Protein Bar & Protein Cookie Roundup -- How to choose
How many protein bars are out there? So many. We've sampled at least 100 over the years and scored them based upon all sorts of categories. The same with protein cookies. There are less of those. People always ask us TWO things:
1. What is the best protein bar?
2. How do I choose a protein bar or cookie?
We have answers. But because taste is so personal, you must be ready to try the bars. We can guide you on HOW to choose which ones to sample, but the choice will undoubtedly come down to the best tasting bar or cookie that meets your nutritional goals.
Let's start with protein bars
Our protein bar "loves" vary among the team. There is one brand/bar that everyone likes, so we'll give some extra kudos to Bonk Breaker and their PB Dark Chocolate Collagen bar (and the Chocolate Brownie flavor too). It really is a crowd pleaser for taste and nutrition (unless you are vegan/vegetarian).
But, back to choosing bars. First and foremost, decide upon your NUTRITION GOALS. Keto, low carb, high fat, high calorie, lots of protein, less calories, no sugar substitutes, no real sugar... So many factors to weigh. Think about what the bar is going to do for you -- what you want it to do.
Here are some guidelines to help you choose:
- Calories. More or less? I look for about 200. I view protein bars and cookies as a big snack, not a meal replacement.
- Size. Some bars weigh in at 60g or more and others are puny at 35-40g. It's worth considering.
- Protein Source. Animal, vegan, whey, soy, pea, hemp, rice, milk, etc. I look for 10g or more of protein.
- Sugars. Real, stevia, monkfruit, allulose, sugar alcohols. I look for less than 5g "real" sugar and don't mind any of the others. BUT, this will affect taste.
- Carbohydrates. Higher or lower. And source.
- Fiber. Higher or lower. I look for 10g or more.
- Cost. This matters to us. We typically aim for no more that $2/bar.
- Taste/texture. Chocolate covered, chewy, crisp etc. I LOVE them all! But chocolate covered bars don't travel as well.
When I am trying bars, I look to minimize calories, carbs and sugar, while maximizing protein, fiber and healthy fats. I'm pretty protein agnostic, but I try and avoid soy because the soy protein in bars is heavily processed. I also like a bar that feels bigger. Often the keto bars that weigh in at 40g or so, despite their abundance of healthy fats, are too small to be satisfying. I don't want my experience over in a few bites.
Again, our Team has tried 100+ bars, and because there is such a breadth of choice, we are highlighting bars that we CURRENTLY have in the staff kitchen. This list will give you a sense of what is available and how to evaluate options you sample.
If you are new to protein bars, we suggest you start with this one for one big reason: balanced nutrition and great taste.
It’s like the three little bears. Not too crunchy or chewy, not too soft or hard, but just right. The texture is what we feel is the perfect middle ground (the brownie is slightly crunchier/chewier). And what really wins every time is the taste. Bonk Breaker Bars really get this part right. They have other bars too, but we gravitate to their collagen bars because of the protein and fiber.
Stats: 51g, 230 calories, 13g fat (3g saturated), 8g fiber, 7g sugar (real & stevia), 15g collagen & whey protein,
Raw Rev gets high marks for taste, and this bar is plant-based. I always recommend this one to my vegan coworkers and friends.
Texture is pleasing, a little softer than Bonk Breaker (above), and a little oily on the outside, but not keto bar oily. Definitely less travel friendly than some other bars. The chocolate chips stand out in a good way. If convenient, we'll zap ours in the microwave for 5-10 seconds and let that chocolate ooze.
Stats: 46g, 200 calories, 13g fat (2.5g saturated), 12g fiber, 3g sugar (real & Reb M which is basically stevia), 11g brown rice and pea protein
Let's say it straight away. This bar is not for everyone. However, one of our staff swears by it, and it is always in the Team kitchen. Why? The macros are impressive! Also, because it's very chewy, it takes some time to eat and hence "enjoy". It's also a fiber powerhouse. BUT, if you don't like stick-in-your-teeth chewy and avoid monkfruit, it will not appeal.
Texture is smooth and chewy. The upside is that this bar is very travel friendly. Even if it were to get run-over, it would still be in "bar form". We like the pronounced peanutty flavor that is a bit sweet and savory. The bar is a little light on fats, but makes up for it with the 60g size! It's filling.
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Stats: 60g, 160 calories, 7g fat (0g saturated), 22g fiber, 1g sugar (monkfruit), 20g organic grass-fed whey
This is "that bar". You know the one that closely resembles a candy bar. The good news is that the nutritional stats don't. We've tried many of the bars from Nick's and this one is our winner. The peanuts balance the sweetness which come mostly from sugar alcohols and stevia. So if you eschew those, skip this bar. We think it's quite tasty.
Texturally it's slightly chewy and pretty soft. It holds its shape, but we certainly would not consider it overly travel or heat friendly. It is not quite as filling as other bars, but it's a bar we like having in the kitchen for those times when we just can't decide what we are in the mood for! Note the lower fiber amount.
Note: We buys ours from Amazon.com via the "subscribe & save" program, which means under $2/bar
Stats: 50g, 190 calories, 10g fat (4g saturated), 6g fiber, 3g sugar (real, erythritol, xylitol, & stevia), 15g collagen, whey, egg & milk protein.
The dark chocolate that covers this bar is better than most bar chocolate. NuGo is all about taste and we like this one because it's soy free, gluten free, kosher pareve and boasts probiotics for digestive health. It's also a good choice for those who avoid sugar alternatives like stevia and monkfruit.
The bar is mostly crunchy with a slight chewiness to it. Biggest weakness is that it's less filling than the others and the macros bear this out. But it is certainly a better option than a sugary treat!
The bar is a good deal coming in at under $1.75 per bar!
Stats: 45g, 170 calories, 3.5g fat (2g saturated), 4g fiber, 10g sugar (real), 9g rice protein
It is quite tasty, plant-based (vegan) and boasts high quality ingredients. Other R.E.D.D. flavors are also good. We've tried them all.
Texture is softer. No crunch. But not chewy. It will travel well. Nutritionally, it's well balanced. Check the ingredients on this one. There are all sorts of superfoods listed such as mushroom powder and prebiotics. This bar is definitely targeting a more "ingredient focussed" consumer. You may detect the monkfruit. Other sweetness comes from dates. But dates are not overly pronounced, because if they were, we wouldn't enjoy this bar. (Team just doesn't go for the date based bars.)
Stats: 52g, 210 calories, 10g fat (2g saturated), 11g fiber, 4g sugar (real & monkfruit), 10g pea, hemp and pumpkin seed
It bills itself as the "gut balancing" bar. We don't know about that, but we do know is that it tastes good and the nutrition stats impress. Ingredients like maize and green banana powder are unique. Because it's chocolate covered, it's not the best for travel. It's also rather expensive, so look for deals; that's how we ended up trying them. We've noticed that the bars are often out of stock.
The bar is mostly crunchy, but certainly not hard, and it won't produce a bunch of crumbs when you bite into it. If you are into ingredient hype, then definitely click the link and read up on Supergut's claims. At 56g and only 170 calories, there's a lot of bang for the calorie buck. Calories are kept in check by using allulose and stevia to sweeten.
Stats: 56g, 170 calories, 9g fat (4g saturated), 10g fiber, 1g sugar (allulose and stevia as well as erythritol for the chocolate coating), 10g whey protein
We treat this bar like any other protein bar; meaning that we don't fast nor use it for a "pre-fast". We stumbled upon the bar because of a deal (once again), and because the nutrition data was compelling. The weakness with this bar is the taste. It's not bad exactly, but certainly not overly tasty either. BUT, if you want a lower-calorie and filling bar that is easy on the wallet, try it. Most often you can get 12 for $25 AND a BOGO.
The bar is fairly dry and a little chewy. It'll travel just fine. We've tried three of the flavors and they all taste pretty similarly, so don't get too invested on which flavor you pick. The bar pictured below is cookie dough. It does not taste like cookie dough! But it's not bad either. The bar makes use of all the non-sugar sweeteners.
Stats: 60g, 200 calories, 7g fat (1g saturated), 12g fiber, 2g sugar (allulose, monkfruit and stevia as well as erythritol for the chocolate chips), 20g whey and milk protein.
BRING ON THE COOKIES!
Occasionally we prefer a cookie over a bar. However, in our opinion, the protein cookie options are WAY weaker than the bar options. Many of the better tasting cookies are 2 servings per cookie and come in at 400+ calories! We think if you want a snack, just like the bar, the option should be closer to 200 calories. We are not looking for meal replacement. Additionally, there are less protein cookies available. Below are a few we've tried and happen to have on hand. The only one that has garnered a repeat buy is the Quest PB Cookie.
While we link to Quest's site, we suggest you check other sources before you buy. We often get the cookies on Amazon for around $1.50/cookie. What we like about the cookie is that it is filling (Look at all the healthy fats!), quite large and tastes pretty good. If you hate alternative sweeteners, you likely won't like this cookie.
The texture is soft and slightly chewy. It's nice. No complaints. We've tried the other flavors too. Peanut butter (for any cookie or bar) tends to always taste the most "real."
Stats: 58g, 220 calories, 13g fat (3.5 saturated), 12g fiber, 1g sugar (erythritol and stevia), 15g whey and milk protein.
It looks good. And the nutrition is appealing, but the taste is a little "different." We have tried both the chocolate chip and sugar cookie flavors. We've had very mixed reviews. There is an aftertaste, which we assume comes from the monkfruit and/or allulose? It's pretty strong.
The texture is softer and appealing. And just look at all those chocolate chips. However, they are not sweetened with sugar and one can really tell. But yet, sometimes this cookie does hit the spot. We also find it to be quite filling.
Stats: 54g, 190 calories, 13g fat (7g saturated), 6g fiber, 1g sugar (allulose and monkfruit as well as erythritol in the chips), 10g whey protein.
The upside here is taste. Of the cookies we list here, the Atkins tastes the most "real." It's soft and chewy with a mild peanut butter sweetness. The downside is that it is rather small and goes fast!
Given the smaller size (39g), the nutrition stats are quite impressive, especially the 8g fiber. And as you can see from the image, it looks tasty. But, note the erythritol and sucralose as sweeteners.
Stats: 39g, 150 calories, 9g fat (2.5g saturated), 8g fiber, 1g sugar (erythritol & sucralose), 10g milk & whey protein.
We like the size and 13g protein. The taste is pretty good, but if you don't like alternative sweeteners like monkfruit and/or erythritol, you will likely be turned off. We noticed a slight aftertaste for the first few bites. But it went away and we enjoyed the cookie. It's softer, but drier than the others listed here. There were crumbs. The chocolate chips in this one are better than most.
We doubt this cookie will become a staple as the fiber count at 3g is paltry. The saturated fat is rather high as well. But for those who really prefer a cookie over a bar, we suggest you try this one. Also notable is that whole grain rolled oats is the first ingredient. We like that.
While the label says "no added sugars", the ingredient lists has "brown sugar" listed??
Stats: 59g, 200 calories, 8g fat (5g saturated), 3g fiber, 3g sugar (sugar, monkfruit & erythritol in the chips), 13g whey & collagen protein.
So there you have it. You have guidelines for picking a bar or cookie and examples of ones that we have tried and/or regularly consume. Likely if there is another bar or cookie you are wondering about, we've tried it. Feel free to comment and/or ask a question. Good luck!