Taste Test: Protein Bars That Don't Taste Like Chalk
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Taste Test: Protein Bars That Don't Taste Like Chalk

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Taste Test: Protein Bars That Don't Taste Like Chalk
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Raise the Bar

Whether you’re looking for a quick, muscle-building boost following your gym workout or you’ve skipped lunch and need to calm your grumbling stomach, a protein bar can be an easy and relatively healthy snack. But all protein bars are not the same. Some have as many calories and as much sugar as a candy bar, while others deliver less protein than a serving of low-fat Greek yogurt or are so unpalatable that you may as well be gnawing on wood. We scooped up a handful of protein bars from two local grocery stores in Austin, Texas, and sampled each of them to find out if they were truly tasty or just edible. We also took a look at just how much protein and other key ingredients each of these bars contains. For the record, all of our samples contain more than the minimum 5-6 grams of protein that experts recommend.


Related:The 20 Least Unhealthy Junk Foods

Elevation Maxx Bar | Peanut Butter Chocolate
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Elevation by Millville | Chocolate Peanut Butter

Cheapism Taste Test Winner Best Protein BarTastiest High-Protein Option

Calories: 290, Protein: 20g, Carbs: 31g, Sugar: 20g, Fat: 11g, Fiber: 3g

The Elevation bar packs a wallop: the most calories, protein, carbs, and sugar of our samples. It had a pleasant, mild crunch, and subtle peanut butter flavor. It was a bit on the sweet side, with hints of protein powder. 


Clif Builders Protein Bar | Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor
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Clif Builders Protein Bar | Chocolate Peanut Butter

Tasty High-Protein Option (Runner-up)

Calories: 290, Protein: 20g, Carbs: 29g, Sugar: 17g, Fat: 11g, Fiber: 2g

Similar in appearance and size to Elevation by Millville bar, the Clif bar wasn’t as tasty. The layer of peanut butter filling was denser, but it was also grittier and tasted strongly of dried peanut butter and protein powder.


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Trader Joe’s Simply Nutty Bar | Dark Chocolate, Peanuts, and Almond
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Trader Joe’s Simply Nutty Bar | Dark Chocolate, Peanuts, and Almond

Cheapism Taste Test Winner Best Protein BarBest For Snacking

Calories: 200, Protein: 7g, Carbs: 14g, Sugar: 5g, Fat: 15g, Fiber: 7g

The nuttiest of the bunch, with peanuts and almonds as the top two ingredients, this was also our favorite at the low end of the protein spectrum. Although nearly identical to the Kind Nut Bar, the Trader Joe’s version had that extra salty kick that reminds us of dry-roasted nuts (in a good, snackable kind of way). It also had a respectable amount of dietary fiber with fewer carbs and sugars.


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Kind Nut Bar | Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate
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Kind Bar | Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate

Also Good for Snacking

Calories: 200, Protein: 7g, Carbs: 17g, Sugar: 9g, Fat: 14g, Fiber: 3g

You’d have to eat nearly three Kind Bars in order to get the same amount of protein as, say, a Clif Builders Bar. And they’re tasty enough that we’d be tempted to do so if it didn’t also mean three times the calories, carbs, and fat. The 7 grams of protein and 17 grams of carbs are sufficient for recharging during a light hike or as a snack, though sugars could be lower and fiber higher. It was the sweetest-tasting of the bunch (no surprise considering that glucose syrup, sugar, and honey are the second, third, and fourth ingredients).


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Quest Hero Protein Bar | Crispy Chocolate Caramel Pecan
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Quest Hero Protein Bar | Crispy Chocolate Caramel Pecan

Best Balance of Ingredients

Calories: 180, Protein: 15g, Carbs: 29g, Sugar: 1g, Fat: 9g, Fiber: 11g

The Quest Hero bar has less protein than the heavyweights in our test; call this one a middleweight contender. With its sweet, strong maple-pecan flavor, kick of caramel, and subtle dash of cocoa, this is a good choice for after the gym or between meals. The texture is dense and chewy without being sticky or gummy. It had plenty of fiber and protein with surprisingly little sugar given its sweetness.


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Think! High Protein Bar | Brownie Crunch
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Think! High Protein Bar | Brownie Crunch

Most Chocolate Flavor

Calories: 230, Protein: 20g, Carbs: 23g, Sugar: 0g, Fat: 8g, Fiber: 1g

The Think! bar delivers the most protein with the least sugar but also next to no dietary fiber to keep you feeling full. The moist, brownie-like texture was reasonably tasty — dense and chewy with a strong cocoa flavor and slightly bitter aftertaste. The protein-packed crunchy bits added some texture.

Power Crunch Energy Bar | Peanut Butter Fudge
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Power Crunch Energy Bar | Peanut Butter Fudge

Most Candy-Like Protein Bar

Calories: 215, Protein: 13g, Carbs: 12g, Sugar: 5g, Fat: 13g, Fiber: 1g

Okay, we confess: If we’d tasted this blindfolded, we’d have mistaken it for a Little Debbie Nutty Bar (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Fudgy, crispy, and peanut buttery, the only drawback in our opinion was the too-crumbly wafers. The fiber content is kind of low, too.


Related: The 20 Least Unhealthy Junk Foods

One Bar | Peanut Butter Pie
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One Bar | Peanut Butter Pie

Big on Protein, Low on Flavor

Calories: 220, Protein: 20g, Carbs: 23g, Sugar: 1g, Fat: 9g, Fiber: 8g

With its Play-Doh-like texture and funky brownish hue, this entry in our taste-off was reminiscent of protein bars from back in the day. The flavor reminded us of ground-up peanut shells and had an unpleasantly chewy consistency. It was our least favorite of the high-protein bars in our sample, but it also had the fewest calories, very little sugar, and a decent amount of fiber.


RXBar | Peanut Butter Chocolate
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RXBar | Peanut Butter Chocolate

Worst-Tasting Protein Bar (tie)

Calories: 210, Protein: 12g, Carbs: 23g, Sugar: 14g, Fat: 9g, Fiber: 5g

RXBar touts itself as the “No B.S.” protein bar, with a short list of minimally processed ingredients: dates, peanuts, egg whites, chocolate, sea salt, and cocoa. We were not impressed with the stick-to-your-teeth consistency, and if you don’t like the funky sweetness of dates you will definitely not like this date-based protein bar. 


Elevation Maxx Bar | Peanut Butter Chocolate
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Elevation Maxx Bar | Peanut Butter Chocolate

Worst-Tasting Protein Bar (tie)

Calories: 230, Protein: 12g, Carbs: 21g, Sugar: 14g, Fat: 10g, Fiber: 4g

Aldi’s version of the RXBar boasts a similar short list of “clean” ingredients: dates, peanut butter, egg whites, chocolate, peanuts, cocal, sea salt, and cashew and almond butters. It was even less appealing, with a chewiness like cheap chewing gum and just as annoyingly sticky. We wanted to floss after eating it.