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Protein bars are a convenient and tasty option for increasing your protein intake, but some protein bars are very high in calories. Choosing a protein bar with under 200 calories can help you hit your protein goals without going over your calorie target.
What are the best protein bars for less than 200 calories? Julian Bakery Paleo Thins are the best protein bars under 200 calories because they have the highest protein per calorie (20g of protein for 150 calories).
When buying protein bars, it’s important to make sure you get one with as much protein and as few unwanted additives as possible. Some “protein” bars actually have more fat or sugar than protein.
Our approach to reviewing protein bars is unique because we look at just how much protein you’re getting for every calorie you eat in a protein bar.
In this article, I’ll rank the protein bars from highest to lowest protein content. All of the bars are under 200 calories.
I’ll also discuss:
- What ingredients to watch out for in 200-calorie bars
- Who should eat 200-calorie protein bars
- When to eat 200-calorie protein bars
What To Look For in a 200-Calorie Protein Bar
To find the best 200-calorie protein bar on the market, you need to consider the protein content, the fiber content, the sweeteners used, and any common allergens in each protein bar.
Bars that are marketed as “protein” bars contain varying amounts of protein. There is no labeling rule about the minimum amount of protein required for a protein bar to be called a protein bar.
As a nutrition coach, my definition of a high-protein food is one that has at least 10 grams of protein per serving. When it comes to protein bars, I recommend looking for one with at least 0.1 grams of protein per calorie.
A level of 0.1g/cal is a good source of protein. A level that is greater than 0.1g/cal is an excellent source of protein. A level that is lower than 0.1g/cal is not a good source of protein for a protein bar.
Based on my recommendation, a 200-calorie protein bar should have at least 20g of protein. All of the bars in this list have more than 0.1g/cal.
Key Takeaway: Look for protein bars that provide approximately 0.1g of protein for each calorie; for a 200-calorie protein bar, this would be 20 grams of protein.
Fiber is an important nutrient for digestion. It provides bulk to food items without adding calories, which makes it a commonly added ingredient for lower-calorie protein bars. This bulk helps digested food move easily through your digestive system.
However, fiber can cause digestive problems like constipation or diarrhea, so it’s important not to eat too much of it, either. The fiber content of your protein bar needs to be considered relative to when you’re eating the bar and to other sources of fiber in your diet.
Prior to working out, fiber intake should be relatively low so it does not slow down your digestion and cause discomfort during training. It’s best to choose a bar with 5g of fiber or less for a pre-workout snack.
Whole foods like oatmeal, rice, fruit, and vegetables also provide fiber in your daily diet. When you add all your sources of fiber together, the recommended total daily fiber intake is 25g-28g of fiber for women and 31-34g of fiber for men.
Key Takeaway: Consider the timing of your protein bar as well as the other sources of fiber in your diet when you decide on the best protein bar for your needs.
- Related Article: 10 Best Low-Fiber Protein Bars (As Rated By Dieticians)
Many different sweeteners beyond sugar are used to sweeten 200-calorie protein bars. It’s important to know which sweeteners work best for you because some types of sweeteners can cause digestive issues for people with sensitivities to them, and others leave a bitter aftertaste for some people.
Sugar alcohols provide a similar taste and texture to sugar but for a fraction of the calories, which makes them a common sweetener in lower-calorie protein bars. The lower calorie content is a great benefit for people looking to maximize their protein intake without exceeding their calories.
On the other hand, some individuals find that sugar alcohols cause digestive distress such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This is more common in people with underlying conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Sugar alcohols that are common in protein bars include erythritol, xylitol, vegetable glycerin, sorbitol, and mannitol. If these ingredients cause problems for you, it’s best not to eat protein bars that contain them.
Even if the nutrition information on a protein bar says 0g of sugar alcohols, it’s best to check the ingredient list to be sure that sugar alcohols are not included in small amounts. Label laws allow companies to round to 0g if the total per serving is less than 0.5g, meaning the ingredient could still be in the product in a small amount.
Key Takeaway: If a sugar alcohol is listed in the ingredients, there is a small amount in your protein bar, even if the nutritional label says 0g of sugar alcohols per serving.
High-intensity sweeteners provide an extra sweet flavor for zero calories. Only a tiny amount is needed because they are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. This makes them a common sweetener in lower-calorie protein bars.
High-intensity sweeteners that are common in protein bars include aspartame, sucralose, and stevia. Some people experience a bitter aftertaste with certain types of high-intensity sweeteners. If these sweeteners are unpleasant for you, it’s best not to eat protein bars that contain them.
I’m a fan of protein bars that are less sweet or are sweetened only with stevia, a naturally-occurring form of high-intensity sweetener that comes from the stevia plant. The taste is still sweet enough to curb my sweet tooth and satisfy my craving for a sweet snack.
Key Takeaway: Pick protein bars with the sweeteners that work best for you by paying careful attention to the labels and noticing if you experience any side effects after eating them.
- Related Article: 10 Best Protein Bars Without Sugar Alcohols
Allergens such as milk, soy, nuts, peanuts, and eggs are common ingredients in many protein bars. If you have any food allergies, it’s important to check the ingredient list carefully, as some protein bars contain ingredients you wouldn’t expect.
Manufacturers are always looking for alternative ingredients to increase the protein content while lowering the calories, so it’s worth checking to see if you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the protein bar.
Key Takeaway: Read the ingredients carefully to avoid protein bars that contain ingredients that you are allergic or intolerant to.
- Related Article: 15 High-Protein 200-Calorie Snacks
Best Protein Bars Under 200 Calories
There are many protein bars under 200 calories on the market today. This article provides a dozen with more than 0.1 grams of protein per calorie.
The bars are ranked based on the number of grams of protein per calorie, from highest to lowest.
The top 12 protein bars on the market for under 200 calories are:
- Julian Bakery Paleo Thin Sunflower Butter Protein Bar: Protein Bar With the Highest Protein Per Calorie
- BSN Syntha-6 Protein Bar – Cold Stone Creamery Mint Mint Chocolate Chip: Protein Bar With the Best Ice Cream Flavor
1. Julian Bakery Paleo Thins Sunflower Butter Protein Bar: Protein Bar With the Highest Protein Per Calorie
Julian Bakery makes a range of paleo-friendly high-protein products, and its Paleo Thins Sunflower Butter Protein Bars provide the highest protein per calorie out of all the bars on this list. Each bar has 150 calories and 20g of protein (0.133g protein per calorie), which is higher than my recommendation of 0.1g.
I’m also really impressed with the short list of just four recognizable ingredients in these bars: egg whites, sunflower seed butter, fiber from tapioca starch, and monk fruit extract as the only sweetener.
This means the bars are naturally grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free, making them perfect for anyone who follows the paleo diet or has allergies or intolerances to these foods. The only allergen is eggs.
However, these bars are extremely high in fiber (24g per bar), which means they could result in a daily fiber intake that is too high when combined with other whole food sources of fiber. This is especially true for women, who have a recommended daily fiber intake of 25-28g.
|Julian Bakery Paleo Thins Sunflower Butter Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Monkfruit extract|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.133|
Built brand makes a range of protein bars with a similar calorie and macronutrient content. My favorite is the Coconut Built Bar. Its soft texture and coconut filling remind me of one of my favorite chocolate bars, the Bounty Bar. These bars also have the second-highest protein per calorie, coming in at 0.131g/cal.
My favorite way to eat these bars is straight out of the fridge, which gives them a firmer texture to bite into. On the other hand, some of my friends much prefer their warm & squishy texture right after their workouts.
With only 2.5g of fat per bar, these are a great choice after training because it’s important to keep fats moderate after exercise to avoid slowing down digestion.
The high sugar alcohol content in these bars (8g/bar) could cause digestive distress in sensitive individuals. Additionally, they contain milk and soy, so those who are allergic to these items should choose a different protein bar option.
|Built Bar Coconut Bars||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Sugar, maltodextrin, glycerin & erythritol|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.131|
|Allergens||Milk & soy|
3. Kirkland Signature Cookies and Cream Protein Bar: Best Budget Protein Bar
On your next trip to Costco, you can pick up the Kirkland Signature Cookies and Cream Protein Bar, which packs in 22g of protein for only 170 calories. This equals 0.129g of protein per calorie. These bars have a delicious taste and texture with cookie pieces throughout.
These bars are sweetened with erythritol and stevia, so they contain a small amount of sugar alcohol (1g per bar). But this is much lower than the sugar alcohol content in the Built bars (8g per bar).
With 10g of fiber per bar, these bars are too high in fiber to be the right choice for a pre-workout snack, but they are helpful as a high-fiber snack at any other time of the day to help you reach your daily recommended fiber intake.
These bars contain milk, cashews, and coconut, so they are not suitable for anyone with those allergies.
|Kirkland Signature Cookies and Cream Protein Bars||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Erythritol & stevia|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.129|
|Allergens||Milk, cashews & coconut|
4. NuGo Smarte Carb Chocolate Black Cherry Protein Bar: Highest Plant-Based Protein Bar
The NuGo Smarte Carb Chocolate Black Cherry Protein Bars rely on soy for their protein content, packing a full 18g into 150 calories. However, they are not fully vegan because they also include milk fat in the ingredients. These bars use beets for a natural color instead of synthetic dyes.
I really like that these plant-based bars do not contain nuts. Many other plant-based protein bars also have nut ingredients, which means they are not suitable for anyone with nut allergies. However, the bars contain milk and soy, so anyone with those allergies will need to avoid them.
The bars also contain the second highest amount of sugar alcohols of any bar on this list (14g per bar) after the CarbRite bars (19g per bar), which means they are more likely to cause digestive problems in sensitive individuals. I definitely notice more gassiness if I try to eat one of these protein bars every day.
|NuGo Smarte Carb Chocolate Black Cherry Protein Bars||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Maltitol syrup, sucralose, polydextrose, & chicory root fiber|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.120|
|Allergens||Milk, & soy|
5. Quest Nutrition Birthday Cake Protein Bar: Best Coated Protein Bar
Quest Nutrition brand protein bars and protein powders are my absolute favorite products when it comes to baking with protein powder. The Birthday Cake flavor protein bar is the best coated bar in this list, with a smooth white coating and fun sprinkles to celebrate 21g of protein in a 180-calorie bar.
Quest has a range of great flavors with similar calorie counts (160-220), so if Birthday Cake isn’t your favorite flavor, there are still other great options to choose from.
The Birthday Cake flavor is sometimes sweetened with erythritol and stevia, and other times with erythritol and sucralose, depending on where and when it was manufactured. It’s important to read the labels on your package carefully and choose the sweeteners that work best for you.
Quest bars are also high in fiber, with 14g per bar. This is less than the Julian Bakery Paleo Thins (24g) but still approximately half the recommended daily fiber intake for adults. It needs to be considered along with other sources of fiber in your daily diet.
The high fiber content also means that I do not recommend Quest bars as a pre-workout snack.
|Quest Nutrition Birthday Cake Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Erythritol & stevia|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.117|
|Allergens||Milk & almonds|
6. Pure Protein Deluxe Chocolate Protein Bar: Best Chocolate Protein Bar
If I want to keep these bars in the house, I have to hide them from my chocoholic husband, who goes crazy for the combination of a chocolate filling with milk chocolate drops (like chocolate chips) covered in a chocolate-flavored coating.
These bars contain five different sweeteners, but not in high amounts. The total sugar content per bar is only 3g, and the sugar alcohol content of 4g per bar is lower than many other bars on this list.
The low fat (4.5g per bar) and fiber (2g per bar) content means that these bars are a good choice for a pre-workout snack. They even have added vitamins and minerals to provide you with micronutrients as well as macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat).
The biggest challenge I run into when I make protein bar recommendations for my clients is that these bars contain four common allergens — milk, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts (almonds) — even though they do not have peanut or almond as part of their flavor.
This is why it’s important to read labels carefully if you have allergies; most people don’t expect peanuts in a chocolate-flavored protein bar.
|Pure Protein Chocolate Deluxe Protein Bars||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Maltitol, sucralose, glycerin, sugar, & maltitol syrup|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.117|
|Allergens||Milk, soy, peanuts & tree nuts (almonds)|
7. No Cow Lemon Meringue Pie Protein Bar: Best Vegan Protein Bar
No Cow protein bars make it clear in their name that they do not contain whey protein or any other milk ingredients. These vegan bars are also keto-friendly, non-GMO, and kosher. The Lemon Meringue Pie flavor brings a zesty sweet taste to a blend of plant-based protein, with 22g per 190-calorie bar.
No Cow uses a blend of brown rice and pea protein to make this vegan bar just as high in protein as protein bars that use animal sources.
It also has a similar carbohydrate content to other protein bars, which is great news for vegetarians and vegans because plant-based sources of protein usually mean more carbs than getting the same amount of protein from animal-based sources.
The bar is sweetened with glycerine (a form of sugar alcohol that many people mistakenly miss when checking the ingredients because it doesn’t end with “ol” – a common ending for sugar alcohols), as well as erythritol, stevia, and monk fruit. With a total of 5g of sugar alcohols per bar, this could be too much for individuals who are sensitive to these ingredients.
The bars are also very high in fiber, with 16g per bar, which is more than Quest bars. I don’t recommend them for pre-workout, and you shouldn’t have more than one of these bars per day unless you’ve been told to follow a special high-fiber diet.
|No Cow Lemon Meringue Protein Bars||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Glycerine, erythritol, stevia & monkfruit|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.116|
8. Nutrativa Chocolate Caramel Almond Whey Protein Bar: Best Crispy Protein Bar
Nutrativa Chocolate Caramel Almond Whey Protein bars have a delightful light and crispy texture and are wrapped in a smooth chocolatey coating with a chewy center that includes crunchy whey crisps and gooey caramel. This makes them more like a candy bar for taste and texture, but they still deliver 19g of protein for only 170 calories.
If you’re like me, you might sometimes get tired of the really thick and chewy texture that is common with many protein bars. Nutrativa takes care of that problem with a protein bar that has a texture much closer to a crispy rice cereal treat.
Also, with only 5g of fiber, this light bar makes a great choice for a pre-workout snack. It contains some real sugar in its sweeteners, which is an excellent source of fuel for your training.
However, this bar has 5g of sugar alcohol per serving, so it will not be suitable for individuals who are sensitive to these ingredients. And it contains milk, almonds, and eggs, which rules it out for anyone with these allergies.
|Nutrativa Chocolate Caramel Almond Whey Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Corn syrup, sugar, erythritol, glycerin,|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.112|
|Allergens||Milk, almonds & eggs|
9. CarbRite Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar: Protein Bar With the Best Flavor Bar
With the perfect blend of chocolate & peanut butter, CarbRite Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bars have, in my opinion, the best flavor combination of all of the bars on this list. They also provide 21g of protein for just 190 calories (0.111g/cal), and there are other flavors if peanut butter & chocolate don’t work.
These bars are completely sugar-free, but the tradeoff is that they contain a very high amount of sugar alcohols, with 19g per bar. Even for people who aren’t sensitive to these ingredients, this high amount could cause a laxative effect. I don’t recommend eating these bars more than 1-2 times per week.
The great peanut flavor comes from real peanuts in the form of peanut flour. This is great news for the taste of the bars, but it poses a problem for anyone with a peanut allergy.
|CarbRite Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Glycerine, maltitol, lactitol & polydextrose|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.111|
|Allergens||Milk (whey) & peanuts|
10. Epic Chicken Sesame BBQ Protein Bar: Protein Bar With the Lowest Calories and Carbs
Epic brand is popular for its meat-based protein bars that have a texture like soft jerky. With simple ingredients that include only meat, dried fruit, and spices, these bars are paleo-friendly and several flavors are suitable for the Whole30 elimination diet. The Chicken Sesame BBQ flavor has only 5g of carbs.
Compared to the Epic bars with beef, bison, or venison, the chicken bars are lower in fat and calories but provide 13g of protein per 120-calorie bar.
The bars are naturally sweetened with raisins, keeping the overall carb count low and eliminating the need for any sugar alcohols or high-intensity sweeteners. These bars are a great choice for anyone who is sensitive to these ingredients or would prefer to avoid them.
These bars are also low in fiber (2g), which means they will digest quickly as part of a pre- or post-workout snack. However, because they are so low in carbs, they should be eaten with an additional source of carbohydrates such as dried or fresh fruit to provide the energy needed to fuel for or recover from training.
Of course, because the bars are meat-based, they are not suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
They are also the highest in sodium, with 600mg per bar, which is 13 times as much sodium as the 45mg in a Built Bar or Nutrativa bar. This makes them hard to include in a low-sodium diet.
|Epic Chicken Sesame BBQ Protein Ba||Nutrition|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.108|
11. BSN Syntha-6 Protein Bar – Cold Stone Creamery Mint Mint Chocolate Chip: Best Ice Cream Flavor Bar
BSN paired up with ice cream retailer Cold Stone Creamery to make a few specialty protein bar flavors, including the Mint Mint Chocolate Chip Protein Bar. You get the great taste of ice cream but with 20g of protein for only 190 calories, and a protein bar is more portable and convenient than protein ice cream.
These protein bars deliver a good amount of protein, coming in above my recommended 0.1g per calorie. But they rely on half a dozen sweeteners and another six artificial colors to create their signature taste and appearance.
They are also higher in sugar, sugar alcohols, fiber, and sodium per serving than most other bars on this list, which leaves me reaching for another brand.
If I were looking for a crispy protein bar, I would choose the Nutrativa bar over the BSN bar unless I specifically had a craving for mint chocolate chip flavor.
|BSN Syntha-6 Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Maltitol syrup, polydextrose, sugar, glycerin, dextrose, & sucralose|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.105|
|Allergens||Milk, soy, egg, almonds & sesame|
12. HiLo Milk Chocolate & Caramel Crunch Protein Bar: Best International Protein Bar
HiLo brand bars are most commonly available in the UK, which makes them a great choice for readers who may not be able to get many of the North American products featured on this site. These Milk Chocolate & Caramel Crunch Protein bars have 20g of protein for 193 calories, providing 0.104g/cal.
The bars are at the bottom of this list with the lowest protein per calorie of all the other options, but they are still a good source of protein, with over 0.1g of protein per calorie.
These bars have a whopping eight different types of sweetener. Food labeling laws are also different outside of North America, meaning that the total amount of sugar alcohol per serving does not need to be shown on the label. However, they are present in the ingredients, so if you are sensitive to sugar alcohols, these bars are not a good choice.
The bars are also high in fiber. With 10g per bar, they are too high to be a good pre-workout snack, but they are helpful if you struggle to eat enough whole food sources of fiber to reach your recommended daily intake.
On top of other common allergens (milk, soy, egg, nuts, and peanuts), these bars also contain wheat, meaning they are not gluten-free.
|HiLo Milk Chocolate & Caramel Crunch Protein Bar||Nutrition|
|Sweetened with||Isomalt, sucralose, glycerin, maltodextrin, oligofructose, maltitol, polydextrose, sucralose|
|Protein Ratio (grams of protein per calorie)||0.104|
|Sugar alcohols||Not listed (but present)|
|Allergens||Milk, soy, wheat (gluten), egg, nuts & peanuts|
Should You Eat 200-Calorie Protein Bars?
A 200-calorie protein bar is suitable as a moderate-sized snack that can help provide protein toward your daily protein goal. Additionally, the protein, fat, and fiber in these bars can help to keep you fuller than other commercial snack foods.
A 200-calorie protein bar is low enough in calories that it’s suitable for someone with a low daily calorie requirement (1600 calories or less).
They could also be good for those with a high caloric intake as long as they’re paired with other foods to increase the caloric content.
However, if you struggle to eat enough to meet your calorie goals, you should choose a higher-calorie protein bar instead of a 200-calorie bar.
I love a 200-calorie protein bar as a sweet snack or dessert after supper because it satisfies my sweet tooth without a lot of added sugar while also contributing to my protein total for the day.
- If you really want to get the most protein possible out of a protein bar, check out my other article: Protein Bars With The Most Protein (We Examined 200+ Bars).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A 200-Calorie Protein Bar Filling?
A 200-calorie protein bar can be more filling than other food choices, especially if it provides at least 20g of protein and plenty of fiber to provide a sense of fullness. The two best bars for protein and fiber content are Julian Bakery (20g protein, 24g fiber) and Quest (21g protein, 14g fiber).
What Are the Best Times To Eat a 200-Calorie Protein Bar?
A 200-calorie protein bar is great to eat any time of day. It is a great convenient pre- or post-workout snack. However, it is best to focus on bars that have 5g of fiber or less and 8g of fat or less around training. Both fiber and fat slow digestion, and you need quick energy to fuel and recover from your workouts.
What To Read Next
- 7 Best Pre-Workout Protein Bars (Tried and Tested)
- Are Protein Bars Good For Breakfast? (6 Things To Consider)
- Is Eating 3 Protein Bars A Day Bad? (A Dietician Answers)
- 10 Best Protein Bars Under 100 Calories (Top Picks For 2022)
- Is It Okay To Eat Protein Bars Every Day? (4 Things To Know)
- Protein Bars vs Shakes: Which Is Best?
About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.