If you’re anything like me, working high levels of protein into a plant-based lifestyle can be difficult, even in spite of high-in-protein plants such as beans, nuts, tofu, and leafy greens.
The thing is, incorporating protein into a plant-based diet takes time and intentionality, and I often find myself opting for ‘lazy’ plant-based meals instead. I grab quick bites of carbs and fats as a girl-on-the-go, focusing on efficiency rather than quality. I struggle to take the time to prepare a well-balanced meal, rich in protein for the energy needed for a day of hustle and bustle.
Knowing the protein pain point in my diet, I made it a priority to focus on easy plant-based proteins-on-the-go, only to quickly realize that no one protein bar is created equally. Each bar contains different levels of calories, protein, and sugar, all ranging from $1 per bar to as high as $3.
In order to make sure I was incorporating the best bar that was high in protein, low in calories, and in line with my budget, I did a deep dive into the world of protein bars to find the perfect bar tailored for each specific need.
Read on to find our top protein bar recommendations to add a boost of plant-based protein and flavor into your daily diet for energy, muscle development, and weight loss assistance.
Highest In Protein: No Cow
With 20+ grams of protein in every single bar, this vegan bar is a no brainer as your ultimate protein substitute. Made from pea and rice protein, stevia, and monk fruit, these bars contain less than one gram of sugar and around 200 calories per bar. Each bar is dipped in chocolate and comes in flavors such as chocolate coconut almond, sea salt, salted caramel protein, mint cookie, peanut butter cup, and chocolate sprinkled donut.
Better yet? No Cow’s sustainability pledge ensures that all bars are made with quality ingredients derived from fair and safe working environments.
Most Economical: LaraBar
For those looking to up their protein intake on a budget, LaraBars are the solution for you.
Sold for as little as $1 per bar, LaraBars pack 11 grams of protein into a bar for a fraction of the cost of your typical protein bars. In addition to their affordability, LaraBars also come in a wide variety of flavors—satiating the craving for everything from banana bread and cherry pie to cinnamon rolls and peanut butter chocolate chip.
These bars range in calories from 190 to 230 per bar, and are vegan and gluten-free—made from whole food ingredients like fruits, nuts, and spices.
Lowest in Calories: Orgain
If your goal is to keep your protein high and your calories low, consider Orgain bars your new best friend.
At only ~150 calories per bar, these bars are half the calories of protein bars such as Clif Builders and Vega, while still packing a punch of protein at 10 grams per bar. Founded by Dr. Andrew Abraham—an integrative medicine specialist and cancer survivor— Orgain’s goal is to provide nutritional, all-natural protein in every powder and bar. What started out as a protein shake business has since transformed into protein bars as well, made from high-quality ingredients and clean nutrition.
Choose from flavors such as chocolate coconut, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter, s’mores, and more, and enjoy an entirely plant-based and organic bar as a sweet treat or meal supplement.
Most Environmentally-Friendly: Real Food Bar
Promoting the phrase “Ugly is beautiful,” Real Food Bar upcycles imperfect produce to make their protein-filled bars delicious and sustainable. Since starting, Real Food Bar has saved over 500 pounds of kale, cauliflower, and sweet potato to put into their bars, all of which would have otherwise gone into landfills. In addition to their commitment to sustainability, Real Food Bar’s philanthropic side also donated more than 5,000 bars to food banks, nursing homes, hospitals, and youth programs, focused on supporting non-profits within their local Austin, TX area.
With flavors including cherry cashew, peanut butter, espresso chip, chocolate sea salt, and peanut butter chip, these bars contain around 15 grams of protein and contain approximately 190 calories in every bar.
Best Overall: NuGo
If you’re looking for a bar low in calories, high in protein, and budget-friendly, NuGo is the go-to bar for you.
Choose among their vegan options—chocolate almond, peanut butter cup, mint chocolate chip, chocolate coconut, and more—and enjoy bars ranging from 12 to 17 grams of protein and under 200 calories a bar, all for a price of approximately ~$1.45 each. Their vegan slim bar, specifically, is a sure-fire way to get a high protein intake without sacrificing calories or taste.
For a complete side-by-side comparison, explore the chart below for estimated costs, calories, and proteins to decide for yourself which protein bar works best for you!
*Note: Calories, protein, and cost ultimately depend on bar flavor and type. These are estimated costs based on the average bar numbers, but choose for yourself which flavor works best for you.
|Name||Calories||Protein||Cost per Bar|
|No Cow||~190 calories||~21g||$2.33|
|Real Food Bars||~190 calories||~15g||$2.91|
Discover the bar most beneficial for you, and get your daily protein intake up with little to no effort!
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Photo: Dana Drosdick