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TOP 8 Best Protein Bars for Women’s Nutrition Reviewed 2020

We’ve all been there, running out the door without having had time to prepare a healthy, homemade snack.

Sometimes life can be too busy. But, we don’t want our health to have to pay the price, right?

Having some healthy, whole food protein bars on hand can mean that you never have to worry.

I’ve done some research and put together a list of the tastiest, healthiest and generally best protein bars for women, so you don’t have to trawl through ingredients lists.

Later on in the article, I also explain a bit about certain ingredients you might want to avoid when you’re reading ingredients lists yourself.

TOP 8 Best Protein Bars for Women 2020

Health Warrior Pumpkin Seed Protein Bars

Review: This is a protein bar for those who appreciate wholesome simplicity. It is made of just 5 ingredients!

Containing just pumpkin seeds, honey, quinoa, coconut oil and salt, this is one clean living bar of goodness.

All of the ingredients are certified organic, the pumpkin seeds themselves are loaded with important minerals like iron and magnesium.

There are some variations to flavors so some bars have maple syrup and spices or chocolate. But, the basic concept is the same: whole, unprocessed organic plant foods.

Pros

  • 8g protein, 12g fat, 7g sugar.
  • USDA organic ingredients.
  • Free of gluten, soy, dairy and GMOs.
  • Contains magnesium, copper, zinc and iron.
  • Completely unprocessed.
  • Excellent tasting.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

These are easily some of the best protein bars for women. They are made of organic whole foods with nothing processed, and are low in sugar without being too low.

Shanti Bar Protein Bar

Review: The ingredient list doesn’t get much higher quality than what the gals have got going on at Shanti.

Made of entirely organic, raw, vegan ingredients, this is one plant-based powerhouse that will leave you feeling excellent, both for fuelling your body and for supporting the women-owned business.

The bars contain 20% of the RDI for iron and 8% for calcium making them a great choice for women. The sugar component comes from coconut nectar and a little natural sweetness from mango and goji berries.

This flavor contains turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties but other flavors include spirulina, maca, cacao, coconut, and mulberry.

Pros

  • 17g protein, 8g fat and 13g sugars.
  • Women-owned company.
  • 6 different flavors with different properties.
  • Raw, organic, plant-based.
  • Free of soy, peanuts, preservatives, and refined sugar.

Cons

  • A little high in sugar.

Takeaway

It doesn’t get much cleaner than this. Shanti bars are easily some of the highest quality protein bars on the market and an excellent option for post-workout recovery.

Coffee Snax High Protein Coffee Bar

Review: Made with just 5 simple ingredients, you can be sure this protein bar has nothing hiding in the ingredient list that you wouldn’t want to be consuming.

Containing literally just peanuts, honey, whey protein, oat flour and coffee, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.

With a good balance of protein, fat and carbs, with a hit of real coffee for a caffeine kick, this protein bar is a perfect pick-me-up for the mid-afternoon slump.

15g of sugar is a little on the high side, but if you treat it as a treat or it’s the only sweet thing you have all day, you’re still well under the recommended 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar.

Pros

  • 16g of protein, 12g of fat and 15g sugar.
  • 5 simple ingredients.
  • Real coffee for a caffeine kick.
  • Sugar content comes from honey, no other sweeteners.
  • No emulsifiers or oils.

Cons

  • A little high in sugar.

Takeaway

This is the protein bar for you if you’re a coffee fiend, appreciate a little caffeinated pick-me-up in a whole food package and don’t mind a little sweetness.

RX Bar Peanut Butter Protein Bar

Review: This is another great choice if simple ingredients are your jam and you love peanut butter. The ingredient list is literally just dates, egg whites, peanuts, peanut oil and sea salt.

Other flavors obviously have a slightly different twist on the ingredients but they are still simple, wholesome and free of whey or soy protein.

The result is a slightly sweet, slightly chewy, really delicious protein bar.

Pros

  • 12g protein, 8g fat, 15 sugar.
  • Simple list of whole food ingredients.
  • Nothing artificial or processed.
  • The protein comes from peanuts and egg whites.
  • The entire ingredient list is written in large print on the front of the packaging.

Cons

  • A little high in sugar.

Takeaway

RX bars pride themselves on not making you search or squint for the ingredient list, so you can be sure there’s nothing processed or artificial hiding inside.

PatterBar Clean Energy Bar

Review: Made in Denver, USA by a family-owned business, PatterBars are made from only whole food plant ingredients.

Each bar consists of a mixture of nut butters, unsweetened dried fruit, seeds and sea salt, delivering sustained energy and a healthy dose of protein with no blood sugar spikes.

Each ingredient is high quality and care has been taken to ensure that no additives make it into the final product. The coconut has not been sweetened or treated with sulfur, the nuts are roasted and hand made into nut butters onsite, and they even extract their own organic virgin coconut oil!

They come in 3 different flavors: fruit and nut, blueberry and lemon, and coconut and cashew, and all of them are delicious!

Pros

  • Made of only whole, plant foods.
  • No dairy or soy protein.
  • Nothing artificial or processed.
  • 3 different flavors.
  • Delicious tasting.

Cons

  • None.

Takeaway

Very high quality, simple ingredients in a great tasting, nutrient dense package.

LivBar Organic Macro Snack Bar

Review: These organic whole food snack bars provide a pretty perfect ratio of proteins, fats and carbs to fuel you at any time of day, whether before, during or after a workout.

All of the ingredients are unprocessed, certified organic and vegan. They come in 4 great tasting superfood flavors: raspberry, kale and maca; blueberry, vanilla and kale; coffee, maple and cacao; and ginger, lemon and turmeric.

Pros

  • 7g protein, 14g fat, 10g sugar.
  • Compostable, eco-friendly packaging.
  • USDA certified organic ingredients.
  • Seed protein sources.
  • Free from whey or soy protein.
  • 4 different great-tasting ingredients.

Cons

  • Processed in a kitchen that handles nuts so not safe for people with nut allergies.

Takeaway

These protein bars are a great tasting, all-natural way of getting some superfood goodness into your life.

Primal Kitchen Peanut Butter Protein Bar

Review: This protein bar is very low in sugar, contains a good amount of protein and healthy fats, and is loaded with nutritious ingredients.

The protein comes from organic peanuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, almonds, and eggs while the fat comes from mostly from coconut oil.

They are sweetened with a little honey which won’t spike your blood sugar the same way other sugars do, and the only highly processed ingredient is sunflower lecithin which is pretty good going in my books.

They also make other flavors such as almond spice and coconut and lime in case you’re not a fan of peanut butter.

Pros

  • Mostly organic.
  • 9g of protein and 15g of fat.
  • Only 2g of sugar.
  • Contains prebiotic fiber for gut health.
  • Contains no gluten, grains, dairy or soy.
  • Almost all unprocessed ingredients.
  • Cage-free eggs.

Cons

  • Not suitable for people allergic to peanuts.
  • Very low in carbs.

Takeaway

Primal Kitchen’s protein bars are a great choice both for people following a paleo diet or people who just appreciate healthy whole foods in a low carb package.

Ketologie Keto Bar

Review: This protein bar is packed with high-quality ingredients. It’s designed for people following a ketogenic diet so it has almost no carbs, but this isn’t an issue provided you’re getting a healthy amount of carbohydrates from your other meals.

Its protein content is from animal sources in the form of milk proteins and collagen, but it also contains some healthy nuts and coconut oil for good fats, Dutch cocoa for a decadent taste, and chicory fiber.

It’s sweetened with stevia and monk fruit, and like the Primal Kitchen bar, the only really highly processed ingredient aside from the protein content is sunflower lecithin.

Pros

  • Contains grass-fed collagen.
  • Only 2g of sugar.
  • 14g protein and 17g of fat.
  • Contains almonds, cashews, flaxseed and coconut oil.
  • Contains 2mg of iron and 73mg of calcium making it a great choice for women.

Cons

  • Whey protein is not suitable for people with a dairy intolerance.
  • Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
  • Too low in carbs for optimal post-workout recovery.

Takeaway

This protein bar is a good option if you’re following a low carb or ketogenic diet. It’s one of the few truly low carb protein bars that doesn’t contain IMO.

Characteristics of an Awesome Protein Bar

Knowing what to look for in a protein bar can be a bit of a minefield of opinion and contradiction.

There was a time when it was all about soy or whey protein and hundreds of ingredients that you could barely read.

Now, we’re moving towards a plant-based, whole foods focus where less is more.

woman with chocolate raw protein bar filling meal plan

Protein is tending to come more from nuts and seeds than soy or dairy. And, if there’s an ingredient you can’t read (like Isomalto-oligosaccharide – but we’ll get to that) you’re probably best avoiding it.

This also includes avoiding sugar alternatives like sugar alcohols (sorbitol, erythritol, xylitol and maltitol – basically be suspicious of anything with ‘ol’ at the end).

Then there’s the ratio of macros to think about.

Depending on your values, your preferences for these ratios will vary.

Those in the keto and paleo communities prefer a higher ratio of fat to protein and little to no carbs.

Others prefer the presence of some healthy carbs for optimal post-workout recovery and to avoid going into ketosis.

Thankfully, the days of the low-fat obsession seem to be behind us and most of us agree that a healthy dose of fat is a good thing. The main differences in preference seem to be the amount of carbs.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to eat.

There’s nothing worse than someone telling you what to eat!

But, there are many of the opinions that in the west, we actually eat too much protein. An average of 125 lbs woman only needs about 42g of protein per day.

A meat-eater will get this really easily by eating 3 square meals per day and won’t need to supplement with snacks.

Even vegetarians meet this pretty easily (1 cup of lentils contains roughly the same amount of protein as a burger).

Unless the rest of your diet is pretty dreadful, you’re not going to have massive protein demands from your protein bar.

The idea, instead, is to provide your body with a healthy amount of protein, fat and carbs to ensure optimal muscle recovery, or sustained energy that won’t make your blood sugar go crazy if you’re eating it as a snack on the go.

The exception to this is if you’re actively looking to build muscle mass.

If this is you, you might be looking more in the realm of 50g protein per day. For more guidance on building muscle in a healthy way and getting the right nutrition to support muscle building, be sure to have a read of our guide to muscle building for women.

protein bars

So Girls, Do We Have Different Criteria for Protein Bars than Men?

In all honesty, the answer is no.

There are only slightly different nutritional requirements between men and women. Women require fewer calories due to having a smaller body mass and a lower muscle to fat ratio, but the ratio of macronutrient requirements is the same between the sexes.

Both men and women should consume a diet of about 15% protein and 30% fat, the remaining 55% coming from healthy carbohydrates such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains.

Women do require slightly more iron, calcium and folate (Vitamin B9), but these extras are more likely to be made up of your main meals than your protein bar.

So, the ideal protein bar will have a modest amount of protein (think around 10g,), a little more fat for satiety (maybe 15g) and less than 15g of sugar. If you can get some iron or calcium in there too then that’s an added bonus!

However, if you’re looking for something to give you more instant energy during a really long training session or immediately after, you might be better off with a higher carb content.

Take a look at our article on the best energy bars for runners if you think this might be you.

If you’re not sure whether you are getting all of the nutrients you need in order to support a vigorous workout routine, have a read of our guide to the best workout supplements for women and see if anything takes your fancy.

woman sitting on the floor with protein shaker in hand in the gym

What’s the Deal with IMO?

As the low-carb craze took the nutrition world by storm, food manufacturers began looking for ways to make protein bars taste less like tree bark and more like food, but without the sugar.

Introducing IMO.

IMO, or Isomalto-oligosaccharide, is essentially a sweet-tasting syrup that is also high in fiber.

Manufacturers started using it in ‘healthy’ protein bars to add fiber and a sweet taste while not adding to the overall sugar content of the bar.

Too good to be true? Probably.

As we’ve found with other sugar-cheats like aspartame, sugar alcohols, and even stevia to a degree, tricking your body into thinking it’s eating sugar by giving it the sweet taste without the actual carbohydrates can be a recipe for disaster.

Sometimes, you’re actually better off just eating real sugar.

While IMO can occur naturally in whole foods, most of the time it’s cheaper for processed food manufacturers to make it out of starch. This industrially manufactured IMO has been found to spike blood glucose and consequently insulin.

Not ideal if you’re attempting to stay in ketosis or just be a healthy person in general!

I’ve been careful to make sure none of the protein bars on this list contain IMO, but be careful to read the ingredients of any other protein bars you might be considering to make sure they don’t contain this blood-sugar spiking ingredient.

If, after reading this, you think you might be more of a smoothy person after all, or you’re looking for a way to boost the protein content of your morning smoothy, be sure to read our list of the best protein powders for women.

You should now be feeling pretty well equipped to choose some protein bars that will leave your taste buds and nutritional needs very satisfied.

Remember, the best protein bars for women are made of simple, whole food ingredients with minimal processing and not too much sugar!

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