I’ve always been a fan of meal replacement shakes, but let’s be honest, they are not the most convenient option for busy people who are constantly on the go.
A better alternative is a nutrition bar that contains enough natural and essential ingredients to serve as a snack and to avoid hunger cravings.
The problem is, though, that the majority of nutrition bars are not actually all that nutritious. And with tons of sugar, they might actually do you more harm than good.
So, our team set out and tested over 50 different products to come up with a list of the best meal replacement bars.
Our Best Meal Replacement Bars for Weight Loss (January 2023)
1 - Transparent Labs Uncut High-Protein Energy Bars (Editor's Choice)
Transparent Labs promises to support muscle growth and recovery with their Uncut High-Protein Energy Bars.
With 16 grams of high-quality whey protein isolate, real-food ingredients, and 290 calories (280 for the chocolate coffee flavor), this meal replacement snack can keep you full for hours.
The protein bars have no artificial sweeteners and contain additional components that give your body the fuel it needs for a great workout.
- Calories : 290 (280 for chocolate coffee)
- Protein : 16g
- Fat : 16g (14g for chocolate coffee)
- Carbs : 23g (24g for chocolate coffee)
- A high amount of protein suitable for active people
- Delicious chocolate chip and chocolate coffee flavors
- Contains real-food ingredients
- No artificial sweeteners
- Pricier than other brands
Customers love the natural foods in its formula: honey, roasted almonds, real chocolate chips, and coffee beans.
2 - IQ Bar
This has been my general recommendation as the best protein bar, but given the macro balance, it could also work well as a meal replacement.
It might seem like it’s a bit too high in carbs, but those are mainly from fiber to help fill you up .
IQ Bar is a great choice to take care of your brain through a range of brain-boosting nutrients it contains like omega 3s, choline, and flavonoids.
- Calories : 160
- Protein : 10-11g
- Fat : 9-10g
- Carbs : 18-19g
- Good source of protein dietary fiber for your digestion
- Contains important vitamins and minerals for general health boosts
- Organically sourced ingredients
- Good subscription discounts available
- A few more vitamins would be great
You can choose from 10 flavors to suit your mood with a classic flavor like peanut butter chip (which we absolutely love!) to something unique like lemon blueberry.
These meal replacement bars are quite on the low end in terms of calories and protein, so it might be best to pair it with a low-carb fruit, some Greek Greek yogurt, dark chocolate, or nuts, if you're into that kind of meal.
3 - GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bars
This meal replacement bar is the one we most often recommend for vegans as it’s entirely plant-based. It can also ideal for people with food allergies and sensitivities, particularly with soy and gluten.
Most of the carbs are claimed to be slow-releasing, but it does contain some added sugar.
- Calories : 290
- Protein : 11g
- Fat : 11g
- Carbs : 39g
- Plant-based sources make it suitable for vegans
- Gluten, soy, and GMO-free for added peace of mind
- Comes in boxes of 12 for better value
- Contains added sugar
- A bit pricey
This nutrition bar is a bit pricey than most meal replacement bars but it can be justifiable because it's certified organic, 100% vegan-friendly, gluten-free, kosher, and non-GMO.
4 - Zoneperfect Nutrition Bar
Zoneperfect is another healthy meal replacement bar, and with 14 grams of protein, some athletes I work with like eating it after a light cardio session.
This is a perfect protein boost for anyone who wants a good-sized snack before doing some physically demanding tasks.
With a great choice of flavors, many users comment on its taste being far from other nutrition bars with a chalky or weird sawdust texture.
- Calories : 220
- Protein : 14g
- Fat : 7g
- Carbs : 25g
- May provide a good boost in vitamins and mineral
- Claims to suppress hunger
- Largest selection of flavors
- Could be better with more fiber
While this protein bar can replace a snack or meal even without much fiber, just be careful of eating too much as it contains a good amount of added sugars.
5 - Oatmega Protein Bars
As the name suggests, this meal replacement bar is primarily based on oats, but also contains nuts and seeds.
The meal bars' taste is natural, and among eight delicious flavors, the most popular ones here are chocolate brownie and chocolate peanut butter.
- Calories : 200
- Protein : 14g
- Fat : 7g
- Carbs : 22g
- Plenty of protein to support weight loss
- Good source of dietary fiber
- Contains Omega 3s for healthy heart and brain
- It’s not a soy-free option
It seems to have a balanced macro with 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 200 calories per bar, good enough to replace a meal.
I also appreciate how they kept the meal bars low on added sugars for health-conscious people. However, it's not a soy-free option which can be an issue for people with soyallergies.
6 - Quest Nutrition Protein Bar
Quest protein bars are what we recommend to folks looking to maximize protein intake.
With a whopping 21 grams of protein in each gluten-free bar, that’s as much as you’d normally get in a recovery shake.
- Calories : 180-190
- Protein : 20-21g
- Fat : 6-9g
- Carbs : 21-23g
- One of the stronger doses of protein
- Low net carb content thanks to high fiber
- Comes in a great selection of natural flavors
- Some of the flavors are little on the sweet side
Keto dieters will surely find this protein bar perfect for their diet as it generally has low carbs with a good amount of fat.
Most users seem to like how these protein bars deliver in terms of flavor, chewiness, and crunch, but some might find it to be on the sweet side.
7 - Probar Meal On-The-Go Bars
If you prefer organic ingredients in your meal replacement bar, then this one from Probar might be your best choice.
From a nutrition perspective, these meal bars may also be healthy enough to support most weight loss diets. Most of our female clients love Probar, and we’ve actually featured it on this page.
- Calories : 180-200
- Protein : 9g
- Fat : 8-11g
- Carbs : 22-25g
- Many positive comments that it might reduce hunger cravings
- Low in saturated and trans-fats for better heart health
- Certified organic whole food ingredients
- The mineral and vitamin content could be higher
You might find the meal bars a bit lacking in protein and fiber, but it still serves its purpose as a meal replacement bar with users saying that it tastes pretty good and fills them up real good.
8 - Isagenix IsaLean Bars
Isagenix has formulated this protein bar specifically for weight loss and cutting phases, and we found quite a few comments about it working well to keep you full.
Just keep in mind that it contains 7 grams of sugar, which could impact your blood sugar levels.
- Calories : 250
- Protein : 18g
- Fat : 8g
- Carbs : 30g
- Decent amount of protein is suitable for athletes
- Claims to help bridge the gaps between main meals
- Flavors are natural and not too overpowering
- It’s a little bit high in sugar
Most users notice how the bars are so refreshing to eat with a decadent lemon flavor that can you feel like you're cheating on your diet.
It can a bit high on sugars so I'd be careful with that.
9 - Redcon1 MRE Bar
Because the Redcon1 meal replacement bar is high in protein, they are often used by bodybuilders and could even be eaten after a workout session.
Just make sure you factor in the larger size and calories.
- Calories : 260
- Protein : 20g
- Fat : 9g
- Carbs : 29g
- Suitable as a post-workout snack with plenty of protein
- The larger size may make you feel full for longer
- Many users comment about the great natural taste
- Not high enough in minerals and vitamins
I love how this protein bar contains only whole-food sources which won't cause any digestion problems like from what I usually experience with others bars.
Go for our favorite crunchy peanut butter cup if you ever decide to give this meal replacement bar a try.
10 - PaleoPro Primal Protein Bars
What attracts many athletes to this PaleoPro bar is the 10 grams of fiber.
This seems to be the main reason so many users find that it helps them avoid hunger cravings in addition to 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Calories : 250
- Protein : 14g
- Fat : 13g
- Carbs : 24g
- Specifically formulated to satisfy the needs of Paleo dieters
- Provides lots of raw nuts (cashews and almonds) to help suppress hunger
- Contains collagen that may help with joint health
- Gluten-free bars with lots of grams of protein per serving
- Limited flavor options
11 - Zing Bars
The Zing bars are another option for vegans, and with 7 grams of fiber, it should suppress cravings in between meals.
And because it’s soy and gluten-free, most people shouldn’t get an upset stomach.
- Calories : 210
- Protein : 10g
- Fat : 11g
- Carbs : 24g
- Vegan-friendly option with a non-GMO ingredient list
- Seems to work well as a filling snack
- Soy and gluten-free bars with lots of grams of protein per serving
- Provides no vitamins for immune and general health
While this can be a nice sweet treat after an intense workout, the 9 grams of sugar per serving might not be suitable for all kinds of diets.
Keep It Balanced
- has a balanced combination of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat)
- has 300 or more calories to provide adequate energy comparable to having an actual meal
- has a healthy source of fiber to help you feel fuller for longer
- has whole-food ingredients for additional nutritional benefits
Watch Out For Hidden Ingredients
I mentioned above that many of these bars tend to be full of ingredients that are less than helpful for weight management and fitness improvement. One of the most common ones to avoid is high-fructose corn syrup.
This highly enriched sugar is known to cause blood glucose spikes that could have the opposite effect on hunger .
Fructose, a new study finds, has a marked effect on the brain region that regulates appetite, suggesting that corn syrup and other forms of fructose might encourage overeating to a greater degree than glucose.
- Katherine Harmon, Health Science Writer
Consider Your Dietary Restrictions
We have several gym clients who are diabetic, and they would frequently ask about protein-filled snacks. Our list of best protein bars for diabetics covers that.
Also note that pretty much all nutrition bars are not going to be suitable if you have nut allergies.
But some of these products are also heavily reliant on ingredients like soy and wheat.
The last thing you want to end up with is an allergic reaction or severe cramping, so always check out the packaging for typical allergens especially if you have tons of food allergies.
Planning Your Intake With Other Supplements
The important thing to keep in mind is that most of the bars above contain a good boost of protein. You might want to avoid eating them around the same time that you might be taking a post-workout recovery drink or even a meal replacement shake.
Too much protein in one go might be difficult to digest, and some people may even end up with bloating or cramps.
If you’re in a dilemma whether to stick with your protein supplement or grab a barg instead, here’s a detailed comparison of two that could help you decide: Protein Powder vs Bar.
What to Look for in the Best Meal Replacement Bars?
Not all meal replacement bars are created equal. After learning the considerations above, it's time to look at the things to look out for:
Fat and Sugar Content
A lot of meal replacement bars are high in fat and sugar content. As such, ensure that each bar has no more than 4 grams of added sugar and 4 grams of saturated fat. If you want these bars as a snack, cut it down to 2 grams of added sugar and saturated fat instead.
These are important since fats and added sugars can cause body inflammation, increasing heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis risks.
High Fiber Content
The ideal meal replacement bar should have around 2 to 3 grams of dietary fiber. Be careful, though, since some products add chicory root or other ingredients to increase fiber content artificially. Instead, look for products with fiber coming from fruits, vegetables, or nuts.
Are meal replacement bars good for weight loss?
Yes, meal replacement bars are good for weight loss, but only when combined with an overall well-balanced diet and regular exercise. By helping you reduce your calorie intake and avoid unhealthy snacks, they may help you get over a moment of weakness.
How much weight can you lose with meal replacement bars?
You could lose 1 to 2 pounds of weight per week with meal replacement bars. This does, however, heavily depend on your overall calorie intake for other meals and how much physical exercise you get.
Here’s our recommended protein-filled bars for women.
Which Meal Replacement Bar Should You Try First?
Our team here voted on the list of best meal replacement bars above, and we all agreed on Transparent Labs Uncut High-Protein Energy Bars.
The bar supplies enough calories to keep you full for most of the day, plus it doesn’t have artificial sweeteners that ruin most protein bars these days.
It actually tastes like real food because that’s exactly what’s in it. Aside from high-quality protein, the brand added natural honey, real chocolate chips, and roasted almonds to its formula so that customers can enjoy a healthy and guilt-free treat.
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