The Best Protein Bars to Quell Hunger, According to Dietitians and 'Shape' Editors

Packed with crunchy nuts, sweet chocolate, and filling whole grains, these are the best-tasting protein bars to snack on.

The Best Protein Bars to Munch On Post-Workout, According to Dietitians and Editors
Photo: Adobe Stock

Protein bars have long been every fitness enthusiast's and snack fiend's best friend. They are available in countless innovative flavors, stifle hunger, and help you meet your #gains goals, thanks to protein's role in muscle building. But sometimes, these friends are actually foes in disguise; A crinkly wrapper can conceal a chalky, bitter bar that's hard enough to break a tooth and will leave your stomach growling in 20 minutes flat.

So how are you supposed to know which protein bars are actually tasty and filling enough to be worth adding to your shopping cart? Look to this all-inclusive guide to find out the qualities to look for in a snack bar and the best protein bars on the market, according to registered dietitians and Shape staff members.

Why Snack On Protein Bars, Anyway?

For starters, eating a protein bar can help you score, well, protein — a necessary macronutrient that helps build and repair cells, tissue, and muscle; ensures proper growth and development; and assists in body processes such as blood clotting, fluid balance, and more, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. People following a 2,000-calorie diet generally need to score at least 46 grams of protein daily, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, and eating a proteinbar can help you get one step closer to meeting that goal.

But protein bars do more than just keep your body running smoothly — they can also help you quiet your growling stomach, says Ashley Munro, M.P.H., R.D., a registered dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor in Tucson, Arizona. When choosing a protein bar that also contains a moderate amount of carbohydrates, you'll benefit from immediate and extended satiety. Carbs are digested quickly, raise blood sugar levels in roughly 15 minutes, and release mood-boosting serotonin and satiating hormones, so they turn off your brain's initial "hunger switch," Abby Chan, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the co-owner of EVOLVE Flagstaff in Arizona, previously told Shape. Your body breaks down protein more slowly than it does carbohydrates, so together they create a stable rise in blood sugar (versus a quick spike), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Protein's really helpful at stabilizing blood sugar...[and] having good blood sugar throughout the day helps all of us feel satisfied and sustained," Munro previously told Shape.

Thanks to their on-the-go nature, protein bars also allow you to fill your empty stomach (and keep you from going hangry) whenever, wherever, notes Munro. "Honoring your hunger throughout the day is a lot easier when something's available," she adds. "Hunger strikes when we don't always have [a meal] with us, and in those times, I think protein bars can be really great options because you can honor your hunger and it can be a bridge to mealtime." Translation: By keeping a protein bar on hand, you'll be able to give your body the energizing nutrients it needs, rather than have to ignore your hunger cues until dinner.

How to Find the Best Protein Bar

When choosing a protein bar to add to your snack collection, look for a bar that offers 7 to 20 grams of the macronutrient, which will ensure it actually tides you over until your next meal, says Munro. On the ingredient label, look for quality protein sources that fit your dietary preferences, such as whey or egg if you're an omnivore or pea protein or brown rice protein if you're plant-based, she suggests. (If you're wondering, protein quality reflects how rich the protein source is in the essential amino acids, as well as how easily your body can utilize the protein.) Regardless of the ingredient, "they're all going to give you protein, just in different packages," says Munro. "Some are going to be more available to your body or give you more protein than others, but it's only a snack, and it's hopefully not the only source of protein you're getting that day." (BTW, here's what eating the right amount of protein really looks like.)

You'll also want to select a snack that provides some fiber (about 3 grams), says Munro. The nutrient (which is a type of carb) can't be broken down by the body and, in turn, ups the bar's satisfaction factor, she says. Still, you can have too much of a good thing. "I think it's a little dicey if it's high-fiber, like 10 grams, because there could be added synthetic fibers, like chicory root, which could give you tummy troubles or gas," says Munro.

Of all the guidelines for choosing the best protein bar, however, the most important has nothing to do with nutrition. "Honestly, one of the most important parts is it's gotta taste good," says Munro. "I think that's always important for me, to find those brands where I'm even excited to eat it. I'm not looking in my bag like, 'Ugh, that's all I have?' and dreading it."

One way you can keep your tastebuds excited about your fueling snack? Stock your pantry (and, in some cases, fridge) with a handful of the best protein bars, below, which registered dietitians and Shape editors can't stop raving about.

The Best Protein Bars to Stock Up On Now

01 of 14

Best Protein Bar with Simple Ingredients: RXBARs


Even though RXBARs are made from a handful of simple ingredients — including egg whites, nuts, and dates — the flavor options are endless, which is why Wintana Kiros, R.D.N., L.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist and the founder of Reset Lifestyle, recommends the snacks to her clients. Each of the best-selling bars provides 12 grams of protein and 4 to 5 grams of fiber, "which keeps blood sugar stable and helps make you feel full longer," she says. Try the mixed berry for a smoothie-flavored treat, the chocolate coconut to be mentally transported to the tropics, or the peanut butter chocolate for a Reese's-like treat. (Related: These Benefits of Fiber Make It One of the Most Important Nutrients In Your Diet)

02 of 14

Best Protein Bar for Grain-Free Snacking: Skout Protein Bars

Skout Protein Bars

When you're craving a filling, homemade snack but don't have the energy to whip one up, grab this pick from Alex Caspero, M.A., R.D., a registered dietitian and plant-based chef. "I always say that Skout bars are the bars that I would make at home," she says. The protein bars, available in coconut, chocolate cherry, peanut butter, and salted chocolate varieties, are free of refined sugar and grains and pack 10 grams of protein and 5 to 8 grams of fiber per serving.

03 of 14

Best Protein Bar with a Classic Flavor: Bob's Red Mill Peanut Butter, Honey & Oats Bob's Bar

Bob’s Red Mill Peanut Butter, Honey & Oats Bob's Bar

Just like the name implies, these protein bars are made with just six whole food ingredients, including peanuts, whole grain oats, and organic honey. As a result, "you are getting a dose of energizing carbohydrates, plant protein, and good fats," says Mia Syn, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charleston, South Carolina. In each bar, you'll score 8 grams of plant-based protein and 3 grams of filling fiber.

04 of 14

Best Keto Protein Bar: IQBAR in Lemon Blueberry

IQBAR in Lemon Blueberry

Flavored with real blueberries and lemon, these protein bars will perk up your tastebuds, fuel your muscles with 12 grams of plant-based protein, and satisfy your growling stomach with 15 grams of fat and 8 grams of fiber. Each bar has "only 3 grams of net carbs, making them keto-friendly," notes Syn. Plus, "they are formulated with ingredients that provide nutrients that specifically benefit the brain, including essential omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin E, and choline."

05 of 14

Best Protein Bar for Travelers: KIND Protein Bars

KIND Protein Bars

Whether you're traveling by plane, train, or automobile, there's a good chance KIND bars will be stocked at your next pitstop (think: gas station, convenience store, etc.). "Those are often available anywhere, so I like them for accessibility piece," says Munro. Whether you choose the almond butter dark chocolate, double dark chocolate nut, crunchy peanut butter, or toasted caramel nut variety, you'll score 12 grams of plant-based protein and 5 to 6 grams of filling fiber.

06 of 14

Best Protein Bar for a Nostalgic Snack: Simply Protein Dark Chocolate Almond Snack Bars

Simply Protein Dark Chocolate Almond Snack Bars

Thanks to the soy protein and brown rice crisps, this protein bar tastes more like a chocolatey Rice Krispies Treat than a practical source of fuel. The gluten- and dairy-free snack bars offer 12 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber with the help of ingredients such as almonds, oats, and chicory root (take note of that last ingredient if you have a sensitive stomach). "If you are looking for a protein bar with a satisfying crunchy texture from brown rice crisps, this is a smart option," says Syn.

07 of 14

Best Protein Bar to Stock In the Fridge: Perfect Bar in Coconut Peanut Butter

Perfect Bar in Coconut Peanut Butter

According to Renee Cherry, Shape's staff writer, the Perfect Bar more than lives up to its name. "They're made with all recognizable ingredients, which I know is a major draw for a lot of people and a rarity among protein bars," she explains. "That means they contain honey for sweetness rather than artificial sweeteners, preventing that dreaded aftertaste." The coconut peanut butter flavor, which contains 16 grams of protein, tastes as if it's solely made from those two ingredients, but it also contains 20 additional nutrient-rich ingredients, including alfalfa powder and flax seed oil, says Cherry. "Since the bar is relatively high in fat compared to most protein bars, I find it's exceptionally satiating," she adds. "I reach for one when I'm feeling hangry and know I won't be able to have a meal in the immediate future."

08 of 14

Best Protein Bar for Peanut Lovers: KIND Energy Bar in Peanut Butter

KIND Energy Bar in Peanut Butter

These KIND protein bars boast not one, but five different whole grains, including oats, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and millet. "[These ingredients] help make it not only a good source of plant-based protein with 10 grams per bar but filling fiber, as well, with 5 grams per bar," says Syn. Plus, the chewy bars feature both peanut butter and whole peanuts, so you're sure to fall in love with the snack no matter if you're Team Creamy or Team Crunchy.

09 of 14

Best-Tasting Protein Bar: UNiTE Protein Bars

UNiTE Protein Bars

With flavors that include Mexican hot chocolate, churro, and PB & jelly, UNiTE's protein bars make me feel like I've traveled across the southern border — or back to my mom's house — without leaving my kitchen. The hint of chili in the Mexican hot chocolate flavor gives the bar a satisfying kick, and the churro variety tastes just like the real deal. Each gluten-free bar packs 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, thanks to nuts, whey protein, and hemp hearts, so I don't go hangry shortly after wolfing one down.

10 of 14

Best Affordable Protein Bar: Quest Protein Bar in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Quest Protein Bar in Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

There's a reason Quest's protein bars are the best-selling granola and nutrition bar on Amazon, and to Cherry, it's the snacks' treat-like taste. "Sometimes I want an option that feels more like candy than a protein supplement, and the chocolate chip cookie dough Quest Protein Bar fills that role," she says. "They are chewy rather than chalky — even more chewy if you microwave them like the brand suggests — and have a generous chocolate chip to 'dough' ratio." (PSA: This edible cookie dough for one is the perfect midnight snack.)

11 of 14

Best Vegan Protein Bar: GoMacro MacroBar in Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

GoMacro MacroBar in Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

One of Munro's all-time favorites, this protein bar tastes exactly like an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, but it provides 12 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Plus, plant-based eaters can feel confident that the snack is free of any animal products — the bar is certified vegan as well as certified gluten-free and USDA-certified organic.

12 of 14

Best Protein Bar for the Whole Family: Perfect Bar in Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

Perfect Bar in Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

Just like Cherry, Munro is a huge fan of Perfect Bar, specifically its dark chocolate chip peanut butter flavor. "Sometimes I buy the box that is the Perfect Bar minis that are for kids, and I'll send one for my daughter and one for me," says Munro. I'll have it with an apple or banana, and I just think they're so yummy and so satisfying." Nosh on a full-size bar, and you'll nab 15 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and a hit of rich dark chocolate that'll get you through the afternoon slump.

13 of 14

Best Protein Bar for a Citrus Kick: LUNA Whole Nutrition Bars in LemonZest

LUNA Whole Nutrition Bars in LemonZest

Caspero has been eating these zesty LUNA bars since her freshman year of college, so you know they have be good. "I'm obsessed with the taste [and] love that it's made from oats and contains 8 grams of protein per serving," she explains. The protein bars also provide 3 grams of fiber per serving, so they're sure to keep your stomach from growling long after you finish noshing. (These high-protein snacks will keep your hunger under control and fuel your gains.)

14 of 14

Best Protein Bar to Buy In Bulk: Kirkland Signature Protein Bars

Kirkland Signature Protein Bars

Available in sweet tooth-satisfying cookie dough and chocolate brownie flavors, these protein bars from Costco provide a whopping 21 grams of protein per serving — nearly 46 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for the macronutrient. You'll also score 10 grams of fiber from soluble corn fiber (which, BTW, research suggests may be well-tolerated in practical doses of 12 grams a day). Just know that the protein bars are sweetened with Stevia and erythritol — a sugar alcohol that generally doesn't cause gastric distress like other sweeteners but may still cause uncomfy stomach symptoms in some people, says Kiros.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles