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Top 24 Protein Bars Without Artificial Sweeteners in 2021

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In this article I review 24 of the top protein bars without artificial sweeteners currently on the market.

We’ll compare how much protein they provide us & their costs, and take a close look at their nutrition facts & ingredients too.

Those are good things to do when it comes to buying a protein bar, since there’s no shortage of junk out there.

There are umpteen brands marketing an army of protein bars at us, just look:

 

Amazon protein bars search results - best protein bars - heydayDo image

 

And as you’ll soon see…

…there’s still a huge difference in quality & purity among these 24 protein bars, even after eliminating all the ones with artificial sweeteners in them.

To kick things off, below are a few arbitrary rankings I put together.

 

Table of Contents

Protein bars without artificial sweeteners

Winner Medal Good 150px- heydayDo icon

Top 5 by buyer ratings

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate 4.8

GoMacro Macrobar Blueberry Cashew 4.7

KIND Protein Crunchy Peanut Butter 4.7⭐

Good2Go Protein Bar 4.7⭐

Met-Rx Big 100 Meal Replacement 4.7⭐

 

Top 6 by product purity

Rise Bar Almond Honey

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

Larabar Protein Bar

IQBAR Brain + Body Protein Bar

Good2Go Protein Bar

Oatmega Protein Vanilla Almond

 

Top 6 by protein content

Met-Rx Big 100 Meal Replacement 31g

Met-Rx Protein Plus 29g

Rise Bar Almond Honey 20g

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover 20g

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar 20g

think! High Protein Bars 20g

 

Top 6 by cheapest cost/oz.

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover Bar

Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie

Clif Bar Salted Caramel Cashew

MET-Rx Protein Plus Bar

Larabar Protein

KIND Protein Crunchy Peanut Butter (tie)

Oatmega Protein Vanilla Almond (tie)

 

 

Bad No Good - heydayDo icon

Most processed & least pure

Met-Rx Big 100 Meal Replacement 

Met-Rx Protein Plus

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover 

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate

Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie

 

Least amount of protein

Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie – 8g

thinkThin Lean Protein Caramel – 10g

GoMacro Macrobar Protein Bar – 10g

Larabar Protein Bar – 11g

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt Bar – 12g

 

Glossary

Buyer ratings 

Based on average ⭐ of all online reviews at this time.

Product purity

My subjective viewpoint based on how clean the ingredients are.

Protein content

Ranked by grams per bar.

Cheapest cost per ounce

Using prices I’m looking at now (June 2021), which could change anytime.

Most processed / Least pure

The opposite of Product Purity above, these are the bars with the most artificial &/or unwanted ingredients.

Least amount of protein

Pretty self-explanatory. By the way, to qualify for the article a protein bar had to have a minimum of 8 grams of protein.

 

 

What’s next

Later on I will have individual reviews of all 24 protein bars included in this article, not just the ones in those Top 5 lists.

Next though, I want to take a little look at the processed nature of protein bars.

 

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

No artificial sweeteners, but…

There’s no getting around the simple fact that even with the cleanest ingredients, a protein bar is a processed food.

Some were born in labs, some have things in them that were created in chemical plants, & all of the popular ones are manufactured in food factories.

 

Grandma’s not in her kitchen baking these in the oven for us.

 

So while none of these 24 protein bars have artificial sweeteners in them, several of them have ingredients that we might want to avoid.

Gettin’ good at label reading is a nice trait to develop…😉

 

The quest for the perfect protein bar

A Sword in a Green Stone with a purple fantasy sky - from Best Protein Bars without artificial sweeteners - heydayDo image

 

I’ve dug around for clean & pure protein products a couple of times before, and then written about the gems I uncovered:

Top 8 Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners

7 Best BCAAs Without Sucralose

In both of those cases it wasn’t too hard to find several 100% pure or real clean products worth recommending.

 

Good luck striking gold in a protein bar

With protein bars though, it’s a tougher task to find that special bar that has all 3 of the following characteristics:

  • high-protein (say, > 15 grams)
  • no artificial anything (sweeteners, fillers, etc.)
  • tastes like it’s from planet Earth

So I’m resigning myself to the (apparent) fact that I can’t be as much of a stickler for purity like I was with the BCAAs & protein powders.

 

Artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes are no strangers to controversy.

After all, on the one hand the FDA’s approved them for mass consumption.

But on the other hand there are concerned physicians & dietitians recommending we avoid artificial sweeteners due to health risks. (1)

 

Lack of research on human use

The effects of long-term use of artificial sweeteners hasn’t been studied on humans much, so research evidence is lacking. (2)

 

Current medical questions

Recently some prominent health authorities have brought up more health concerns, and you can check out their comments in the links below if interested.

Harvard Medical

Sharecare (a couple of short vids)

Yale University

 

Bottom line (for me anyway):

I’m not convinced that the FDA has my best interests at heart.

Nor do I need research evidence to convince me to stop consuming artificial sweeteners. 

I avoid artificial anything whenever I can, just out of general principle:

Nature > Man-made chemicals

And with artificial sweeteners that’s real easy, ‘cause I REALLY dislike the way they taste.

 

Purple Woman eating one of the Best Protein Bars - heydayDo image

 

A few words on sugar alcohols

In case you’re unfamiliar with them, sugar alcohols are a processed ingredient often extracted out of fruit, and they’re used as a sugar substitute.

You’ll see their quantity listed on a Nutrition Facts label, and their names in the Ingredients section; they usually end in -ol:

  • erythritol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol
  • lactitol
  • isomalt

Initially, I was going to make a personal choice of mine and exclude bars that had any sugar alcohol, since technically sugar alcohols aren’t an artificial sweetener.

Actually, they’re not a sugar either; sugar alcohols are simply classified as a carbohydrate by the science & medical communities. (3)

Plus, the FDA lists them as natural sweeteners. (4)

 

Considered natural, but don’t taste like it

Despite all those facts & official classifications, for a moment or two I thought about leaving protein bars sweetened with sugar alcohol out of this article.

For one thing, I taste an “artificial-ness” in things made with sugar alcohols.

 

“Rumbly in my tumbly” – Winnie the Pooh

And my other rationale for excluding bars with sugar alcohol was because eating them sometimes gives my stomach a little discomfort.

It doesn’t happen every time I down something with a sugar alcohol in it and it’s not super uncomfortable to deal with by any means.

But when it happens, it’s noticeable.

 

I’m not the only one experiencing unwanted gastrointestinal adventures from eating sugar alcohols either, so I almost added them to the list of “banned ingredients” for this protein bar review.

But I didn’t, and you’ll find that a few of the most popular bars made with sugar alcohols are also featured in this article:

  • Quest
  • Met-Rx
  • Gatorade
  • Orgain

 

What’s not in these protein bars

Below is a list of the most common artificial sweeteners we’re likely to find in processed foods like protein bars.

Protein bars that have any of the sweeteners listed below were excluded from this review, regardless of their popularity or protein quantity.

 

Sucralose

  • AKA Splenda® (5)
  • FDA says it’s A-OK. (6)
  • Old research using rats found health issues, but no long-term human studies have been done. (7)

 

Acesulfame potassium

  • AKA Ace-k (8)
  • FDA OK’d it in 1988 and never looked back. (9)
  • Evidence of risks exist but again, no long-term studies on humans. (10)

 

These two — sucralose & Ace-k — are the biggies you’ll most likely see in a flavored protein product that is sugar-free.

 

I’ll list the other sweeteners that the food industry uses, but I don’t think they’re used much (if at all) by the supplement companies that crank out protein bars & powders.

 

Aspartame

  • AKA Equal® & NutraSweet® (11)
  • Links to health problems are weak, though rumors are strong. (12)
  • FDA & other world-leading health authorities say its OK. (13)

 

Saccharin – AKA Sweet ‘N Low® (14)

Advantame – FDA approved in 2014. (15)

Neotame  – FDA says it’s OK; I’ve never come across it. (16)

Cyclamate – banned in the US, OK for use elsewhere. (17)

 


 

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Protein bar reviews

Alrighty then, onto examining the 24 sucralose-free bars individually.

Besides main features like grams of protein & cost, I have Ingredients and Nutrition Facts labels you can check out too.

I might mention a notable thing or two that comes to mind along the way…

…but I’m going with the assumption that you’ll be seeing the same stuff (good or bad) that I am, down in the macros and ingredients info I’ve provided.

 

Taste is a very subjective personal preference

I don’t provide my opinion on how they taste for a few good reasons:

1. We all have our own individual taste preferences, and mine are abnormal…so how I think something tastes is irrelevant & probably useless info to share here.

2. You can click the image or product name and be instantly connected to tens of thousands of people who are happy to tell you how they think it tastes.

3. For the bars in this review that I haven’t ever tried (there’s 9 of them I think), I have no desire to plunk down the ca$h to buy a box of each of them, since those particular ones aren’t sold individually where I live.

 

How they’re listed here

By the way…

…the order in which these protein bars appear below is only based on their buyers’ ratings — not on how clean of a product it is, or how much protein it has in it.

Indeed, you’ll be coming across some popular sucralose-free bars that have a bucketful of artificial ingredients and a lot of processing.

(Here’s looking at you, Met-Rx and Gatorade.)

 

Buyer ratings & their comments

The ⭐ rating is calculated using all online reviews available at the time I wrote this article.

The % number you see is the percentage of reviewers who gave the product a 5 or a 4 star rating.

 

Current prices

The “Cost/oz.” calculation I provide is using prices I’m seeing today, and they will likely be a little different by the time you’re reading this.

To check current price &/or read buyer comments on Amazon, click on the bar’s pic or its product name.

 

protein bar red - heydayDo icon

 

24 best protein bars without artificial sweeteners

 

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate

4.8 95% 1,300+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 100mg

Cost/oz. – $1.06

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Power Crunch protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

GoMacro Macrobar, Blueberry Cashew

4.7 92% 3,900+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 5mg

Cost/oz. – $.93

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

GoMacro Macrobar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter

4.7 92% 3,400+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 7g

Sodium – 135mg

Cost/oz. – $0.83

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

KIND protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Good2Go Protein Bar

4.7 94% 250 online reviews

Features

Protein – 18g

Sugar – 15g

Sodium – 85mg

Cost/oz. – $1.15

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Good2Go protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

MET-Rx Big 100 – Crispy Apple Pie

4.7 93% 700+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 31g

Sugar – 30g

Sodium – 390mg

Cost/oz. – $.72

See reviews & current price on Amazon

MetRx Big 100 Bar Crispy Apple Pie Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

thinkThin Lean Protein Salted Caramel

4.6 92% 80+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $1.36

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

thinkTHIN lean protein ingredients - heydayDo image

thinkTHIN lean protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover

4.6 90% 10,500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 41g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $0.53

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Gatorade whey protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie

4.6 89% 12,100+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 8g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 220mg

Cost/oz. – $0.37

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Notes

Marketed as a 16-gram protein cookie, but note the serving size on the Nutrition Facts panel is listed as 1/2 a cookie — so only 8 grams there.

My guess is that this is done to obscure the fact that in order to get that 16 grams of protein, you’ll need to also knock down:

  • 420 calories, about 100 of which is from palm oil
  • 14g of fat
  • 440mg of sodium
  • & 24g of sugar

Lenny & Larry Complete Cookie ingredients - heydayDo image

Lenny & Larry's Complete Cookie nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

MET-Rx Protein Plus Bar

4.6 89% 5,000+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 30g

Sugar – 3g

Sodium – 510mg

Cost/oz. – $0.93

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Notes

I must confess: this bar doesn’t qualify to be here, because it has sucralose in it.

I put it in to use it as an example of how processed a protein bar can be.

I think there’s a reason the font size on their ingredients & Nutrition Facts panel is so small — my guess is they don’t want us to try & read what’s in this thing.

So besides sucralose, it does have other sweeteners as well:

  • the sugar alcohols sorbitol & maltitol;
  • cane syrup;
  • sugar;
  • fructose.

From the looks of things it has another 40+ ingredients in it too, many of whom are cooked up in a lab.

And 510mg of sodium in one bar?

I wonder if it glows in the dark…

MetRx Protein Plus Bar Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

thinkThin Vegan Chocolate Mint

4.6 88% 1,200+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $0.65

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

thinkTHIN vegan protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

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#11 – 24

Oatmega Protein Bars, Vanilla Almond

4.6 87% 500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 120mg

Cost/oz. – $0.84

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Oatmega protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Zing Plant-Based Protein Bar

4.5 88% 1,000+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $1.16

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Zing protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

4.5 85% 22,100+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 260mg

Cost/oz. – $0.84

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Rise Bar Almond Honey

4.4 84% 2,300+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 25mg

Cost/oz. – $1.05

 

Notes

Just 3 ingredients:

  • almonds
  • honey
  • whey protein isolate

See reviews & current price on Amazon

Rise protein bar almond honey nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie

4.4 84% 750+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 4g

Sodium – 80mg

Cost/oz. – $1.09

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Aloha protein Bar ingredients - heydayDo image

Aloha protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar

4.4 82% 46,000+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 2g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $0.72

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

My notes

Here in 16th place (according to buyers’ ratings) is one of the biggest-selling protein bars, with or without sucralose.

It seemed unusual to me at first that the top-selling Quest only ranked 16th in buyer satisfaction, so I looked for a rationale to explain it.

I can only venture a guess as to how a really popular product doesn’t have a higher rating than it does, so here’s mine for Quest.

 

Some Quest bars have sucralose, some don’t

Quest sells over 20 different flavors of this protein bar.

And as it turns out, over 2/3 of those have sucralose in them.

Only the 7 flavors I list below are the Quest bars without it:

  • Chocolate Hazelnut
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Cinnamon Roll
  • Double Chocolate Chunk
  • Maple Waffle
  • Mocha Chocolate Chip
  • Peanut Butter Brownie Smash

Maybe some people who didn’t want sucralose in their bar accidentally picked a flavor that had it, and left a 1-star review.

My other guess is that out of those 20+ flavors they sell a ton of, maybe a few of them taste bad.

Quest protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

think! High Protein Bars

(formerly known as thinkThin)

4.3 82% 11,000+ online reviews

 

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 0g

Sodium – 220mg

Cost/oz. – $0.79

See reviews & current price on Amazon

think! high protein bar Nutrition Facts & ingredients - heydayDo image

 

 

 

IQBAR Brain + Body, Chocolate Lovers

4.3 81% 6,400+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 0g

Sodium – 210mg

Cost/oz. – $1.29

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

IQBar protein Bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Clif Bar Whey Salted Caramel Cashew

4.3 81% 500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $1.12

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Clif protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie


4.2 79% 170+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 16g

Sugar – 8g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $1.40

 

Notes

The protein’s from crickets, which has 10x the amount of vitamin B12 as salmon and twice the iron of spinach. (18)

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Exo cricket protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars

4.2 78% 3,900+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 8g

Sugar – 7g

Sodium – 65mg

Cost/oz. – $1.00

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bar Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

 

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Bar

4.2 76% 4,200+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 6g

Sodium – 125mg

Cost/oz. – $1.04

See reviews & current price on Amazon

Orgain Protein Bar Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Larabar Protein Bar


4.2 79% 650+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 19g  (the #1 ingredient is dates)

Sodium – 115mg

Cost/oz. – $0.58

See reviews & current price on Amazon

larabar protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

No Cow Protein Bar

4.1 71% 4,100+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 21g

Sugar – 1g

Sodium – 220mg

Cost/oz. – $0.93

See current price & reviews on Amazon

No Cow Protein Bars Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

 

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar

4.0 74% 2,400+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 2g

Sodium – 70mg

Cost/oz. – $1.88

See current price & reviews on Amazon

 

 

 

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Wrapping Up

Related protein articles here on heydayDo

Top 8 Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners

7 Best BCAAs Without Sucralose Or Artificial Sweeteners

 

I hope that my article on protein bars without sucralose & other artificial sweeteners is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

Let’s go.

-greg

June 2021

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older. 
 
It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
(So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that.)