“In a dream world, everyone would walk around with pre-workout fuel from real, whole foods,” says Miranda Hammer, a highly educated, credentialed RD who shares her “veghead” recipes on her popular blog, The Crunchy Radish, “but that’s not realistic for everyone, and if you’re on the go and didn’t have time to plan accordingly, a bar can be a saving grace.”
If you’re a vegan, though, you’ll have to spend even more time flipping over said bar and scouring the ingredient list and nutrition facts to find out if it will give you a healthy boost or destroy your balance diet in one packaged swoop.
Things to watch out for? Hammer says the amount of sugar and how many different types of sugar are included is the most important. “A lot of these are glorified candy bars.” The source of sweetness is also key. Many vegan bars are filled with dates, for example, which is way better than high fructose corn syrup but can still raise the sugar numbers to a not-so-great place. Finally, check the protein source. Vegan bars can be packed with cheap, uber-processed soy byproducts, which are no good for your long-term health or short-term digestion.
Too much to handle? Hammer helped us vet a long list of the most popular vegan bars on the market to bring you this quick go-to list of six you can rely on in a pinch.
Originally posted September 29, 2015. Updated June 23, 2017.
Scroll down to see the 6 best vegan protein bars.
Hammer likes this one because it contains “lots of nuts and seeds” and the ingredients are almost all organic whole foods. While there are a few different types of sugar added (a phenomenon she says to watch for), the 10g it adds up to is balanced by a whopping 18g of protein and 6g of fiber. One thing to note: added inulin (a type of fiber) can cause digestive issues for some people, so be aware of this ingredient if you have a sensitive stomach, she cautions.
Evo’s line of bars are all powered by hemp, a clean, complete, plant protein source, and the company avoids using heat in processing to preserve healthy enzymes and minerals. This protein bar is “lower in sugar than most of the other bars, and ingredients are clean and very minimal,” Hammer notes. “The bar also has a decent amount of protein, vitamin E, and iron from the raisins.” Bonus: It’s USDA-certified organic.
“I could see this one really filling someone up and fueling them,” Hammer says, of Health Warrior’s bar made with superfood chia seeds for protein. Many of its other clean, whole-food, plant-based ingredients are organic, and it has 10g of protein and 5g of fiber to balance out the sugar, plus an omega-3 boost you’ll get from the chia.
Perfect Bar makes some of the best tasting protein bars available, and while most are made with honey for sweetness, this one was formulated without, just for vegans. “This one is interesting, you’re getting fruits and vegetables and protein,” Hammer notes, referencing the superfood powder made with ingredients like dried kale, carrot, and kelp that’s included alongside whole food ingredients like dates, almond butter, and coconut oil. It’s also USDA-certified organic, although you should watch the sugar and calories coming from the dried fruits. They’re both high, so maybe choose this one before or after a tough workout, not as a small snack between meals.
Pure Bar’s signature “ancient grain blend” made with quinoa, flax, and hemp is the first reason this bar gets high marks. It also contains lots of heart-healthy nuts and is certified organic, and while it has three kinds of added sugar (tapioca syrup, agave, cane sugar), they’re in small amounts, since it comes in at just 6g total. Eat this one as more of a small snack, since it’s got fewer calories and a lower protein count (4g).
This vegan bar is as simple as it gets, with just five ingredients—cashews, coconut nectar, pea protein, and lemon extract—and it delivers a serious serving of protein, at 15g. The calories are on the higher side, mainly because of the cashews, but it’s also a larger, dense bar that takes longer to consume, which can be a good thing since mindless eating can lead to you chow down on less healthy snacks, later.
Bars aren’t the only way to get your protein on the go—bites are totally trending. Plus, what fitness instructors keep in their gym bag to stay fueled.
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