Having tried numerous meal replacement shakes, I have found that while they offer nutritional benefits, they may not be the most practical option for those on the go.
From my experience, nutrition bars packed with natural and essential ingredients can be a more convenient snack option, helping curb those midday hunger pangs.
The problem is, though, that the majority of nutrition bars are not that nutritious. And with tons of sugar, they might do you more harm than good.
So, our team tested over 50 products throughout 30 days to develop a list of the best meal replacement bars.
The Best Meal Replacement Bars
- Best Overall Meal Replacement Bar: IQ Bar
- Cheapest Meal Replacement Bar: Redcon1 MRE Bar
- Best Vegan-Friendly Meal Replacement Bar: GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Bars
- Leading Meal Replacement Bar for Athletes: Zoneperfect Nutrition Bar
- Best Tasting Meal Replacement Bar: Oatmega Protein Bars
- Top Pick Protein-Rich Meal Replacement Bar: Quest Nutrition Protein Bar
- Best Organic Meal Replacement Bar: Probar Meal On-The-Go Bars
- Finest Natural Flavor Meal Replacement Bar: Isagenix IsaLean Bars
- Best Paleo-Friendly Meal Replacement Bar: PaleoPro Primal Protein Bar
- Top Choice High-Fiber Meal Replacement Bar: Zing Bars
Our Best Meal Replacement Bars for Weight Loss (December 2023)
1 - IQ Bar (Best Overall)
In my thorough hunt for the perfect protein bar, I tried several choices, looking at nutrient composition, ingredient purity, and flavor. Out of them all, IQ Bar repeatedly shone.
I've frequently suggested it to my clients for its well-rounded nutrient makeup and because of the upbeat comments on how well it works as a meal substitute.
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 love!) to something unique like lemon blueberry.
Given their lower calorie and protein content, I often advise pairing these bars with a low-carb fruit, Greek yogurt, or a handful of nuts for a more balanced meal.
2 - GoMacro MacroBar Organic Vegan Protein Bars (Best Vegan-Friendly)
In our search for the best bars, my team and I were drawn to the GoMacro MacroBar because of its plant-based ingredients. It quickly became a top recommendation for my vegan clients and those looking to avoid 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.
3 - Zoneperfect Nutrition Bar (Best for Athletes)
While trying to find effective meal replacement options, my team and I tried Zoneperfect. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, especially from the athletes I train. They liked its 14 grams of protein, noting its benefits post-cardio.
This is a perfect protein boost for anyone wanting a good-sized snack before doing 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.
4 - Oatmega Protein Bars (Best Tasting)
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
Based on feedback from my clients, the balanced macro of 14 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 200 calories per bar has consistently been effective in replacing a meal during their busy days.
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 soy allergies.
5 - Quest Nutrition Protein Bar (Top Pick Protein-Rich)
Quest protein bars are what we recommend to folks looking to maximize protein intake.
From my experience using various protein sources, these bars, with their impressive 21 grams of protein, match what many expect from a post-workout 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.
6 - Probar Meal On-The-Go Bars (Best Organic)
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
After several clients tried out these bars, the feedback was mixed. While a few felt the protein and fiber content could be higher, most agreed that the bars did a great job at curbing hunger and delivering a pleasing flavor.
7 - Isagenix IsaLean Bars (Finest Natural Flavor)
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
In our team's trials, we were pleasantly surprised by the refreshing nature of these bars. The lemon flavor often had us questioning if we were straying from our dietary goals.
It can a bit high on sugars so I'd be careful with that.
8 - Redcon1 MRE Bar (Cheapest Option)
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.
9 - PaleoPro Primal Protein Bars (Best Paleo-Friendly)
Many athletes I've worked with are drawn to the PaleoPro bar, mainly because of its impressive 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
10 - Zing Bars (Top Choice High-Fiber)
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
I found these bars to be a delightful treat after adding them to my workout routines. However, feedback from some clients highlighted the 9 grams of sugar per serving, indicating it might not fit every dietary regimen.
11 - Transparent Labs Uncut High-Protein Energy Bars
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.
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?
You must look out for fat, sugar, and high fiber content, as they could potentially harm your body if you consume them excessively. Not all meal replacement bars are created equal. Here's why:
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.
Which Meal Replacement Bar Should You Try First?
Upon collecting all information and votes from our team, we concluded that the best meal replacement bar you should try first is IQ Bar.
This bar contains the right amount of proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to improve your recovery time after an intense workout session.
Also, you can use the IQ bar as a meal replacement due to its high amount of fiber and additional omega-3 fatty acids.
It is made exclusively from organically sourced ingredients, and you will even get good subscription discounts to save some extra money.
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