There are dozens of different protein bars on the market, but the best protein bars for weight loss are the ones that are low in sugar and made from healthy ingredients. Having a protein bar between meals can be a low-calorie way to curb hunger, and they’re also easily portable.
What Are Protein Bars Made From?
Protein bars are supposed to supply you with a healthy dose of protein such as a type of protein powder, but it can also come from nuts and other foods. There are endless formulations that make up the protein bars you see in your grocery store, but some have hidden unhealthy ingredients you should avoid.
It’s a good idea to check how much sugar is in your favorite protein bar, as extra sugar won’t help you lose weight. Added sugar can add unnecessary calories that can sabotage your progress. You’ll also want to stay away from artificial flavors when possible, and homogenized oils.
The number of calories in a protein bar can vary widely from 80 to over 300 calories due to the ingredients used and the size of the bar. Protein bars can also contain soy, milk products, salt, oils, and artificial sweeteners.
While some artificial sweeteners may be ok as an ingredient, they don’t always taste good. The same is true for specific kinds of protein powder. Protein bars can also contain inulin and oligosaccharides which improve the taste of a protein bar and add fiber but can also cause unfortunate side effects like bloating.
After you eat a protein bar, pay special attention to your stomach and digestive tract to ensure you aren’t feeling bloated or ill. If you are experiencing unpleasant symptoms, it’s likely due to one or more of the ingredients in the protein bar you ate.
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How to Evaluate a Protein Bar
Before you go to the grocery store, it’s worth looking at our list of recommended bars, or a quick online search to narrow down the products you are interested in trying. There are many different kinds of protein bars, and looking at the details of each bar could tie you up for hours.
First, you’ll want to establish your protein needs based on your diet and your weight loss goals. The best protein bars for weight loss will have enough protein to provide you with a satisfying snack, but won’t fill you up with sugar.
Once you have an idea of how many grams of protein you want in your bar, you can narrow down your options and start to look at calorie content, ingredients, and cost. Flavors and texture will also make a difference if you intend to eat these bars frequently so some experimentation may be needed to find one you like.
Protein bars are rarely cheap, so keep in mind that you may need to spend a little money to have these snacks daily, but you can also cut costs by finding other foods to eat as a snack. Snack packs of nuts and seeds are also available and are similarly high in protein but may not be filling enough.
Protein bars shouldn’t be used to replace healthy fruits and vegetables and alternating between the two can also help to offset the cost of buying protein bars. A cost-saving option is to make your own protein bars, but this requires confidence in the protein content and calories of each bar. If you aren’t precise, you risk sabotaging your weight loss.
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Fat, Fiber, and Sugar
For most weight loss attempts you’ll want to have a protein bar that has about 10 to 15 grams of fat but with not more than around 2 grams of saturated fat. Avoid hydrogenated oils, and trans fats altogether, and look for healthy ingredients that provide the fat content.
Avocado oil and coconut oil are both healthy sources of fat found in protein bars, along with different kinds of nuts and seeds. Along with that healthy fat, you’ll want to make sure your bar has a suitable amount of fiber because that will help to keep you full.
Fiber can come from a variety of sources, but you should aim for around 3 to 5 total grams in a single bar. If your stomach complains after eating one of these bars, or if you feel bloated, try a bar with slightly less fiber.
Sugar is one of the hidden ingredients in protein bars that is overlooked. Some protein bars can have as much sugar as a candy bar, and those won’t help you lose weight at all. Protein bars can have up to 30 grams of sugar, which is at least six times the ideal amount.
Artificial sweeteners can also cause bloating, and other unpleasant digestive symptoms, so stick to real sweeteners such as sugar, honey, molasses, and maple syrup. Examples of artificial sweeteners to avoid include:
- Sugar alcohols
Although many of these artificial sweeteners have been approved by the FDA, consuming large amounts of them may not be the best idea. Besides leaving an aftertaste, some artificial sweeteners can cause gas, intestinal distress, and diarrhea.
Texture and Taste
The ingredients in your protein bar will directly affect how it feels and tastes in your mouth. Many individuals aren’t satisfied with a bar that has the texture of solidified mush. Many people prefer bars made from larger chunks such as nuts, puffed rice, dried fruit, and seeds.
While these chunky bars may be more satisfying to eat, they will also take you longer to consume, which gives your body the time it needs to tell you when you are full. The best protein bars for weight loss will also have a taste that you enjoy so you opt for a bar as a snack instead of hunting down sugary or salty treats.
Many protein bars come in a variety of flavors and can be purchased individually. Purchasing single bars can be a great option when you are deciding what you like and what kind of protein bar you can eat daily and find satisfying.
To make sure your protein bars always taste their best and are appetizing, avoid leaving them outside for extended periods. Extreme temperatures can either cause them to soften from the heat or freeze solid in the cold. Both options will change how the bar tastes and feels in your mouth, and this change is rarely for the best.
The Best Protein Bars to Consider
Protein bars can be a great snack if you are looking to lose some weight but finding one that meets all of your needs can be challenging. Here’s our list of recommended protein bars to get you started.
The Kind company has created protein bars made from nuts and fruits with the occasional addition of chocolate or peanut butter. You might want to skip the calorie-dense chocolate options, but the crunchy peanut butter version has peanuts and creamy nut butter for a suitable amount of fiber.
This bar is an excellent example of healthy fats and whole foods, which will still deliver enough protein to help you achieve your weight loss goals. This bar has 250 calories, 8 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.
There are other flavors of Kind bars that feature different toppings and dips such as chocolate drizzles. Make sure to read the nutrition facts on all of the flavors carefully as some contain more sugar than others. Some bars also have added ingredients that are known allergens for some individuals such as wheat and soy.
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Epic bars are made from hormone-free meats and come in a variety of different flavors. Each flavor or type will have a different amount of protein, but their minimal number of ingredients means they taste a lot like jerky.
The uncured bacon version is sugar-free, gluten-free, and has 15 grams of protein. There are also other meats available such as venison, which is grain-free and grass-fed and smoked salmon with maple. Both versions have 9 grams of protein in each serving.
There is also cranberry, sage, and turkey bars with 7 grams of protein, and no sugar or gluten. One of the newer flavors is Wagyu beef flavored with wildflower honey, salt, pepper, and garlic, which contains 6 grams of protein per serving.
Epic has also come up with a more conventional protein bar called a performance bar that delivers 12 grams of protein per serving and contains just five ingredients. All of the ingredients in this bar are Whole30, Paleo-friendly, and features egg whites from cage-free eggs.
Each bar contains 210 calories, and is gluten-free, soy-free, contains no added sugar, and no unlisted natural flavors. Instead, the bar is sweetened with dates and includes almonds, egg whites, sea salt, and lemon oil, which makes it similar to an RXBar.
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RXBars are known for their limited ingredients and high levels of protein in each bar. Most of the bars contain some nuts, dates, and egg whites. The coffee chocolate flavored bar contains 12 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein, but it’s important to note that this bar contains no added sugar.
The sweetness in this protein bar comes from the dates, which also contain fiber and other nutrients. This particular bar contains 210 calories, which is a good size for a snack, and also contains 10 grams of fat with only 2.5 grams of saturated fat.
The beautiful thing about RXBars is that they contain few ingredients, but the ingredients are real foods you can identify. This bar is also a unified texture, which makes it easy to eat when you are on the go, working out, or sitting down.
If you can’t find RXBars where you are, there are a number of brands that imitate these bars reasonably closely, but without much of a price difference between them. Brands with similar bars include the Epic performance bars, Naked Bars, and Rise Bars.
Quest protein bars are unique in the performance bar world because they offer 21 grams of protein in a bar that is under 200 calories. This bar contains a blend of milk and whey protein powders and also contains corn fiber and nuts. The s’mores flavor also contains real unsweetened chocolate and cocoa butter for a well-rounded flavor.
The reason this bar tastes so good and has such a delicious flavor is because it is sweetened with erythritol, which is an artificial sweetener. Erythritol has been deemed safe by the FDA in reasonable quantities. If you plan to consume more than two or three protein bars each day, you might want to choose a bar with a natural sweetener to avoid gastrointestinal upset.
This bar also contains less than 2% stevia which some people won’t mind, but it may create a distinctive taste that individuals dislike. Lastly, this bar also contains less than 2% sucralose, which helps to round out the sweetness and avoid any weird aftertastes.
Usually, it would be better to choose a bar with less artificial sweetener, but the level of protein in this bar is difficult to beat at under 200 calories. This bar can easily be part of a healthy weight loss routine and will likely keep you full between meals. The 14 grams of dietary fiber in the s’mores flavor is also unique, and there are only 7 grams of total fat with zero trans-fat.
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Dang bars are a great option if you are following a keto diet, and they contain around 210 calories, 9 grams of protein, and 3 grams of sugar in the vanilla flavor. The main ingredients in these bars are pea protein, sunflower seeds, almonds, chia seeds, chicory root fiber, and coconut.