How to Pick a Quality Protein Bar

By Britni Vincent, RD, LD
March 15, 2019

Protein-Bar.jpgProtein bars have become very popular. When you go to the store there is now an entire wall filled with them. It’s a bit overwhelming, and I’m sure many of you have thought, “How do I know which one is actually healthy for me?” The reality is that many of them (such as Atkin’s bars and Cliff bars) are full of sugar and other undesirable ingredients, but are marketed as a great “healthy” option. We’d suggest you think of them as basically a candy bar.

That said, there are good options! If you can find a high quality protein bar with the criteria below, it can be a good emergency snack or handy option when traveling.

Nutrition Facts

  • Protein: at least 7 grams per bar
  • Carbohydrate: less than 30 grams per bar
  • Sugar: less than 18 grams per bar (Limit the amount of added sugar. Natural sugar coming from dates or fruit is better. Less than 12 grams is optimal for many people.)
  • Fat: at least 8 grams per bar


  • Look for: quality proteins like whey (unless you have a severe dairy sensitivity), beef, egg white, meat, pea and rice protein.
  • Avoid: soy. Be warned, when a product that is not typically high in protein advertises that is has high amounts of protein, it likely contains soy. Soy protein is a cheap protein source, and one we don’t recommend; listen to more about that here.


  • Look for: stevia, monk fruit extract, honey, organic cane sugar, organic cane syrup, brown rice syrup and *sugar alcohols (anything ending in an –itol, ie: xylitol, eyrithritol) *Sugar alcohols can create digestive symptoms such as: gas, diarrhea and cramping in some individuals. They should be avoided for those individuals.
  • Avoid: artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium) and high fructose corn syrup.


  • Look for: coconut oil, MCT oil, nuts, seeds and nut butter.
  • Avoid: refined oils (canola, soybean, corn and vegetable).

Lastly, if you’re gluten sensitive please make sure the packaging says gluten-free before purchasing. Additionally, if you’re sensitive to dairy you may still tolerate whey as the protein source. If you don’t tolerate whey, bars that have beef, egg white, pea, rice or meat as its protein source would all be good alternatives.

Whew, that’s a lot of information, but an important topic we always get questions about. Consider printing this blog post for a reference the next time you’re out shopping or take a screen shot for easy reference.

Happy snacking!

* Maltitol and erythritol are examples of sugar alcohols 

About the author

Britni is a licensed dietitian at Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Britni once struggled with insomnia, acne and regular migraines that would force her to retreat to a dark room for relief. She tried several different approaches to feel better before she realized her diet was the culprit and changed her eating to a more balanced approach. As a result, her insomnia and acne are gone, and she rarely has migraines. Britni is a registered and licensed dietitian through the Minnesota Board of Nutrition and Dietetics. She received her B.S. in dietetics from the University of St. Thomas and completed her dietetic internship at the University of Iowa. She has experience in nutrition counseling, leading seminars and motivating clients of all ages to make changes.

View all posts by Britni Vincent, RD, LD


julie dishmon
What do you think about the epic bars that are comparable to the RX bars ?
March 27, 2019 at 4:08 pm


Great question, we like them (especially the Bison bar, it's so delicious!). We sell many,*, but of course check all bars by the criteria we have listed, as we haven't checked all labels. 

I see you recommend the Blueberry Rx bars. Rx makes many different bars that I prefer to the blueberry. Are they ok too?
March 28, 2019 at 6:50 am


Yes, we sell many of them (*) but only had room to highlight one. Of course check all via the criteria listed above, we haven't been able to check all labels. 

julie dishmon
Epic Bar has a new bar for sale. It looks like it has the same ingredients as the RX bars. Have you seen them yet ?
March 28, 2019 at 7:38 pm


We will have to look into that - thanks for sharing!

What are sugar alcohols ?

August 27, 2019 at 5:33 pm


Sugar alcohols anything ending in an –itol, ie: xylitol, eyrithritol sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol... Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries extracted through a chemical process. Sugar alcohols can create digestive symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, and cramping in some individuals. They should be avoided for those individuals.

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