Philly dietitian shares 5 protein bars that are actually healthy

proteinbars
RD-approved protein bar picks from left to right: Oatmega, Rxbar, Square Organics and Primal Kitchen. Not pictured: Pegan Thin.

We live in a grab-and-go world. And while I always encourage clients to eat real and wholesome foods, I also understand that time is not always in our favor. It’s no wonder why the nutrition bar industry is booming.

But not all nutrition bars are healthy. Some bars might as well be candy with the amount of added sugar they contain. With so many brands and flavor varieties marketed, it’s hard to know what to look for when making a quick and nutritionally sound decision.

Here are the four criteria I used to determine my top healthy picks:

  • Look at the ingredients first: Can you pronounce all of them?
  • Is the sugar content higher than protein?
  • Does the bar contain more than 10 grams of protein?
  • Does the bar contain at least 5 grams of fiber?

Below are five protein bars that pass the test.

Primal Kitchen’s Dark Chocolate Almond Bar

Calories: 230
Fat: 15g
Carbs: 14g
Fiber: 6g
Sugar: 3g
Protein: 15g

This bar has most food allergies covered: Gluten free, grain free, egg free, dairy free and soy free. All of its ingredients are whole food-based — no sugar alcohols here! The bar contains as much protein as two eggs, making this bar a healthy choice for a quick meal replacement.

RXbar’s Chocolate Chip

Calories: 210
Fat: 9g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 5g
Sugar: 13g
Protein: 12g

This bar contains eight wholesome ingredients; automatically making it an RD-approved choice. The protein comes solely from egg whites. And while this specific flavor contains more sugar than protein, the sugar is coming from a natural source — dates —unlike most brands which contain added sugar.

Square Organic’s Chocolate Sea Salt Crisp

Calories: 220
Fat: 12g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 2g
Sugar: 9g
Protein: 10g

If you’re craving a bar that actually tastes like decadent dark chocolate unlike the chalky flavors of other protein bars, look no further than the Square Organics line. The protein source is organic sprouted plants and the fat source is from RD-approved cashew butter. Bonus: You won’t find refined sugars in any of their bars.

Pegan Thin’s Sweet Sunflower Butter

Calories 187
Fat: 11g
Carbs: 26g
Fiber: 24g
Sugar: 1g
Protein: 20g

Made for vegan and paleo lifestyles, Pegan Thin bars offer an impressive 20 grams of protein, which comes from certified organic watermelon seeds. And don’t be alarmed by the fiber content; it comes from organic prebiotic digestive-resistant tapioca fiber. It’s important to note that this bar contains the least amount of sugar compared to all the bars on my RD-approved list.

Oatmega’s Chocolate Peanut Butter

Calories 200
Fat: 7g
Carbs: 22g
Fiber: 7g
Sugar: 5g
Protein: 14g

I love the taste of this bar — it’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  The bar’s main protein sources are grass fed whey protein and almonds – all RD-approved. Responsibly caught fish oil provides a dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. And the low sugar content comes from a natural source: monk fruit extract. Hint: You can find these bars at local Snap Kitchen locations.

Don’t see your favorite nutrition bar in this article?  That doesn’t mean it isn’t RD-approved! Ask yourself the four questions above to see if it passes the test.

Try to be mindful of the frequency you are consuming nutrition bars and consider what whole-based foods you are consequently substituting them with. Ideally, aim to limit your intake to no more than three bars per week so you aren’t missing the opportunity to consume natural sources of vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber.

Theresa Shank, RD, LDN, is a Philadelphia based registered dietitian and the founder of Philly Dietitian.