Walk into any grocery store in the country, and odds are, there will be an entire wall of protein bars in packages that promise all sorts of benefits to your health and well-being, but are they really much different than your average candy bar?
Check out the list of ingredients, and you’re likely to discover it looks like something from a science experiment. Not exactly a healthy burst of protein, right? Protein bars are convenient, they’re easy to take on the go and that wrapper makes it easy to believe that they really are more nutritious than a candy bar, until you take a closer look. Not such a great bargain after all, at least not if you’re concerned about your health.
Skip those bars you can get at the store, and whip up a batch of your own, and you’ll have an even more convenient, less expensive supply that will give you the nutritious fuel you’re looking for.
1. Matcha Green Tea Fudge Protein Bars
These DIY Matcha Green Tea Fudge Protein Bars are super healthy, fun and easy to make. They really are green too, no artificial dyes here, thanks to the Matcha Green Tea, of course. The highest quality powdered green tea on the planet, it’s made from the nutrient-rich young leaves that are picked from the tips of Camellia sinensis plants. It’s loaded with powerful antioxidants to help boost your immune system and battle free radicals that can lead to premature aging and disease, including catechins, which are widely recognized for cancer fighting properties. In fact, Matcha contains over 100 times more catechins than any other tea on the market.
Also of note is Matcha’s ability to boost energy, thanks to its unique combination of nutrients. Matcha drinkers get clean energy, without those side effects that stimulants like caffeine can bring, like the jitters and nervousness. You can buy Matcha Green Tea here. These protein bars also contain almond butter, which supplies healthy fats and protein, along with protein powder. This plant-based superfood protein was designed to fuel the activities and health and fitness enthusiasts, encouraging fat loss, enhancing muscle growth and improving endurance. And, it won’t cause that annoying belly bloat like whey.
Not only are they the perfect snack for when you need energy for working out, they’re ideal to have on hand for those long, busy work days when hunger pangs hit and you aren’t able to take the time to sit down for an entire meal.
You’ll find the full recipe on desertswithbenefits.com here.
2. Raw Green Hemp Protein Bars
These tasty bars offer a healthy twist on your typical chocolate protein bar. They’re ideal for enjoying after a workout, or as a mid-day snack. They are loaded with nutrition, thanks to ingredients like hemp protein, chia seeds and dates. Hemp protein powder is one of the best, if not the best, vegan protein powder there is, grab yourself some here on Amazon. It contains 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce on its own and must obtain from dietary sources. Not only is it a protein powerhouse, hemp protein contains more healthy omega fatty acids and fiber than most other common protein powders, and it’s been found to improve fatigue as well as strengthen the immune system.
The chia seeds bring benefits too – they’re one of the healthiest foods on the planet. They’re packed with fiber and very rich in antioxidants. They’re also high in protein, especially compared to most plants, and contain a good balance of essential amino acids too. You can get chia seeds from this page on Amazon.
This recipe utilizes a food processor, allowing you to pulse the ingredients to the crunchiness level that you prefer. So, crunch away as you enjoy these fabulous green hemp protein bars, after making them using the recipe on Green Kitchen Stories here.
3. Cranberry Almond Protein Bars
Have you ever tried KIND bars? These protein bars are similar, with lots of seeds, nuts and just the right touch of sweetness, but are a bit more substantial to keep your energy levels up and keep you feeling satisfied. If you’d prefer something with even less sweetness, you can reduce the amount of honey and rice syrup as the bars just need enough to hold all the natural ingredients together.
The bars contain nuts and seeds, as mentioned, and while hemp seeds are optional, we highly encourage you to add them, due to their many benefits they make them another true superfood. Similar to that hemp powder, they’re packed with high quality protein, and they’re great for balancing hormones, boosting the metabolism and improving digestion too. Hemp seeds offer a 3:1 balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which work to promote heart health, and are considered a “perfect protein,” with all 20 amino acids, including each of the nine essential amino acids that the body can’ produce. They’re rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber to naturally cleanse the colon and reduce sugar cravings too.
Gimmesomeoven.com offers this delicious Cranberry Almond Protein Bar recipe.
4. No-Bake Mint Chocolate Protein Bars
Love those Girl Scout thin mints? You’ll really love these as they have all the taste without the guilt. Only seven ingredients and 20 minutes and you can whip up these fantastic protein bars that will provide you with fuel to get through two entire work weeks, that is if your friends and family don’t find out about them. They may taste like dessert, but they truly are a nutritious bar, using dates for a naturally sweet taste while being packed with more than 12 grams of protein. You’ll get healthy fats, fiber and protein from the almonds and the almond milk, and that combination is why they can help you feel fuller so that you’ll end up eating fewer calories overall.
Research has found that those who eat about a 1.5 ounce serving of almonds each day, experience a significant reduction in hunger and food cravings.
While you can use any type of protein powder, we recommend hemp protein powder for the reasons mentioned previously – you’d be hard-pressed to find a better plant-based protein, it checks all of the boxes when it comes to nutrition for fueling workouts, or just your busy day.
You’ll find this recipe on Healthy Maven here.
5. No Bake Banana Nut Protein Bars
If banana bread is your thing, this is the bar for you, it’ll give you that comfort food you’re looking for in a more nutritious square that’s easy to take on the go and enjoy when your energy levels are dipping and hunger pangs it. Plus, unlike banana bread, you don’t burn it since you don’t have to bake it.
These bars actually contain real banana (unlike some store-bought options) along with dates, almonds, walnuts and oats – all offering lots of fiber, protein and just the right amount of healthy fats. Flaxseed is featured too, bringing benefits like lots of powerful antioxidants, fiber and omega-3s.
Hummusapien offers this recipe here. Enjoy!
The reality is, sometimes you probably will need to just pick up a few protein bars at the store. But are there any good store-bought options at all?
Well, that depends. There are some brands that offer healthy protein bars, and then there are some that might as well be a Snickers, considering the high amount of sugar they contain. According to Alissa Rumsey, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the best bars will range in calories between 150 and 250. The ingredient list shouldn’t include anything you can’t pronounce, or reads as if it’s an ingredient in a lab experiment. It should be mostly made up of whole foods, such as nuts, seeds, fruits and whole grains. Avoid bars with a very long list of ingredients as that’s a big clue that it’s a processed food. It should also contain at least three grams of fiber and seven grams of protein, and no more than 12 grams of sugar per serving. That sugar shouldn’t be from added sugars, including honey and syrups, it should be from fruit or other whole food ingredients.
When you’ve got to buy instead of going homemade, these best and worst options can help you make the best decision possible.
The Best Ones:
Health Warrior Protein Bars
Health Warrior is an excellent brand that makes plant-based protein bars using a blend of chia seeds, quinoa, pea crisps and oats. Chia seeds, as we talked about earlier, are amazing little seeds that are filled with protein, fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. As dry chia seeds turn to gel when they’re exposed to liquid, they’ll also help you stay fuller longer as they tend to take up a lot of room in your belly.
Health Warrior’s Lemon Goldenberry Protein Bar is a good source of calcium, which is important for lowering the risk of developing the devastating bone disease known as arthritis. It also offers 10 grams of quality, clean plant protein and six grams of healthy fiber – plus it contains half the sugar of many other similar types of bars with 10 grams. A Snickers bar, for example, contains 20 grams, and those popular Nature Valley bars that have fooled millions into thinking they’re doing a good thing for their body when buying them, contains 18 grams.
You can buy them here on Amazon.
Glutino Gluten Free Blueberry Breakfast Bar
Another “best” choice, the Glutino bar contains a very minimal amount of sugar with just 45 milligrams, and only 140 calories. In fact, it’s one of the lowest calorie bars on the market. Instead of containing a wheat-based flour, it relies on more easily digestible flours like potato and chickpea, which provides lots of healthy fiber and protein without causing belly bloat.
Pick up a pack of 5 here, perfect for those weekday breakfasts!
Evo Hemp Cashew Cacao
This fabulous vegan protein bar offers lots of quality protein from protein powder and hemp seeds. It’s also low in sugar, with 10 grams, and contains just 185 calories. Most importantly, it’s first three ingredients are all whole foods: dates, cashews and apricots.
Remember, hemp contains those heart-healthy omega-3 acids that offer lots of great benefits not only to the heart, but they can help lower inflammation, improve brain functioning and much more. If you’re hesitating when it comes to hemp, be aware that hemp is not the same thing as marijuana – there is no THC, the ingredient that gets one high.
Want to try these tasty bars? Get yourself some from this page over on Amazon!
The Worst Ones:
Balance Bar Lemon Meringue Crunch
It’s not hard to find protein bars that are simply not healthy, but the Balance Bar Lemon Meringue Crunch definitely makes the “worst” list. It contains ingredients that should be avoided for good health, or are at best controversial, such as caramel color, a potential carcinogen, and carrageenan, a thickener made from seaweed that’s been associated with gut inflammation. Overall, it has quite the long list of ingredients – the first seven are anything but whole foods: soy protein nuggets, glucose syrup, protein blend, sugar, fractionated palm kernel and palm oil, fructose and invert sugar.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that this is definitely not a good choice for those who are looking for a healthy boost of energy.
Zone Perfect Double Dark
If you’re going to choose this one, you’re really ripping yourself off – financially and nutritionally. The package reads: We took the dark, rich, irresistible chocolate flavor you love and doubled it to make this unbelievable energy bar. But, it might as well be a very pricey, low quality chocolate bar. You might as well go for the real thing, and get something that actually satisfies your sweet tooth. It contains 14 grams of sugar – but that’s not the biggest problem – just check out that laundry list of ingredients.
Green Superfood Energy Bars Original
With such clever marketing, this one is pretty easy to get fooled by, after all, look at all of those great buzzwords, it’s got them all. But it also has a whole lot of sugar – a whopping 25 grams, five more than that Snickers bar. While it does have 4 grams of fiber, you could get that, without all the sugar, by eating just an ounce of almonds. That would be a far better idea if you want to enjoy good health.