If you’re a proponent of clean eating, you probably avoid protein bars like the plague. But there’s a reason those little packaged protein bombs are so ubiquitous: it can be hard to stick to your diet and get enough protein when keeping up with a busy schedule—unless you’re comfortable toting around a little cooler full of healthful snacks (in which case, we salute you). For most of us, our schedules are so packed that we don’t always have time for three proper meals a day.
Related: Your Pre-Packaged Energy Bar Is Crap
So protein bars can rescue you from a fit of hangriness, and can be that perfect dose of protein you’re supposed to snag 20 minutes after you’re done working out. The problem here? Those protein bars you can buy from the grocery store are sugary, carb-heavy messes. Toss one of these in your bag instead, and hit the road.
When you hear “vegan” and “gluten-free,” you don’t necessarily immediately think “utterly delicious,” but this shelf-stable treat is going to change your mind. These healthy takes on the Almond Joy are made extra healthful and delicious by a big dose of coconut oil, which is filled with medium-chain triglycerides—making this protein bar great for your brain and body.
Photo and Recipe: My Whole Food Life
Call it Cinnabon for the health-conscious. The difference? These aren’t ooey-gooey messes that leave you feeling rotten an hour later, but healthy protein bars you can make at home in just a couple of minutes. Aside from all the other benefits, cinnamon itself is loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it even easier to say yes to this spiced snack.
Photo and Recipe: The Healthy Maven
It’s like a truffle you feel seriously good about eating. This one isn’t even just a protein bar, but bills itself as a protein brownie, because what, sure, why not, let’s just get decadent over here. Filled with fresh raspberries, this protein bar is less shelf-stable than the others on our list, but made the cut because of how delicious it is, and for the fact that those tiny, sweet raspberries wield massive antioxidant power.
Photo and Recipe: Ambitious Kitchen
These fudgy, rich protein bars have a sophisticated flavor profile and a great texture, plus they’ll give you that energy boost you need post workout. You know how green tea is supposed to be so good for you? Key Ingredient is like green tea gone wild: it’s been estimated that one glass of matcha holds the antioxidant equivalent of ten glasses of green tea.
Photo and Recipe: Desserts With Benefits
Rejoice: your favorite breakfast cake (let’s not pretend most banana breads are anything less than cake) just got turned into a healthy DIY protein bar. Plus, it’s filled with walnuts. Eating just a small handful of walnuts a day has been shown to significantly raise your heart-healthy ALA, and help your cholesterol levels.
Photo and Recipe: Oh She Glows
This protein bar is like what would happen if birdseed were meant for people and was genuinely delicious. It’s gluten-free, protein packed, and perfectly spiced. The cardamom doesn’t just add flavor, though—this spice helps you detox and can reduce the risk of blood clots.
Photo and Recipe: Cooking Quinoa
The Paleo protein bars by Elana’s Pantry are great no matter what diet you subscribe to, but are of course an especially great fit for our Paleo readers. It can be hard to bring Paleo snacks with you places where there isn’t any refrigeration, but these tasty treats solve the problem while still being diet compliant.
Photo and Recipe: Elana’s Pantry
Is your mouth watering yet? Check out these other great Fit Nation Mag recipes: