Shopping for vegan protein bars can be challenging, not because there are limited plant-based protein options (we hope that myth is on its way out), but because there are actually so many brands to choose from.
How many grams of protein should you aim for? What about added sugars, the ingredients and sources of protein?
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The truth is, there are a lot of junk products out there but you can make a healthy, more informed decision if you know what to look for. Here, plant-based performance nutritionist Cynthia Sass, RD, helps us pick the best vegan bars.
1. Aloha Bars
Aloha bars are packed with fiber and protein, two satiating nutrients, yet the bars still remain relatively low in calories.
These bars are unique from most others because they contain a plant-based protein blend — brown rice protein and pumpkin seed protein. They're also made with 100-percent organic ingredients.
Per serving: 240 calories, 12 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 95 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates (10 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar), 10 grams protein
2. TruWomen Bars
You'll never guess that this bar is vegan because it truly tastes like a chewy bakery chocolate chip cookie. Opt for this bar over a cookie, and you'll save about 170 calories and 23 grams of sugar. This bar is powered by pea protein, offering 12 grams of the filling macro, and is free of sugar alcohols and gluten.
Per serving: 190 calories, 9 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 55 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates (1 grams fiber, 9 grams sugar, 8 grams added sugar), 12 grams protein
Buy it: Truwomen.com; Price: $29.99 per 12-pack
3. Mezcla Bars
These bars look like a candy bar but their nutritional offerings are far from what you'd find in the confectionery aisle. They come in three standout flavors — Japanese Matcha Vanilla, Mexican Chipotle Hot Chocolate and Peruvian Cocoa Peanut Butter. The protein comes from peas and they include whole grains, too, like amaranth and quinoa.
Per serving: 170 calories, 6 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 105 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 7 grams added sugar), 10 grams protein
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $25 per 8-pack
4. Amrita Protein Bars
"Amrita's high-protein bars are one of my favorites for taste, texture and whole-food ingredients. Each bar provides a generous 15 grams of plant protein and a healthy balance of date-based carbohydrates and good fat from a variety of seeds," Sass says.
"In addition to being plant-based and soy-free, they're Non-GMO Project verified, and gluten-free, and one bar provides nearly 20 percent of the daily target for iron." Getting enough iron is important for everyone but those on a vegan diet need to be especially diligent.
Per serving: 230 calories, 8 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 75 milligrams sodium, 30 grams carbohydrates (4 grams fiber, 13 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 8 grams protein
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $28.99 per 12-pack
5. ProBar Live
This bar is a dietitian-favorite because it's free of added sugars, provides 10 grams of protein and contains one billion CFUs of live probiotics. The bars are primarily made with nuts, seeds, and date paste for sweetness but they also contain the bacteria Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086.
The bars are on the higher end of the calorie range but it's a nutrient-dense option, making it perfect for when you're in need of something quick, tasty and a little more filling.
Per serving: 330 calories, 25 grams fat (6 grams saturated fat), 90 milligrams sodium, 17 grams carbohydrates (5 grams fiber, 7 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 10 grams protein
Buy it: ProBar.com; Price: $24.99 per 8-pack
6. Skout Organic Protein Bars
"I love the simplicity of the ingredients in Skout Organic USDA-certified organic bars. The Salted Chocolate is made with just dates, sunflower seeds, sunflower seed powder, cocoa, pumpkin seeds, pink Himalayan salt and chocolate flavor, and it tastes like a delicious treat," Sass says.
For plant-based dieters, it's important to get your protein from a variety of sources like pea, brown rice and in this case, from sunflower and pumpkin seeds. We used to think we had to combine plant proteins to make it a complete protein but we now know that simply eating a wide variety of plants in a day will get the job done.
Per serving: 200 calories, 8 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 150 milligrams sodium, 27 grams carbohydrates (4 grams fiber, 20 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 10 grams protein
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $44.99 per 12-pack
7. Go Raw Protein Bars
The first ingredient in these bars is sprouted watermelon seeds. Sprouted foods like grains and seeds are typically higher in protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they may be easier to digest compared to the traditional, matured version of the food. These bars have limited ingredients, and provide 12 grams of protein from pea protein.
Per serving: 240 calories, 12 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated fat), 75 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrates (3 grams fiber, 14 grams sugar, 5 grams added sugar), 12 grams protein
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $33.49 per 12-pack
8. Shanti Bar
"Another favorite for ingredient quality and unique flavors is Shanti's line of USDA-certified organic bars, which are also gluten-free and non-GMO Project Verified. They include superfood ingredients like turmeric and mulberries in interesting combinations," Sass says. These range in protein from 10 to 17 grams per bar.
Per serving: 240 calories, 10 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat), 75 milligrams sodium, 22 grams carbohydrates (5 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar), 17 grams protein
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $30.99 per 12-pack
9. Hemp Yeah!
If the name didn't give it away, hemp seeds are a major ingredient (and source of protein) in these bars, along with sunflower seeds and pea protein. Hemp seeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids — in fact, each bar contains 6 grams of omega-3s and omega-6s combined.
Per serving: 220 calories, 14 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 95 milligrams sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 7 grams added sugar), 10 grams protein
What to Know Before You Buy a Vegan Protein Bar
When shopping for protein bars, check the following:
Check the Ingredients List
"When evaluating a bar, read the ingredients first," Sass says. "The ingredients list should read like a recipe that you could have made yourself, and the very first ingredient shouldn't be a sweetener like brown rice syrup or tapioca syrup."
Look for a Balance of Protein, Carbs and Fat
"For a decent contribution to your daily protein needs, and to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels for steady energy, look for at least 10 grams of protein, and a nicely balanced level of carbohydrate and fat," Sass says.
When it comes to assessing the carbs and fat content, looking at the grams alone can be tricky — check out the percent Daily Value as well. It's a more balanced bar if there's a fair contribution from both of these macronutrients.
"When shopping for bars, I advise my clients to avoid artificial sweeteners and other additives, as well as sugar alcohols, highly intense sweeteners and palm oil," Sass explains.
Look for Minimal Added Sugars
Try to keep added sugars to a minimum, fewer than 13 to 15 grams is a good goal but overall, it's most important that you do your best to stay within your daily limits.
The American Heart Association recommends people assigned female at birth keep their added sugar intake at 25 grams or less and people assigned male at birth, 36 grams or less.
Keep in mind, when it comes to healthy eating, the goal is to eat whole foods first. Protein bars can be a lifesaver if you’re traveling, doing a long workout or you’re just in a pinch and need to grab something quick.
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