Protein bars are a hot commodity in the food-eating world. Although oftentimes appearing “healthy” with advertised benefits such as “high protein” or “rich in fiber”, many are actually just full of sugar. Popular bar brands include Nature Valley, Kashi, Nutri-Grain and Clif (the Blueberry Crisp Clif Bar has more calories than a Hershey’s Bar and nearly the same amount of sugar). One of the greatest problems I’ve found is the sheer amount of ingredients that are found in these bars. The long lists include words like vegetable glycerin, soy lecithin, barley malt extract, and tocopherols. However, there has been a movement towards greater transparency in food and their ingredients, which has resulted in a number of simple yet delicious and popular bars. I have tested several below. All contain less than 10 ingredients that are well-known and easy to pronounce.
Each bar comes with base ingredients that include egg whites, nuts and dates. Currently, there are nearly 20 different bars that feature classics like Peanut Butter and Blueberry as well as seasonal originals like Gingerbread and Pumpkin Spice. RXBars were one of the early adopters of combining the natural sweetness of dates with protein-packed egg whites. The company, based in Chicago, was started in 2012. Their message promotes simplicity in ingredients and a product that is both filling and tasty.
Bar: Coffee Chocolate
Ingredients: Dates, Egg Whites, Almonds, Cashews, Chocolates, Natural Flavors, Cocoa, Coffee, Sea Salt
Conclusion: I found RXBars to be filling and sustainable as a meal replacement. The combination of egg whites and nuts offers a healthy amount of protein while the dates provide a natural sweetness. However, there have been complaints that the bar can be difficult to eat and frequently winds up getting stuck to the roof of your mouth or teeth. Personally, I do not find this to be a huge drawback. I highly recommend the Maple Sea Salt or Coconut Chocolate.
Larabar has been a popular bar with a simple message. They initially drew crowds by offering bars that contained less than 5 ingredients. All bars are vegan, soy-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, kosher and non-GMO. The popular “Whole 30 Diet” has also given Larabar the seal of approval and drawn in many of the paleo eaters. Larabars have a wide variety of bars and products. Some of their more unique offerings include Carrot Cake, Key Lime Pie, and Peanut Butter & Jelly.
Bar: Apple Pie
Ingredients: Dates, Almonds, Unsweetened Apples, Walnuts, Raisins, Cinnamon
Conclusion: Larabars are a great bar for a snack or dessert but are not as filling as some of their counterparts. The high ratio of dates and dried fruit result in more sugar and less protein. However, Larabar blows away its competition as a snack that is both satisfying in taste and healthiness. My favorite bar is their Coconut Cream Pie but they have expanded to include bars that may seem like dessert (ie. their Gingerbread, Cinnamon Roll and Snickerdoodle bars) but gain their flavor by using the naturally sweet dates, dried fruit, and spices.
Epic is a company that is known for their sustainably-raised meat products. These bars are protein-packed and include bison, chicken, venison, beef, turkey, lamb, salmon, and wild boar. However, they have recently debuted a bar that shares many similar elements to both RXBars and Larabars. The Epic Performance bars are non-GMO, include 12 grams of protein and are made with cage-free egg whites. Currently, their four flavors are Peanut Butter Chocolate, Almond Butter Chocolate, Lemon and Peanut Butter.
Bar: Peanut Butter
Ingredients: Dates, Peanuts, Cage Free Egg Whites, Peanut Oil, Sea Salt
Conclusion: I was interested to try Epic’s latest creation and see how the meat-focused company would do with their meat-free Epic Performance bars. However, after trying the Peanut Butter Chocolate and Almond Butter Chocolate I was disappointed in the lack of flavor these bars offered. With a nearly identical ingredient layout as the RXBars, Epic failed in its attempt to create a flavorful and healthy bar. Although their bars offer the same amount of protein as the RXBars, they include a much higher amount of sugar. For a price point that is nearly identical to RXBars, Epic does not compete in taste or nutritional value.
When choosing a bar, I find myself gravitating towards the RXBars. While all three brands feature bars that hover around 200 or so calories, the RX Bar combines the most grams protein with the least amount of sugar. For those who are vegan, Larabar is your clear choice. However, for the vegetarians and meat-eaters, RXBar is the obvious choice. Larabar was great as a snack and offers a greater range of unique and delicious bars while RXBars are more filling as a meal replacement. Epic is new to the scene and my lesser preferred option. However, with a brand that is highly developed, Epic most definitely has the potential to grow their Epic Performance brand.
Elizabeth is a longtime writer and current documentary filmmaker from Los Angeles California. Knowing the greater story of all who cross her path is her inspiration. She’s deeply passionate about food and health and enjoys cooking, exercise and being active in nature whenever possible. You’ll likely find her on a hike, in a documentary screening or at the local Farmer’s Market.