When life gets crazy-busy and you need some healthy nutrition, stat, protein bars are a godsend. Sure, we know that protein is crucial for muscle building, fat loss and workout recovery, but most of us don’t have the time to grill a lean chicken breast or prepare some salmon on the fly. That’s where protein bars come into play. Unfortunately, though, it’s a bit of a toss-up—many energy bars either taste like cardboard or are loaded with enough sugar and carbs to qualify as candy bars. Luckily for you, we’ve sifted through the wrappers and rounded up some of our favorite grab-and-go protein bars, sans the chalky aftertaste.
Quest Bar, Cookies ‘N Cream
180 calories, 1 g sugar, 21 g protein
The holy grail of protein bars, Quest bars have pretty much everything you’d ever want in a balanced snack—they’re (almost) sugar-free, are extremely high in protein and fiber, and taste just like dessert. While you really can’t go wrong with any Quest bar flavors, we’re partial to the Cookies ‘N Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough varieties, which are loaded with decadent-tasting chunks of Oreo cookie and chocolate chips. For the ultimate Quest bar experience, we strongly recommend nuking your bar in the microwave for 30 seconds until it’s nice ‘n soft. (You’re welcome).
Grad the Gold, Chocolate Peanut Butter
193 calories, 12 g sugar, 11 g protein
At age 16, Grab the Gold CEO Danielle Ontiveros was playing around in her kitchen, trying to create a wholesome breakfast bar, when she invented the original Grab the Gold recipe. The formula stuck: years later, Grab the Gold bars are being sold at grocery stores across the country. Loaded with oats, real peanut butter, and chocolate chips, these all-natural protein bars taste just like a homemade peanut butter cookie—but with 11 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber, they’re healthy to boot.
Balance Bar Dark, Chocolate Caramel Macchiato
180 calories, 12 g sugar, 13 g protein
Balance Bars are formatted with “40-30-30” energy, meaning they contain the perfect ratio of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat to sustain energy. But did we mention they taste like candy bars? We especially loved the brand-new Dark Chocolate Caramel Macchiato flavor, which had notes of coffee and caramel. Crafted with balanced nutrition, a good source of fiber and packed with protein, they’re the answer to your Starbucks AND energy cravings.
Pure Organic, Chocolate Chunk Nut
160 Calories, 5g Protein, 6g Sugar
Made from a blend of quinoa and brown rice, these organic snack bars (which are also vegan and gluten-free!) offer balanced nutrition and delicious taste. We loved the wholesome ingredient list, which features a blend of real, recognizable ingredients—think agave nectar and cashew butter—rather than processed junk. Subtly sweet thanks to the addition of cocoa, but with only 6 grams of sugar, these crispy bars will tame your sweet tooth without leading to that dreaded sugar crash a few hours later.
Luna Protein, Lemon Vanilla
170 calories, 15 g sugar, 12 g protein
Luna Bar strikes again with two dessert-like high protein snacks, Chocolate Coconut Almond and Lemon Vanilla. We especially loved the lemon flavor, which has the taste of a lemon cookie—zesty lemon blended with sweet vanilla icing—but for 12 grams of muscle-building protein. These bars are also packed with a blend of vitamins and minerals suited to women’s nutritional needs, including calcium, folic acid, iron and vitamin D.
thinkTHIN Lean Protein & Fiber Bar, Pumpkin Spice
150 calories, 5 g sugar, 10 g protein
Craving a pumpkin spice latte? Save yourself the calories and instead reach for thinkTHIN’s seasonal debut, the Pumpkin Spice Lean Protein & Fiber Bar, which, for only 150 calories, delivers a sweet mouthful of delectable pumpkin with a healthy dose of fiber and protein to keep you satisfied.
Kashi Chewy, Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt with Chia
140 calories, 7 g sugar, 6 g protein
Kashi’s Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt is more of a “granola bar” than a protein bar, per se, but the bar’s decent protein content—6 grams—makes it worthy of inclusion on this list. Plus, we love the chewy bar’s delectable sweet-and-salty flavor mashup and its wholesome ingredient list, a blend of fiber-rich whole grains and antioxidant-rich chia seeds.
LÄRABAR Alt, Pumpkin Pie
220 calories, 18 grams sugar, 10 grams protein
The beauty of LÄRABAR products is in their simplicity—six or less minimal, all-natural ingredients. Smooth and spicy with a rich pumpkin taste, this bar packs 10 grams of hunger-squashing protein thanks to the addition of pea protein, a dairy-free and soy-free protein source. Filled with itty-bitty pieces of dates, the bar is naturally sweet and relies on real spices like nutmeg and pumpkin to give it a complex, decadent flavor. This pumpkin-flavored delight is sure to become your go-to fall snack.