Top 20 Protein Bars Without Artificial Sweeteners

In this article I review 20 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 20 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.

 

Protein bars without artificial sweeteners

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Top 5 by buyer ratings

Power Crunch Triple Chocolate 4.8

thinkThin Lean Protein Caramel 4.6

KIND Protein Crunchy Peanut Butter 4.6

Oatmega Protein Vanilla Almond 4.6

GoMacro Macrobar Cashew Caramel 4.5

 

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

Good2Go Protein Bar 18g

Exo Bar Fudge Brownie 16g

 

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)

 

 

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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 (summer 2020), 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 20 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 20 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

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

Top 5 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

 

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.

 

Sugar alcohols

This is a personal choice of mine to exclude these, since technically sugar alcohols aren’t an artificial sweetener or even a sugar: they’re a carbohydrate. (3)

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

 

Sugar alcohols make my stomach feel a little funky

I didn’t like the way my tum-tum felt after eating a sugar alcohol-infused Pure Protein bar.

It wasn’t super uncomfortable to deal with by any means, but it was noticeable.

The wife bought a case of them at Costco, so I was able to replicate the digestive distress I got from that first bar a few times…just to be sure, apparently. 😄

I’m not the only one experiencing funky symptoms from eating sugar alcohols either, so it wasn’t hard to add it to the list of “banned ingredients” for this protein bar review.

 


 

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 20 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 they’re not sold individually around here.

 

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.

To read more buyer comments, click on the pic or the product name.

 

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Power Crunch Triple Chocolate

4.8 94% 650+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 100mg

Cost/oz. – $1.01

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Power Crunch protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

thinkThin Lean Protein Salted Caramel

4.6 94% 50+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $1.53

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

thinkTHIN lean protein ingredients - heydayDo image

thinkTHIN lean protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

KIND Protein, Crunchy Peanut Butter

4.6 90% 1,000+ 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

 

 

Oatmega Protein Bars, Vanilla Almond

4.6 90% 400+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 120mg

Cost/oz. – $0.83

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Oatmega protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

GoMacro Macrobar, Cashew Caramel

4.5 87% 1,200+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 10g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 5mg

Cost/oz. – $1.27

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

GoMacro Macrobar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

MET-Rx Big 100 – Crispy Apple Pie

4.6 91% 650+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 31g

Sugar – 29g

Sodium – 390mg

Cost/oz. – $2.09

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Met-Rx Big 100 protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image11

 

 

Gatorade Whey Protein Recover

4.5 86% 2,500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 41g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $0.31

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Gatorade whey protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Clif Bar Whey Salted Caramel Cashew

4.5 85% 500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $0.66

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Clif protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

IQBAR Brain + Body, Chocolate Lovers

4.4 86% 1,200+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 0g

Sodium – 210mg

Cost/oz. – $1.30

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

IQBar protein Bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Rise Bar Almond Honey

4.4 84% 1,000+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 25mg

Cost/oz. – $1.01

 

Notes

Just 3 ingredients:

  • almonds
  • honey
  • whey protein isolate

See reviews & current price on Amazon

Rise protein bar almond honey nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

#11 – 20

Zing Plant-Based Protein Bar

4.4 84% 500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 12g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $1.07

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Zing protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt

4.3 81% 8,500+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 12g

Sugar – 13g

Sodium – 260mg

Cost/oz. – $0.85

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Rx Bar Chocolate Sea Salt nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

ALOHA Chocolate Chip Cookie

4.3 82% 100+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 14g

Sugar – 4g

Sodium – 95mg

Cost/oz. – $0.83

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Aloha protein Bar ingredients - heydayDo image

Aloha protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Cookie

4.3 81% 4,500+ 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

4.3 82% 200+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 29g

Sugar – 3g

Sodium – 500mg

Cost/oz. – $0.73

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Notes

I must confess: this bar doesn’t qualify to be here.

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 — they don’t want us to try & read what’s in this thing.

So it does have sucralose, and it does have sugar alcohols.

From the looks of things it has about 50 other ingredients in it too, most of which are cooked up in a lab.

And 500mg of sodium in one bar?

I wonder if it glows in the dark…

Met-Rx protein plus bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Good2Go Protein Bar

4.3 80% 100+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 18g

Sugar – 15g

Sodium – 85mg

Cost/oz. – $1.16

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Good2Go protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Exo Bar Chocolate Fudge Brownie

4.3 80% 50+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 16g

Sugar – 8g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $1.17

 

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

 

 

thinkThin Vegan Chocolate Mint

4.2 79% 900+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 13g

Sugar – 5g

Sodium – 160mg

Cost/oz. – $1.63

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

thinkTHIN vegan protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Larabar Protein Bar

4.1 77% 50+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 11g

Sugar – 18g

Sodium – 140mg

Cost/oz. – $0.81

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Larabar protein bar ingredients - heydayDo image

Larabar protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar

4.1 75% 20,000+ online reviews

Features

Protein – 20g

Sugar – 2g

Sodium – 200mg

Cost/oz. – $0.91

See reviews & current price on Amazon

 

Notes

Disclaimer: I should’ve excluded it because it has erythritol in it but didn’t, for an odd reason too.

Here in 20th place (according to buyers’ ratings) is one of the biggest-selling protein bars, with or without sucralose.

It seemed odd to me at first that Quest only ranked 20th in buyer satisfaction, so I looked for a rationale to explain it.

(And included it in this review in the process.)

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, maybe a few of them taste bad.

Quest protein bar nutrition facts - heydayDo image

 

 

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Protein bars that didn’t make the team

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I evaluated close to 40 different bars when I first started putting this Top 20 product review together.

Some got the boot because, although they were listed somewhere as artificial sweetener-free, they had sugar alcohols in them & remember, I excluded those from my review.

 

Outside the Top 20

Then there were protein bars that qualified ingredient-wise, but didn’t have high enough buyer ratings to crack my Top 20 list.

There were 8 of those, and they’re listed below in case you’re interested.

 

#21-28

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Bar

4.1 74% 2,500+ online reviews

 

 

thinkThin High Protein Bars

4.0 73% 800+ online reviews

 

 

Health Warrior Organic Pumpkin Seed Bars

4.0 71% 900+ online reviews

 

 

ThinkThin Protein & Superfruit Bar

4.0 67% 100+ online reviews

 

 

EPIC Bar Smoked Maple Bacon

3.9 70% 2,000+ online reviews

 

 

Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar

3.9 69% 1,000+ online reviews

 

 

No Cow Protein Bar

3.8 68% 2,700+ online reviews

 

 

NuGo Slim Dark Chocolate Brownie

3.6 69% 1,000+ online reviews

 

 

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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.

Let’s go.

– greg

July 2020

 

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About Me

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Surfer. Organic food & wine grower. Guitarist. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far).

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About heydayDo

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 advice, hit up your doctor or health professional for that. I’m just shootin’ the breeze here…) 
 
heydayDo began as a daily journal I kept as I recovered from the latest of many heart operations I’ve had to deal with since birth. 
 
I have a deep interest in learning about nutrition & fitness, and applying it to improve my quality of life.
 
I believe this knowledge can help me be the healthiest & strongest version of me as I can, even in the face of inborn heart disease.
heydayDo author Greg Simon at 60 (Jan 2020) original

The 60-year-old version of me, January 2020

So when I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s hype.
 
Here on heydayDo I share what I’ve learned from my fitness, health, & nutrition research with whoever drops by.