There was a time when clients would ask my advice about protein bars and I would steer them the other direction. Protein bars – even (and especially) plant-based protein bars – have traditionally been laden with sugar, fillers and other ingredients rendering them more like a candy bar than a health food. However, protein bars are experiencing a comeback (from what I hear it was bars, bars and more bars at Expo West this year) and are now packed with clean protein, superfoods and less sugar than ever before making them a better choice for an on-the-go snack. While I still recommend making meals and snacks whole foods-focused and steering clear of packaged foods on a regular basis, you can feel good about reaching for some of these clean plant-based protein bars.
Before I start name-dropping a few of my favorite clean plant-based protein bars, let’s first address what I look for on a label.
One // Calories. I’m not a calorie-counter, but I do inspect the label of a bar more so than any other food and I want my bar to be around 200-300 (on the high end) calories for it to be a healthy snack option. Anything more makes it a meal replacement and that’s not what I look for in a bar.
Two // Recognizable Ingredients. More than anything else, I look for clean ingredients. I want to know what kind of protein I’m getting, what sweeteners it includes and any other real-food ingredients. If there are any long, unrecognizable words on the label it goes right back on the shelf.
Three // Sugar. I look for bars that are low in sugar. Most bars do have some sugar – it’s just the nature of them – but I prefer natural sugars like honey or dates or stevia.
Four // Fiber. Fiber is super important to keep a bar filling. I like a bar that’s high in fiber – at least 9 grams.
Five // Protein. And last, but clearly not least, I look at protein. What kind of protein is in the bar? Since this post is about plant-based protein, I like to make sure it’s a protein I feel comfortable eating – usually pea protein or brown rice protein. I usually forego bars with soy protein, but as you’ll see below I do make exceptions. I look for bars that have at least 12 grams of protein, again, for that satiety factor.
Now for a few of my favorite clean plant-based protein bars. I’ve taste-tested each of these and while this isn’t an exhaustive list, these are clean and (mostly) plant-based protein bars that get my stamp of approval and that I would eat myself. No bar is perfect so you’ll see that I do make exceptions to every rule I listed above.
Nuttzo Bold Bitez: This brand has vegan and non-vegan varieties of their bars. The non-vegan ones contain collagen. I love the density and mouthfeel – kind of like eating peanut butter right off the spoon. A couple of the flavors have chia seeds and cacao nibs baked in which also gives it a satisfying crunch. These need to be refrigerated which is a testament to their freshness and real ingredients.
Epic: Epic’s bars are made with dates and egg whites so it’s technically not “plant-based” but still worth a mention. Because the base is made of dates, it’s a little
stickier chewier than some of the others. Although this one included almond butter I didn’t get much of the flavor coming through. I would compare it to an RX Bar. It clocks 12 grams of protein.
GoMacro: These say high protein on the label, but the protein maxes out at around 10 grams per bar which isn’t terrible but like I said, I usually like something with 12 grams or higher. These are nut-butter based and while there aren’t any dates, also on the chewier side like Epic but slightly more dense.
Raw Rev Glo: These are the little vegan bars that could! They’re insanely high in fiber at around 12-14 grams, super-low in sugar (no more than 5 grams, some as low as 2 grams) and depending on the flavor, you get up to 15 grams of protein! Also nut butter-based, they’re smooth and creamy but contain other ingredients like chia seeds and (some have chocolate chips) to add a little more texture.
Perfect Bar: These bars are also like eating nut butter straight from a jar, but better. They are f i l l i n g and for that reason also a little higher in calories than most of the other bars listed here. I love that they include superfoods like kale and spinach or kelp and dulse (you would never know in flavor or color). Some flavors have as much as 16 or 17 grams of protein although none are vegan because they’re sweetened with honey and a few contain dairy.
Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar: This bar surprised me pleasantly. I was skeptical because it felt thin and crispy like a wafer cookie and it’s sweetened with stevia. Even though it was thinner than a typical bar, it was dense enough to be filling. The mint flavor was pleasant and not artificial and masked the stevia with hardly any aftertaste. These bars are low in sugar, but don’t contain any fiber. I do, however, like the addition of the brain octane and XCT oil.
EVO Hemp Bar: It actually tastes like cookie dough! The cashew butter makes it really creamy yet dense and with a little crunch – so many textures, but it works! With 5 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein this bar is a good choice for an afternoon pick-me-up when sweet cravings strike.
good! snacks Choc P.B. Protein Bar: This bar most resembles a candy bar in looks and taste. If you love chocolate and peanut butter, this is your bar! The soft peanut butter inside is smothered in smooth chocolate outside. It has a whopping 15 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber (pretty incredible for a plant based protein bar), but is higher in sugar with 9 grams from cane sugar and tapioca syrup.
Sakara Life Energy Bar: Dark chocolate and hemp are the supestars in this earthy, minimally processed bar that’s paked full of functional superfood ingredients like Vitamin B-12, L-Theanine, raw cacao and sunflower seeds for energy and focus. If you love chocolate in its most natural unsweetened form then you’ll adore this bar. It’s dense and chewy with some crunchiness from raw cacao nibs and is loaded with 13 grams of fiber.
NuGo Slim (Vegan): Thick but crispy, I stumbled on these bars by accident and ended up ordering two boxes of peanture butter and chocolate mint. For a vegan bar, these clock in with the highest amount of protein at around 17 and 16 grams respectively( however it does come from soy) and a decent amount of fiber (6-7 grams). They’re thick, crispy, filling and satisfy an afternoon sweet craving like no other despite being chocoalte-covered and low in sugar (2-3 grams).
What am I missing? What’s your favorite clean plant-based protein bar that I need to know about?