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4 tips for choosing a healthy protein bar

Your 5-Step Guide to Choosing a Protein Bar That's Not Junk

When you need a quick, protein-packed snack on the go, protein bars are a convenient option. Their popularity as a nutrient-packed snack has led to a booming protein bar market over the past decade. As a result, a trip through the protein bar aisle at the grocery store gives you a huge selection of brands and flavors.

There are whey protein bars, soy protein bars, vegan protein bars, paleo protein bars, and more, so there is a protein bar for every place and every way of eating. The choices can confuse you.

With so many types of protein bars on the market, how do you find a nutritious one that fits your lifestyle, and nutritional needs, and most importantly, tastes good?

In this article, I'll guide you through four steps to choosing the best protein bar for your nutritional needs, and help you find what you love!

1. Think about your calorie needs

The first step in choosing the perfect protein bar is to see how well it fits into your daily diet. If you're not counting calories or macronutrients and aren't interested in controlling weight, you can skip this step.

For those targeting a daily calorie or macronutrient goal, taking into account your needs and the nutritional composition of the bar is important to ensure that a protein bar fits your diet. Whether you eat protein bars regularly or now and then, it is helpful to have a list of protein bars that generally fit your daily nutritional goals.

For example, protein bar brands, and even different flavors within the same brand, can vary greatly in the number of calories they provide. A typical protein bar can serve anywhere from 220 calories up to 410 calories.

If your daily calorie needs are about 2,000 calories a day, a 410-calorie protein bar makes up a large portion of those calories — more than 20% of your daily needs — and may require cutting out some of the other nutrient-rich meals that You take during the day.

For most of us, finding a protein bar that's lower in calories goes better with a balanced diet. However, if you are building muscle or trying to increase your calorie intake, choosing a high-calorie protein bar can be a strategic move.

2. Know the amount and type of protein

Once you've narrowed down your options to protein bars that fit well with your calorie goals, you need to figure out the type and amount of protein in the bar.

Types of protein in protein bars

From whey to collagen, to soy, and pea protein, protein bars contain different types of protein. Consider your personal preferences and any dietary restrictions when choosing among them.

Look for the nutrition ingredient list on the label to determine the type of protein used in the bar. The type of protein used in a bar is usually the first ingredient.

If you follow a plant-based diet, look for a plant-based protein bar, which typically uses pea or soy protein.

How Much Protein Should a Protein Bar Have?

Next, pay attention to how much protein each bar contains.

If you are consuming a protein bar on its own, you will need to look for a bar that has more protein in it. The more protein a bar contains, the more it can satisfy your hunger. As a general rule, I try to look for protein bars with 20-30 grams of protein if I'm going to eat the bar as a stand-alone snack.

On the other hand, if you plan to eat a protein bar with another high-protein food, you may need a bar that contains a moderate amount of protein. For example, you can pair a protein bar containing about 12 grams of protein with a small cup of plain Greek yogurt. These foods, when eaten together, provide a good amount of protein and a balance of macronutrients.

It can be helpful to keep a variety of protein bars containing varying amounts of protein on hand so you can choose the type that is most suitable for your needs on a particular day. For example, if you're traveling and the only food you bring is a protein bar, choose one that provides more protein so you don't feel hungry on your travels.

3. Check the type of sugar and the amount of fiber

The amount and type of sugar used in a protein bar are important for anyone - but especially for those trying to limit their sugar intake in general or pay attention to the types of sugar, they are eating. Obviously, if you're trying to limit your sugar intake, you'll need to find a bar that matches the rest of your eating day.

If you don't eat a lot of sugar during the rest of the day, the amount of sugar in your protein bar may be less important. But if your diet tends to be rich in added sugar, you'll want to steer clear of sugar-laden bars and opt for a low-sugar option instead.

Some protein bars contain sugar alcohols to lower the sugar content without sacrificing sweetness. While some people enjoy eating sweetened foods without added sugar, sugar alcohols can irritate the digestive system of others.

Sugar alcohols are listed in the nutrition information on the plate label. Common sugar alcohols include:

    • erythritol
    • sorbitol
    • maltitol
    • isomalt
    • xylitol

    If you feel bloated or have an upset stomach after eating a protein bar that contains sugar alcohols, keep this note in mind about this ingredient and work on finding a bar that uses other sweeteners. Sugar alcohols affect each body differently, so experiment with different types to find a bar that works best for you.


    Most of us can use more fiber in our diets. According to some estimates, only 5% of people in the United States meet their daily fiber needs.1

    If you're aiming to meet the recommended fiber intake of 28-34 grams per day for men or 22-28 grams for women, a high-fiber protein bar can get you one step closer to your goal.2 High-fiber bars often contain up to 10 grams of fiber, which is one-third of the daily recommended amount.

    But keep in mind that excessive excess may not be good. Protein bars that contain a lot of fiber can lead to digestive discomfort in some individuals.

    If high-fiber protein bars upset your stomach, look for protein bars that are lighter in terms of fiber. Or look specifically for protein bars that contain the types of fiber that are best for your stomach.

    4. Find the flavors you like

    The last step is the most fun! The best way to find delicious protein bars is to experiment. Now that you've refined your criteria and narrowed down your search, it's time to explore protein bars with lots of flavors from different brands.

    Let's say you're looking for a vegan protein bar with 15 to 25 grams of protein and moderate levels of sugar and fiber. With this information, you can now filter the bars to select those that meet your criteria and start testing your taste.

    We are creatures that love habits. Often, people are afraid to walk away from what they know. But if you don't try a lot of brands and flavors, you may never find a protein bar you love that meets your needs. With endless options on the market, there's no better time than now to try out different protein bars and find what you like.

    And once you find a protein bar you love, you can stock up on it! Have enough on hand, so when you need one, you can have it - even if the store runs out of stock. Keep in mind, if you like a small, specialty-brand protein bar, you're unlikely to find it at gas station stores, airports, or other places where you might be trying to find a snack.


    Protein bars are convenient and easy snacks on the go or after a workout. But to make sure it helps you achieve your nutritional goals rather than holding you back, it's important to choose a goal that aligns with your daily plan.

    When choosing a protein bar, remember to consider the calorie content, make sure it provides your body with enough protein, limit the amount of sugar and the type of sweetener it contains, and finally makes sure it tastes sweet and good!

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