top of page

Is Your Protein Bar Actually Healthy? The Best & Worst Protein Bars

Navigating the protein bar aisle can be a challenge, especially now that there are so many different options. It’s easy to assume all protein bars are “healthy” snacks, but you have to investigate past the marketing labels and read the ingredient list.

Even though protein bars are considered a healthy food compared to things like candy bars, they are still processed. Anytime a food goes through processing, it loses a little bit of its nutritional value and additives are added to the food to make it shelf stable, improve the texture and make it more appetizing. All of these additives can affect our cravings, hormones, gut microbiome and metabolism.

Ideally, you want to eat whole foods to get your nutrition and protein in. Having organic chicken will trump reaching for a protein bar any day, but sometimes we don’t always have that option. Fortunately, there are a lot of companies who care about clean, simple ingredients! Use this guide the next time you’re on a road trip and need a quick snack or are hunting for a quality bar.


Epic Bison Bar (A)


  • Allergen free: dairy free, egg free, gluten free, peanut free and soy free.

  • Organic and simple ingredients.

  • Only 6 grams of sugar.

  • 7 grams of protein from 100% grass-fed bison.

  • This is a bar that will keep your blood sugar levels stable and not lead you to crave more sweets like some of the other protein bars on the market.


  • I don’t have any for this bar! The only obstacle would be if you are vegetarian or vegan.

Ingredients: Bison, Uncured Bacon - No Nitrates or Nitrites Added* (Pork, Water, Sea Salt, Brown Sugar, Vinegar, Celery Powder), Dried Cranberries (Apple Juice Concentrate, Cranberries), Encapsulated Lactic Acid**, Cultured Celery Powder, Sea Salt.

Nutrition Facts: 130 calories, 8g fat, 8 g carbs, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams protein, 6 grams sugar


Thunderbird Bars (A)


  • Made with real simple ingredients.

  • Paleo, non-GMO, gluten-free, vegan, and dairy free.

  • No added sugar.


  • Only 4g of protein.

  • 14 grams of sugar, but all of the sugar is coming from whole foods.

  • Not organic.

Ingredients: Dates, Pecans, Almonds, Pistachio, Himalayan Pink, Goji Berry, Dried Golden Berries.

Nutrition: 22o calories, 19 fat, 19 carb, 4 fiber, 14 sugar, 4 protein


RX Bar (A)


  • Simple, real ingredients.

  • O grams of added sugar.

  • Gluten free and dairy free.

  • 12 grams of protein.


  • They are higher in sugar, but the sugar is coming mainly from the dates.

  • They aren’t organic.

  • They contain natural flavors.*

*Natural flavors should be eaten in moderation. If something is labeled “Natural Blueberry Flavor” it means the manufacturer only had to pull the tiniest bit of blueberry to make the flavor, but could add other ingredients to the mix that aren’t displayed on the label. We’re aiming for good options, not perfect options, but this is something to keep in mind when reading your labels because it sneaks into a lot of items. However, on the website they list “The natural flavors used in our foods come from real ingredients that could be found in nature and do not include artificial preservatives, added colors, animal products, synthetic or GMO’s.”

Ingredients: Dates, Egg Whites, Almonds, Cashews, Chocolate, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Coconut.

Nutrition: 210 calories, 9 g fat, 23 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 12 grams protein


Lara Bars (B)


  • Contain clean, simple ingredients.

  • Gluten free, dairy free, and vegan.


  • Lower in protein with only 3 grams per bar.

  • 17 grams of sugar is a bit high, but it’s coming from all natural sources.

  • Not organic.

Ingredients: Cashews, dates, apples, blueberries, vanilla extract.

Nutrition: 190 calories , 9 g fat, 27g carbs, 3 g fiber, 17 g sugar, 3g protein


Dang Bar (B)


  • Gluten free, non GMO, plant based, no artificial ingredients.

  • Made with simple, whole food ingredients.

  • Only 3g of sugar.

  • Sweetened with stevia.


  • They do have some food additives like calcium carbonate, citric acid, lecithin, and natural flavors

  • Not organic.

Ingredients: Almonds, Chicory Root Fiber, Cocoa Butter, Pea Protein Crisps (Pea Protein, Rice Flour, Calcium Carbonate), Pea Protein, Sunflower Seeds, Coconut, Chia Seeds, Natural Flavors, Lemon Oil, Sunflower Lecithin, Matcha Green Tea, Citric Acid, Sea Salt, Stevia Extract, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E)

Nutrition: 210 calories, 15 g fat, 11 g carb, 6g fiber, 3 g sugar, 9g protein

Ingredient check: Chicory root fiber is a natural source of fiber. It is a soluble fiber and also functions as a prebiotic. This helps with keeping food flowing through you at a regular pace and makes you feel more full after consumption.


Organic Fit (B)


  • Certified organic.

  • Contains superfood ingredients like ashwagandha, cinnamon and cacao.

  • Non GMO, vegan, gluten free, dairy free and soy free.

  • Low in sugar and sweetened with stevia and erythritol.


  • 13 grams of fiber can be hard on the digestive system.

Ingredients: Organic Soluble Tapioca Fiber, Organic Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Almonds, Organic Pea Protein, Organic Chocolate Coating (Organic Cocoa Nibs, Organic Erythritol, Organic Tapioca Fiber, Organic Cocoa Butter, Natural Licorice Flavor, Organic Stevia Extract (leaf), Organic Sunflower Lecithin, Organic Vanilla Bean Extract), Organic Pea Crisps (Organic Pea Protein, Organic Tapioca Starch), Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, Organic Cacao, Organic Acacia Fiber, Organic Carob, Organic Flavor, Organic Svetol® Green Coffee Bean Extract, Organic Ashwagandha, Sea Salt, Organic Cinnamon. Contains: Almonds.

Nutrition: 24o calories, 8 g fat, 27 g carbs, 13 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 14 g protein

Ingredient check: Soluble tapioca fiber is a ketogenic-friendly sweetener that won’t spike your blood sugar. It is made from non-GMO corn syrup that has been broken down through an enzymatic-based process.


Raw Rev (B)


  • Only 4g of sugar.

  • Organic ingredients and superfoods like chia seeds and coconut oil.

  • Gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and non GMO.

  • 12 grams of plant based protein.


  • Uses IMO’s which can still spike your blood sugar and can be hard to digest.

  • Soy Lecithin has been controversial in regards to hormonal imbalance and allergens so its best to be eaten in moderation.

  • Contains natural flavors.

Ingredients: Raw Rev Next Gen Blend (Raw Cashews, Pea Protein, Brown Rice Protein, Raw Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, Raw Organic Chia Seeds, Raw Organic Sprouted Flax Seeds), Isomalto-Oligosaccharides ( Cassava/Tapioca), Organic Dark Chocolate (Cane Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla Extract), Organic Cocoa Powder, Vegetable Glycerine, Chicory Root Fiber, Sunflower Lecithin, Brown Rice Syrup, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Monk Fruit Extract.

Nutrition: 170 calories, 9g fat, 21 g carb, 14 g fiber, 12 g protein , 4 g sugar


No Cow Bar (C)


  • Only 1 gram of sugar.

  • No artificial sweeteners and sweetened with erythritol, stevia leaf and monk fruit.

  • 20 grams of protein.

  • Dairy free, gluten free, soy free non GMO and vegan.


  • Sugar alcohols can disrupt the gut microbiome if eaten in excess.

  • 17g of added fiber (some of which is IMO fiber) can make them very hard to digest.

  • Contains additives like soluble corn fiber, glycerin, and natural flavors.

  • Uses palm oil (this is a controversial ingredient because of the effects of it’s production on the environment and health of wild animals)

  • Not organic.

Ingredients: protein blend, soluble corn fiber, glycerine, chocolate chips, palm oil, almonds, cocoa powder, natural flavors, salt, cocoa butter, sweetener blend (erythritol, stevia leaf, monk fruit)

Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 5 g fat, 26 carbs, 16 fiber, 20 protein, 7 g sugar alcohol, 1 g sugar


Go Macro (C)


  • Clean ingredients.

  • Certified organic, vegan, gluten free, non GMO.

  • 12 grams of plant based protein.


  • 13 grams of added sugar from brown rice syrup (sugar is still sugar!)

  • Higher in calories at 270 per bar.

Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Sunflower Seed Butter, Organic Protein Blend (Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, Organic Pea Protein), Organic Gluten-Free Rolled Oats, Organic Chocolate Chips (Organic Coconut Sugar, Organic Cocoa, Organic Cocoa Butter), Organic Crispy Brown Rice (Organic Brown Rice, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Sea Salt), Organic Maple Sugar, Organic Natural Flavor, Organic Puffed Brown Rice, Sea Salt.

Nutrition Facts: 270 calories, 9 g fat, 35 g carbs, 13 g sugar, 12 g added sugar, 12 G protein


Quest Bar (C)


  • 0 grams of sugar.

  • 20 grams of protein.

  • Gluten free and soy free.


  • Contain sucralose (splenda) which is an artificial sweetener that can disrupt your gut microbiome and also increase cravings for more sweets.

  • Not organic.

  • Highly processed ingredients.

  • High fiber content from an isolated fiber source could cause gastrointestinal distress.

Ingredients: Protein blend (Milk Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate), Soluble Corn Fiber, Almonds, Water, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Natural Flavors, Erythritol. Contains Less Than 2% of the following: Sea Salt, Baking Soda, Stevia Sweetener, Sucralose.

Nutrition: 180 calories, 7 g fat, 24 g carbs, 14 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 6 g sugar alcohol, 20 G protein


Oats and Honey Kind Bar (D)


  • Gluten free and non GMO.

  • 100% whole grain.


  • Contains canola oil which is inflammatory.

  • 6 grams of added sugar from cane sugar, tapioca syrup and brown rice syrup.

  • Low in protein with only 3 grams, so these aren’t going to fill you up for long.

Ingredients: Oats, cane sugar, tapioca syrup, canola oil, brown rice, millet, honey, coconut, buckwheat, brown rice flour, amaranth, oat flour, sea salt, quinoa, brown rice syrup, Vitamin E (tocopherols to maintain freshness).

Nutrition Facts: 150 calories, 5 fat, 23 carb, 6 added sugars, 3 protein.


Nature Valley Crunch (D)


  • Made with whole grain oats.


  • 11 grams of added sugar.

  • Contains inflammatory oils like canola and sunflower oil.

  • Soy lecithin has been controversial in regards to hormonal imbalance and allergens so its best to be eaten in moderation.

  • Contains natural flavors.

  • Only 3 grams of protein per bar.

Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Canola and/or Sunflower Oil, Almond Pieces, Rice Flour, Brown Sugar Syrup, Salt, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor.

Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 7 fat, 29 carb, 2 fiber, 11 sugar, 3 protein.


Made Good Granola Bars (D)


  • Gluten free, non GMO and allergen friendly.

  • Certified organic.

  • Added fruits and veggies


  • Contains inflammatory oils like sunflower oil and palm fruit oil.

  • Contains natural flavors.

  • Contains 6 grams of added sugar from cane sugar, rice syrup solids, maltodextrin, cane syrup, agave syrup, and brown rice syrup.

  • Only 2 grams of protein.

Ingredients: Pure Gluten Free Oats*, Cane Sugar*, Vanilla Chips* (Cocoa Butter*, Cane Sugar*, Tapioca Starch*, Rice Syrup Solids*, Rice Maltodextrin*, Vanilla Extract*), Sunflower Oil*, Chocolate* (Cane Sugar*, Unsweetened Chocolate*, Cocoa Butter*), Invert Cane Syrup*, Agave Syrup*, Brown Rice Crisps*, Gluten Free Oat Flour*, Inulin*, Palm Fruit Oil*†, Tapioca Starch*, Natural Flavor*, Cocoa Powder* (Processed With Alkali), Vegetable Extracts (Spinach, Broccoli, Carrots, Tomatoes, Beets, Shiitake Mushrooms), Ground Chia Seeds*, Brown Rice Syrup*, Salt, Baking Soda. *. †Sustainable.

Nutrition: 100 cal, 3 g fat, 17 carb, 1 fiber, 6 sugar, 2 protein


Builders Protein (F)


  • Gluten free and vegan.

  • 20 grams of protein.


  • 17 grams of added sugar from cane syrup, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, vegetable glycerine.

  • Uses sunflower oil and palm kernel oil which is inflammatory.

  • Highly processed ingredients.

  • Contains natural flavors and soy lecithin.

  • Higher in calories with 290 per bar.

Ingredients: soy protein isolate, cane syrup, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, palm kernel oil, vegetable glycerine, soy flour, rice flour, chicory fiber syrup, peanuts, natural flavors, peanut butter, cocoa butter, cocoa, soy protein concentrate, high oleic sunflower oil, sea salt, rice starch, soy lecithin, mixed tocopherols (antioxidant)

Nutrition Facts: 290 calories, 11 fat, 2 fiber, 17 sugar, 17 added sugar, 20 protein

29 carbs


Cliff Bar (F)


  • Made with 70% organic ingredients.

  • They do not contain high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors.


  • 16 grams of added sugar from brown rice syrup, barley malt extract, tapioca syrup, and cane syrup.

  • Uses sunflower oil which is inflammatory.

  • Contains natural flavors.

  • Contains corn, soy, gluten and dairy.

  • Highly processed ingredients.

Ingredients: Organic rolled oats, organic brown rice syrup, soy rice crisps (soy proten isolate, rice flour, barley malt extract), organic roasted soybeans, organic tapioca syrup, organic cane syrup, chicory fiber, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, organic soy flour, organic high oleic sunflower oil, natural flavors, alkalized cocoa, sea salt)

Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 17g sugar, 16g added sugar, 10 G protein. 43 carbs

6 g fat


Natures Bakery Fig Bar (F)


  • Non GMO and dairy free.


  • 19 grams of sugar per bar with 14 grams of added sugar from cane sugar, fig paste, brown rice syrup, blueberry jam, pectin, glycerin and fruit juice.

  • Contains inflammatory oils like canola oil.

  • Only 3 grams of protein.

  • Contains gluten.

  • Not organic.

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Cane Sugar, Fig Paste, Brown Rice Syrup, Blueberry Jam (Cane Sugar, Naturally Milled Sugar, Rice Starch, Glycerin, Blueberries, Apple Powder, Natural Flavors, Pectin, Citric Acid, Locust Bean Gum), Canola Oil, Whole Grain Oats, Glycerin, Fruit Juice (for color), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Baking Soda. Contains Wheat.

Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 5 fat, 38 carbs, 3 fiber, 19 sugar, 14 g added sugar, 3 protein

Closing Thoughts

As you can see, anything that is packaged is going to have negatives to it because it is moving away from consuming real, whole foods in their most natural form. With that being said, protein and granola bars can be a part of a well balanced diet, just choose wisely and eat them in moderation!

When reading your labels follow these general rules.

  1. Avoid processed inflammatory oils like canola, soybean, and palm kernel oil.

  2. Look for bars that don’t have any added sugars.

  3. If you don’t know the ingredients in an item, put it back on the shelf! The less ingredients the better. There are a lot of gums, fillers, sweeteners and sugar alcohols in protein bars that can affect our taste buds and disturb our gut microbiome.

Happy snacking! What bars did I miss that you want to know about? Send me a message and I'd be happy to give you my feedback!

bottom of page