar - (flavor tested: Maple Almond)

Texture: 4 – very similar to crumbly cookie, but slightly more chewy

Flavor:  5 – this bar is basically a healthy cookie. The sweetness level is perfect. This particular flavor tastes exactly like sunflower butter cookies that I used to make (that's a good thing).

Fat: 18g

Protein: 13g

Carbs/Fiber: 27g/4 g

Ingredients: almond butter, maple syrup, nonfat dry milk, honey, almond, egg powder, rice protein, flaxseed oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame seed oil, olive oil, pumpkin seed oil, whole food powders (which is a variety of dried fruits and vegetables)

Overall impressions: I bent my rules on this one, as it has 27 g of carbs. I let this go because it is high in fat and fiber (which will buffer the higher carb content). This is by far the best-tasting protein bar on the market. Holy crap, it's good. This bar has the most ingredients, but they are all organic and are whole foods, even if they are dried whole foods. This is the only bar that is not dairy-free, so it is not for those who are dairy sensitive. My biggest issue with this bar, though, is that it's reaching the meal replacement category with it's higher carb content, but still only has 13 g of protein.

The peanut butter, blueberry cashew, and almond butter are probably my next favorites.

Who this bar is good for: Anyone who is not dairy free, and needs a good tasting bar in a crunch. I put this in the 'big snack' category, unless you were to add a hard boiled egg on the side, which would make this a great breakfast or lunch option. This would also make a good post-workout snack.

Clear favorites:

Perfect Bar, RX Bar, Square Organics

Runner-up: It's unlikely (although, it would be awesome) that you'll find these bars at your local grocery store. I know that Costco carries Perfect Bars, and Whole Foods carries all of these bars, and you can buy any of these on Amazon, but if you need something quick from your grocery store, here is what I recommend:

Lara Bars - I love the ingredients here, but they are low on protein. Occasionally you can find their higher protein bars, so look out for those. These are best after a tough workout or in combination with extra protein.

That's it. Stay away from everything else. There are SO MANY options, so if you have a favorite that falls in line with those guidelines, let a sister know!!