My Top 21 Protein Bars Without Artificial Sweeteners (2024)

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Protein Bars Without Artificial Sweeteners - heydayDo feature image

In this article I review 21 of the top protein bars without artificial sweeteners currently on the market.

We’ll compare how much protein they provide us 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 21 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.

Throughout the article, product images & any product names in blue are links to their Amazon product page if you want to check out current price & buyers’ opinions, & they open in a separate browser.

 

Table of Contents show

Protein bars without artificial sweeteners

Winner Medal Good 150px- heydayDo icon

Top 4 by product purity

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Top 5 by buyer ratings

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Top 6 by protein content

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Top 5 by cheapest cost/oz.

(last time I checked anyway, Winter 2023-24)

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

 

Bad No Good - heydayDo icon

Most processed & least pure

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Least amount of protein

Last update on 2024-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

Glossary

Product purity

My subjective viewpoint based on how clean the ingredients are, & we’ll look at what all of those ingredients are a little later.

Protein content

Ranked by grams per bar.

Buyer ratings

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

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 21 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.

test tubes orange - heydayDo icon

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 21 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 articles about the gems I uncovered:

Top 8 Protein Powders Without Artificial Sweeteners

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 fact that maybe 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 simply 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 should see their names in the Ingredients section & you’ll see the sugar alcohol quantity listed on a Nutrition Facts label; they usually end in -ol:

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

 

Speaking of erythritol…

It recently came under fire from a Cleveland Clinic cardiology study linking erythritol to heightened risk for what they label as MACE (major adverse cardiovascular events).

Those “events” include stroke, heart attack, & death, so this is serious stuff, because Cleveland Clinic is one of the most respected cardiology medical centers in the world.

That link I shared with you above goes to the clinical trial’s abstract, which (if you don’t know) means a brief summary of the research study. It was published in the Nature Medicine Journal.

If you’d like a more “in plain English” explanation with quotes from one of the lead investigating physicians, here’s a link to Cleveland Clinic’s Newsroom:

Cleveland Clinic Study Finds Common Artificial Sweetener Linked to Higher Rates of Heart Attack and Stroke

There are limitations to every research trial ever done, for umpteen reasons. So keep in mind that “linked” is not the same guilty verdict as “caused”, but this issue is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

 

My 2¢ on sugar alcohols in general:

Even prior to that research study’s publication, I was going to make a personal choice and also exclude bars that had any sugar alcohol from this article. My reasoning: they’re man-made & taste artificial to me.

But…

 

The authorities’ word on sugar alcohols: they’re “natural”

Sugar alcohols aren’t considered an artificial sweetener according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

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

And thus the FDA lists them as natural sweeteners. (4)

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

Besides my suspicions about how healthy they are, I’ve also gotten negative feedback from my digestive system.

 

“Rumbly in my tumbly” – Winnie the Pooh

I found that protein bars & powders with sugar alcohols sometimes gave my stomach discomfort.

It didn’t happen every time I downed something with a sugar alcohol in it and it wasn’t super uncomfortable to deal with by any means, but it definitely got my attention.

Enough to make me avoid them too.

The culprit in my diet was the ubiquitous Pure Protein line of snack bars my wife buys at Costco. She travels often, & that’s one of her packable travel snacks.

(Late at night I can be found scrounging around in the kitchen pantry indiscriminately…)

 

Plus I’m not the only one experiencing unwanted gastrointestinal adventures from eating sugar alcohols either, so I think you can see why I almost listed them as a “banned” ingredient alongside sucralose, acesulfame potassium, etc.

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

  • Quest
  • Met-Rx
  • Gatorade
  • Orgain
  • think!, and No Cow (two smaller snack brands)

Note: Pure Protein bars have sucralose in them as well, that’s the reason they were left off this review.

Liv Pure Liver Detox & Liver Fat Burning Weight Loss Supplement

 

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

 

Acesulfame potassium

 

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

 

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

 

Saccharin – AKA Sweet ‘N Low®

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 on the planet. (17)

 

Protein bar reviews

Alrighty then, onto examining the 21 sucralose-free bars individually.

Besides main features like grams of protein & sodium, 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 probably abnormal anyway. So how I think something tastes is irrelevant & probably useless info to share with you 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 cash to buy a box of each of them, since those particular ones aren’t sold individually where I live.

 

Buyer ratings

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.

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

 

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 very 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.)

LeanBiome Weight Loss Supplement

 

21 best protein bars without artificial sweeteners

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate

4.8 95% 

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 100mg

Power Crunch protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

GoMacro Macrobar, Blueberry Cashew

GoMacro Macrobar

4.7 92% 

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 5mg

GoMacro Macrobar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter

KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter

4.7 92% 

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 7g

Sodium – 135mg

KIND protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Good2Go Protein Bar

Good2Go Protein Bar

 

4.7 94% 

Features

Protein – 18g

Sugar – 15g

Sodium – 85mg

Good2Go protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

MET-Rx Big 100

MET-Rx Big 100

4.7 93% 

Features

Protein – 31g

Sugar – 30g

Sodium – 390mg

 

Notes

This is one of the bars I mentioned earlier that a sugar alcohol in it, and in this case MetRx is using maltitol syrup. You’ll see it in the third line of the ingredients list below, though Met-Rx is going with the smallest font in existence, so good luck with that.

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

 

 

thinkThin Lean Protein Salted Caramel

thinkThin Lean Protein Salted Caramel

 

4.6 92% 

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 200mg

thinkTHIN lean protein ingredients - heydayDo image

thinkTHIN lean protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover

4.6 90% 

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 41g

Sodium – 160mg

 

Notes

Here’s another bar with sugar alcohol in it, in case you’re interested. See the Total Carbohydrate section in the Nutrition Facts panel below.

Unfortunately we can’t tell which one they’re using, because they don’t list its name in the ingredients, which is…odd if not suspect.

Gatorade whey protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie

Lenny & Larry's The Complete Cookie

4.6 89% 

Features

Protein – 8g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 220mg

 

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

**palm oil – it’s no good for your cardiovascular system & its industry wreaks havoc on the earth’s ecosystem, so I avoid it… 

Lenny & Larry Complete Cookie ingredients - heydayDo image

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

 

 

MET-Rx Protein Plus Bar

MET-Rx Protein Plus Bar

4.6 89% 

Features

Protein – 30g

Sugar – 3g

Sodium – 510mg

 

Notes

A huge amount of sugar alcohol in this thing, 23 grams’ worth of maltitol, maltitol syrup, & sorbitol. Yikes.

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

I snuck it in here just to make an example out of it to show you 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:

  • cane syrup;
  • sugar;
  • fructose;
  • those sugar alcohols.

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

thinkThin Vegan Chocolate Mint

4.6 88% 

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 160mg

 

Notes

Big dose (9 grams) of the sugar alcohol maltitol syrup in this one.

thinkTHIN vegan protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

#11 – 21

Zing Plant-Based Protein Bar

Zing Plant-Based Protein Bar

4.5 88% 

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 160mg

Zing protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

4.5 85% 

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 260mg

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Rise Bar Almond Honey

Rise Bar Almond Honey

4.4 84% 

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 25mg

 

Notes

Just 3 ingredients:

  • almonds
  • honey
  • whey protein isolate

Rise protein bar almond honey nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie

ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie

4.4 84% 

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 4g

Sodium – 80mg

Aloha protein Bar ingredients - heydayDo image

Aloha protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar

4.3 82% 

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 2g

Sodium – 200mg

 

Note: This bar has the sugar alcohol erythritol in it, but not all Quest bars I’ve come across use erythritol.

Here in 16th place (according to buyers’ ratings) is one of the biggest-selling protein bars in the country & on Amazon, 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.

 

**Some Quest bars have sucralose, some don’t

Quest sells more than 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 were the Quest bars I found** without it:

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

** – Keep in mind you may come across others. Big protein companies like Quest often swap out poorly-selling flavors for new ones.

 

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

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

Theory 2: My other guess is that out of those 20+ flavors they sell a ton of, maybe a few of them just taste bad. For evidence, I bought a variety 12-pack directly from Quest, and not all of those won my taste buds over…

Quest protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

think! High Protein Bars

(formerly known as thinkThin)

think! High Protein Bars

4.3 82% 

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 0g

Sodium – 220mg

 

Notes

Another think! bar with a lot of maltitol syrup in it (10g).

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

 

 

IQBAR Brain + Body, Chocolate Lovers

IQBAR Brain + Body, Chocolate Lovers

4.3 81% 

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 0g

Sodium – 210mg

IQBar protein Bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars

4.2 78%

Features

Protein – 8g

Sugar – 7g

Sodium – 65mg

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bar Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Bar

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Bar

4.2 74% 

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 6g

Sodium – 125mg

 

Notes

This has 3 grams of erythritol in it, as of today anyway.

I wonder if any of these big protein manufacturers (Met-Rx, Gatorade, Quest, & Orgain) will change their protein bar recipes & swap out erythritol for something better.

Guess it depends on how much public reaction there is to that erythritol research study I shared earlier.

I drink the unflavored version of Orgain’s Collagen Peptides powder from time to time, and I noticed that they currently use erythritol in their chocolate-flavored collagen protein powder too.

Orgain Protein Bar Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

No Cow Protein Bar

No Cow Protein Bar

4.2 73% 

Features

Protein – 21g

Sugar – 1g

Sodium – 220mg

 

Notes

Sorry I forgot to take a picture of their Ingredients panel for you. But I can pass along that they use erythritol as their sugar alcohol of choice.

They have lots of flavors — I saw 10 listed — and the amount of sugar alcohol varies among those bars, from 5 to 8 grams.

No Cow Protein Bars Nutrition Facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar

4.0 74% 

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 2g

Sodium – 70mg

 

FAQ

Here are answers to a few commonly asked questions about protein bars without sucralose, artificial sweeteners, etc.

Is it bad to eat protein bars everyday?

Whether or not a protein bar is healthy enough to eat daily depends on what's in it. It is important to know its ingredients and the amount of protein, fat, carbs, calories, and sugar it has.

Do Quest protein bars have artificial sweeteners?

The majority of Quest bars currently on the market have sucralose, but not all of them. So you'll need to read the ingredients label to check for sucralose; it's usually one of the last things listed.

Which protein bars don't have sugar alcohols?

Four of the best protein bars without sugar alcohols are:
* Rise Whey Protein Bars
* KIND Crunchy Peanut Butter Protein Bar
* G2G Protein Bars
* RXBAR, Chocolate Sea Salt

 

Wrapping Up

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.

-greg

 

 

About The Author

heydayDo author Greg Simon

Hi, I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) Pro Member. MBA, B.Sc.

Author. Surfer. Organic food grower. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far).

heydayDo.com is my wellness blog that’s about encouraging a healthy lifestyle as we age. 

I share my fitness training experience as well as the sports science research I’ve done on the many benefits strength building, exercise, & good eating habits offer us. 

I also write review articles after product testing and evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.

My hope is that you’ll find useful or encouraging information here on my website that will benefit your unique fitness journey.

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