7 protein bars to try ASAP

I will proudly proclaim it — I am the snack queen. Or, I suppose, a snack queen. I do have many friends and fellow IG-ers who are fellow snack queens/kings.

Anyway. Living a busy and athletic lifestyle has always forced me to rely on snacks...which is a good thing, because I love snack time! I do try to focus on real food snacks like fruit and nuts, but sometimes you need some extra oomph before or after a workout, on hikes, during competitions, or even just to amp up your meal.

If you look at the back of many protein bars, you'll see a ton of weird ingredients. These include many different forms of added sugars, oils, and processed protein. It's my strong belief that if I'm going to fuel/refuel my body, I want to do it with bars that are as close to real food as possible.

I've tried almost every single bar out there (no joke) that's gluten free and dairy free, and these are my favorites. I like each of them for different purposes, but they all taste good by themselves, with a large cup of coffee, with some fruit and/or nuts, or even in a yogurt/cereal/sweet potato bowl.

Bar you ready? (This is why I don't make puns often...) Keep reading for my top 7 (in no particular order) — and stay tuned for 4 bonus bars at the bottom!

P.S. If you're doing Whole30, a lot of these bars are Whole30 Approved!

1. RXBars

Paleo, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved (some flavors)

These bars proudly proclaim "No B.S." — and it's true. The only ingredients they contain are listed proudly on the front, unlike most bars that try to hide it on the packaging fold on the back. The protein comes from egg whites, which is awesome if you're Paleo. They're sticky, which takes a little getting used to, but come in a ton of awesome flavors (especially seasonal ones).

Favorite Flavor: Coffee Chocolate
Best For: I eat 1/2 pre-workout and 1/2 post-workout or an entire bar as a filling afternoon snack. Sometimes I'll use 1/3 of a bar as a bowl topping!

2. Atlas Bars

Gluten Free, Low Sugar

I normally get indigestion (sorry, TMI) from whey protein and stevia, but the grass-fed whey in combination with MCT oil makes this bar 100% OK with my stomach. Which is a blessing, because it's not only filling but amazing-tasting. Like, legit tastes like a brownie (chocolate flavor) or blondie (vanilla flavor).

Favorite Flavor: Chocolate Cacao
Best For: Post-workout

3. RawRev Glo Bars

Vegan, Gluten Free

These bars contain pea protein, making them a great vegan protein bar. It's my go-to alternative for RXBars, and work wonderfully as an afternoon pick-me-up if you're craving something sweet without the sugar crash. They're light enough for pre-workout as well.

Tip: Keep these cold if you want a less chewy bar! Since there's coconut oil in here, it can melt quickly under heat. Then, warm in between your hands a little so that the chocolate-y chunks get all melty.

Favorite Flavor: Double Chocolate Brownie Batter
Best For: Afternoon snacking, dessert

4. RISE Bars

Photo by Rise Bar

Photo by Rise Bar

Vegan, Gluten Free

These bars also contain pea protein, which makes them super filling. They only have 3-4 ingredients: just pea protein, nuts, coconut nectar, and natural flavoring.

Favorite Flavor: Lemon Cashew
Best For: Post-workout

5. IQ Bars

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

I love supporting local brands, and this Kickstarted-funded bar brand is no different. Their bars are all about optimizing brain function. We spend so much time thinking about our muscles that we forget about our brain sometimes! The founder is a Harvard graduate and has done awesome scientific research to support the ingredients in this bar. They're less about protein and more about boosting your brain, so I'd eat this with a rainbow salad or as an afternoon brain boost.

Favorite Flavor: Almond Cacao
Best For: With a salad, afternoon snacking

6. Perfect Bars

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

The sad part: there's only 1 vegan flavor. The great part: it's full of superfoods and is super filling. It's pretty sweet, so I'd only eat 1/2 at a time or pair it with a strong cup of black coffee, like this one. If you're not dairy-free, go wild with all their amazing flavors!

Tip: This needs to be refrigerated, which proves how fresh it is, but also means that you should only take it with you to places with a fridge accessible.

Favorite Flavor: Almond Coconut (the only dairy-free flavor)
Best For: With yogurt bowls or with coffee

7. VT Smoke BARs

VT Smoke

Paleo, Gluten Free

You can't get closer to real protein than straight-up meat. I love that VT Smoke comes in mini sticks as well as full-sized ones. I first came across these when I was looking for protein-filled snacks to take with me to my first Tough Mudder, and these proved perfect. I now take them on hikes or with me to the office to bulk up any meal.

Favorite Flavor: Uncured Pepperoni or Uncured Bacon
Best For: With a meal, on a hike

Bonus: Snack Bars

1. LÄRABAR

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved (some flavors)

I've been a fan of LÄRABAR for a long, long time. I would have 1/2 a full-sized bar or a mini bar before swim practice or especially during swim meets — they're basically just dates, which is great for quick energy. They've expanded their offerings; I like their nut and seed bars as yogurt toppings instead of grain-free granola or their superfood bars for when I'm teaching back-to-back boxing classes.

Favorite Flavor: Superfoods (Turmeric/Ginger/Beet), Nut & Seed (Maple Cinnamon), Original (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough)
Best For: Pre-workout

2. That's it.™ Bars

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Whole30 Approved

I first came across That's it.™ when I looking for a healthy but chocolate-y snack in CVS — I saw their dark chocolate bites and was immediately intrigued. While I still love the bites, I love their bars as well — they're full of fiber (great when you need an extra boost) and contain literally just fruit. They're great on top of bowls, like my cauli "oatmeal" bowl!

Favorite Flavor: Zesty Apple + Mango + Chili
Best For: Bowl toppings, topped with almond butter pre-workout

3. KIND Snacks

Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free

KIND bars used to be my favorite before I went Paleo (most of them contain grains), but now I'm in love with their "Pressed" bars and snacks. They're made with just fruits and veggies — no added sugar.

Favorite Flavor: Pressed Bars (Pineapple/Banana/Kale/Spinach), Bites (Cherry Apple)
Best For: Bowl toppings, trail mix add-ins (the fruit bites)

4. Vigilant Eats

You may know this company for their superfood cereal, but they also have an amazing superfood brick bar. Yes, this is a family sized bar that you can just cut pieces off and eat! It's packed full of superfoods like chia seeds, goji berries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and cacao nibs, and is made of a base of dates for quick energy.

Favorite Flavor: There is only one — but it's so good!
Best for: As a bowl topping or just plain with sunflower seed butter as a pre-workout snack.


And there you have it! What's your favorite bar(s)? (I know, so hard to just pick one...)

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