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The Best Dietitian-Approved Protein Bars For Every Craving

Prevention Logo By Kayla Blanton, Arielle Weg of Prevention | Slide 1 of 13: It’s Monday morning and you’ve hit the snooze one too many times. There’s no time to cook breakfast (or even throw together a bowl of cereal, for that matter), so you grab a protein bar to go. Protein’s important, so it’s a good choice to hold you over until lunch, right?Truth is, not all bars are created equal. And though protein bars are handy as a portable snack between meals or a meal replacement, there are certain things to look out for when selecting a bar, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. First, she says to keep an eye on the calorie count of protein bars, which span a wide range of 150 calories to 400 calories, depending on the variety. Additionally, check out the nutrition label to ensure the bar isn’t packed with sugar and the ingredient list is full of whole foods. “Protein bars can be a great snack, but some of them are very high in sugar and low in nutrient density,” says says Mascha Davis, M.P.H., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It can be tricky to find one that checks all the boxes for you, so we broke down exactly what to shop for and suggested our top expert-approved picks. How to choose the healthiest protein barsChoose wholesome ingredients: Flip to the ingredient list and look for whole ingredients at the top, like nuts and fruits, instead of added sugars, says Davis. Check the sugar: The lower the better, but Davis recommends staying below 12 grams of sugar per bar. Plus, be sure to pay extra attention to the type of sugar if you tend to have stomach issues, says Heather Mangieri, R.D.N., C.S.S.D. Many brands opt to use sugar alcohols (like sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol) to add sweetness without increasing carbohydrate content. These can occasionally cause gas and bloating, so avoid them if you experience gastrointestinal discomfort. Find your ideal calorie range: For a snack between meals or post-workout, stick to bars between 180 and 250 calories, says Davis. If you plan to use a protein bar as an occasional meal replacement, aim for a bar (or include additional calories) to reach around 400 calories, Gans says. Pack in the protein: Your protein bar should have between six to 12 grams of protein to keep you full and help build muscle, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods For Anti-Aging. Gans suggests aiming for a minimum of 10 grams of protein if using as a meal replacement. Feel full with fiber: Ansel suggests looking for at least two-to-three grams of fiber to make your bar more satiating and help slow the release of sugar into your system. To encourage this, Gans says a good rule of thumb is to find a bar that has more grams of fiber than grams of added sugar. Even with those basic guidelines, there is an overwhelming number of protein bars on the market, so we’ve asked the pros to recommend their favorites. Here are the best protein bars you can try, when to eat them, and why you’ll love them.

It’s Monday morning and you’ve hit the snooze one too many times. There’s no time to cook breakfast (or even throw together a bowl of cereal, for that matter), so you grab a protein bar to go. Protein’s important, so it’s a good choice to hold you over until lunch, right?

Truth is, not all bars are created equal. And though protein bars are handy as a portable snack between meals or a meal replacement, there are certain things to look out for when selecting a bar, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., author of The Small Change Diet. First, she says to keep an eye on the calorie count of protein bars, which span a wide range of 150 calories to 400 calories, depending on the variety.

Additionally, check out the nutrition label to ensure the bar isn’t packed with sugar and the ingredient list is full of whole foods. “Protein bars can be a great snack, but some of them are very high in sugar and low in nutrient density,” says says Mascha Davis, M.P.H., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It can be tricky to find one that checks all the boxes for you, so we broke down exactly what to shop for and suggested our top expert-approved picks.

How to choose the healthiest protein bars

  • Choose wholesome ingredients: Flip to the ingredient list and look for whole ingredients at the top, like nuts and fruits, instead of added sugars, says Davis.
  • Check the sugar: The lower the better, but Davis recommends staying below 12 grams of sugar per bar. Plus, be sure to pay extra attention to the type of sugar if you tend to have stomach issues, says Heather Mangieri, R.D.N., C.S.S.D. Many brands opt to use sugar alcohols (like sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, and maltitol) to add sweetness without increasing carbohydrate content. These can occasionally cause gas and bloating, so avoid them if you experience gastrointestinal discomfort.
  • Find your ideal calorie range: For a snack between meals or post-workout, stick to bars between 180 and 250 calories, says Davis. If you plan to use a protein bar as an occasional meal replacement, aim for a bar (or include additional calories) to reach around 400 calories, Gans says.
  • Pack in the protein: Your protein bar should have between six to 12 grams of protein to keep you full and help build muscle, says Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D.N., author of Healing Superfoods For Anti-Aging. Gans suggests aiming for a minimum of 10 grams of protein if using as a meal replacement.
  • Feel full with fiber: Ansel suggests looking for at least two-to-three grams of fiber to make your bar more satiating and help slow the release of sugar into your system. To encourage this, Gans says a good rule of thumb is to find a bar that has more grams of fiber than grams of added sugar.

Even with those basic guidelines, there is an overwhelming number of protein bars on the market, so we’ve asked the pros to recommend their favorites. Here are the best protein bars you can try, when to eat them, and why you’ll love them.

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