Love it, Like it, Hate it: Protein Bars for Low Carb Diets, Weight Loss + Curbing Cravings

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Protein bars are convenient and portable, and can stand in as a snack or or even a meal in a pinch. And there’s been a recent explosion of new varieties on shelves, but not all are as nutritious as they may seem.  To help sort through the labels, we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on her top picks and worst bets for newer protein bars on shelves!




  • Protein content – what the numbers mean:

20 grams protein = 3 oz meat.  14-15 grams protein = 2 oz meat.  7 grams protein = 1 egg worth of protein

  • Sugar: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Look for bars with more protein than sugar. 
  • Artificial sweeteners: Ideally avoid artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium
  • Fiber: usually less important. Most are “isolated” fibers without health benefits of real, whole-food fiber
  • Sugar alcohols – erythritol and maltitol are most common; maltitol in particularly may cause GI upset in sensitive individuals. Sugar alcohols have a lower caloric value than regular carbs or sugars.




All-natural, zero or low added sugar, good-to-excellent source of protein


No Cow Bar by D’s Naturals – Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan, GF

  • 170 cals – 1 gram sugar – 4 grams sugar alcohol – 20 grams protein
  • Made with vegan protein blend (brown rice protein, pea protein), isomalto-oligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber), glycerine, erythritol, almonds, monk fruit extract, stevia.


Oatmega Bar – Low sugar, high protein, high fiber, GF

  • 190 calories – 21 grams carbs – 7 grams fiber – 5 grams sugar – 14 grams protein
  • 300 mg omega-3’s – equivalent to approximately one ounce salmon
  • Made with grass-fed whey protein, chicory root fiber, oats, organic brown rice syrup, vegetable glycerin, almond butter, fish oil (anchovy, sardine, tilapia), monk fruit extract.


Rx Bar – Simple ingredients. GF, high fiber.

  • 210 calories – 24 grams carbs – 5 grams fiber – 13 grams sugar (0 added sugar) – 12 grams protein
  • Only egg whites, almonds, cashews, chocolate, cocoa, sea salt




Decent protein but contain artificial sweeteners, maltitol/sorbitol, enriched flour and/or >5 grams added sugar


thinkThin High Protein bars 

  • 230 calories – 23 grams carb – 1 gram fiber – 0 sugar – 20 grams protein
  • Made with soy, casein and whey protein blend, coating (including maltitol, cocoa butter), glycerin, more maltitol, peanuts, sunflower oil, sea salt


PowerCrunch bars

  • 200 calories – 8 grams carb – 1 gram fiber – 5 grams sugar – 14 grams protein
  • Made with whey protein blend, palm oil, sugar, enriched wheat flour (white flour), fructose, stevia, monk fruit


Fit Crunch

  • 190 calories – 14 grams carb – 1 gram fiber – 3 grams sugar – 18 grams protein
  • Made with whey and soy protein, palm oil, glycerin, sugar, maltitol, sorbitol, gelatin, corn syrup, sucralose


Protein Cake Bites by Optimal Nutrition [ON]

  • 240 calories – 25 grams carb – 0 fiber – 5 grams sugar (3 grams added sugar) – 20 grams protein
  • Made with milk protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, maltitol, glycerin, chicory root fiber, isomalto-oligosaccharides (prebiotic fiber), sucralose (artificial sweetener).




High sugar, including significant added sugar


SlimFast Meal Replacement Bar

  • 200 calories – 20 grams carbs – 5 grams fiber – 9 grams sugar – 10 grams protein
  • Ingredients include almonds, soy protein, peanuts, brown rice syrup, sugar, tapioca syrup, cherries (with added sugar), dried cane sugar, sweetened with stevia


Special K Protein Meal Bar

  • 170 calories – 22 grams carbs – 5 grams fiber – 14 grams sugar – 12 grams protein
  • Made with soy protein, sugar, corn fiber, vegetable oil, cranberries with sugar, corn syrup, fructose, inulin, glycerin, sorbitol, BHT preservative


Clif Builder’s Protein Bar | note: this is the best of these 3. Natural ingredients, but too much added sugar for most people. Good fit for athletes + those who can use the added sugars and carbs.

  • 270 calories – 30 grams carbs – 2 grams fiber – 22 grams sugar – 20 grams protein
  • Made with soy protein, beet syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, oil, almond butter, oat fiber, glycerin, soy flour, almonds, rice starch, oats.




Want more from Molly?  Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in|The Times-Picayune!   And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram:  @MollyKimballRD

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