Love it, Like it, Hate it: Protein Bars

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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. But many are loaded with more than a day’s worth of sugar, and some have hardly any protein at all! To help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on her top picks and worst bets for popular protein bars.




  • 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: Every 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.





Protein equivalent of 2-3 “ounces” of chicken, with less than one teaspoon sugar.


Quest Bars (those made with stevia + erythritol; other contains sucralose (Splenda), so check labels first)

170 calories – 25 grams carbs – 1 gram sugar – 20 grams protein


thinkThin High Protein bars 

230 calories – 25 grams carb – 0 sugar – 20 protein


PowerCrunch bars

200 calories – 8 grams carb – 5 grams sugar – 14 grams protein





Protein equivalent of 1.5 eggs, with about 1.5 teaspoons of sugar – with zero artificial sweeteners:


thinkThin Lean Protein + Fiber

190 calories – 14 grams carbs – 6 grams sugar – 10 grams protein


Nature Valley PROTEIN bar

190 cals – 12 grams fat – 14 grams carbs – 5 grams fiber – 6 grams sugar – 10 grams protein



Protein equivalent of 2-3 ounces of meat, with less than teaspoon sugar – but artificially sweetened:

Atkins Meal Bar

220 calories – 32 grams carb – 1 grams sugar – 14 grams protein





HATE IT!              

Low protein content, and/or more sugar than protein. One more than a day’s worth of sugar


Fiber One Protein Bar

140 calories – 17 grams carbs – 7 grams sugar – 6 grams protein

More sugar than protein, and not really a “protein” bar, with less protein than a single ounce of chicken


Special K Protein Meal Bar

180 calories – 25 grams carbs – 15 grams sugar – 10 grams protein

50% more sugar than protein


Met-Rx Big 100 Meal Bar

380 calories – 50 grams carbs – 25 grams sugar – 28 grams protein

More than a day’s worth of added sugar for women; nearly 80% day’s worth added sugar for men!

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