As keto and low carb diets gain popularity, more products are being developed that mimic the convenience that we are used to on the Standard American Diet. Low-carb protein bars, for example, are not just available in specialty health food stores or online anymore. Costco carries Kirkland Protein Bars, which are low in net carbs and can be worked into a keto diet with ease!
A keto diet can feel restrictive and difficult to follow if you do not have access to the convenient foods that are available on the Standard American Diet. Cereal, protein bars, fruit snacks, and chips are all easy to reach for snacks on a high carb diet. On a low carb or ketogenic diet, most of these foods are not available, and for a good reason! However, with the help of keto-friendly sweeteners and prebiotic fibers, alternatives to some of these high carb convenience foods exist. Low net carb protein bars, for example, are widely available in grocery stores, gas stations, and online.
It can be overwhelming to step into the granola bar aisle at a grocery store and be faced with dozens of brands and not know which ones are keto-friendly. Without reading the ingredient list, you cannot know for sure if a bar is actually low-carb. This article details the top five protein bars that can be found in a grocery store. However, the bars listed below are not the only keto-friendly bars available in stores. Several companies are beginning to product low-carb alternatives with keto-friendly sweeteners and fibers, which are listed below.
To make low carb protein bars sweet without increasing carbs, alternatives sweeteners are used. For example, Kirkland Protein Bars are sweetened with erythritol and stevia. Other sweeteners such as sucralose, vegetable glycerin, and maltitol may be used in bars as well. Check out my guide to keto-friendly sweeteners for more information.
All products with maltitol should be avoided. Maltitol acts like sugar in the body and causes an insulin response. Erythritol and stevia are natural sweeteners derived from plants that will not cause blood glucose to rise in most people. Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is not optimal for health, but it does not raise blood glucose levels. Vegetable glycerin is a syrup extracted from plant oils and also claims to not raise blood glucose. There is conflicting evidence on whether or not this is true, so be wary of bars that contain several grams of glycerin.
Keto Friendly Sweeteners
These sweeteners do not raise blood sugar levels for most people. However, everyone will react differently, so be sure to test your blood glucose, or monitor how you feel after consuming any of these sweeteners.
Sweeteners to Avoid
These sweeteners DO raise blood sugar levels for most people. Most of them will behave similarly to sugar in the body, so they cannot be subtracted from total carbs when calculating net carbs, even if they are listed as sugar alcohols.
Fibers used in bars give it the texture and consistency of a traditional protein bar, without adding carbs that the body has to process. The tapioca starch in Kirkland Protein Bars, for example, is used as an alternative to flour. Other bars will use fibers such as chicory root fiber, soluble corn fiber, or isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO) fiber. Most of these fibers will go undigested by the body, and will not raise blood sugar. IMO fiber does not behave like a traditional prebiotic fiber and it does get processed by the body and raise blood glucose. Avoid all bars with IMO fiber because those carbs coming from fiber cannot be fully subtracted.
Keto Friendly Fibers
These fibers are undigested by the body for most people. As a result, they can be subtracted from the total carb count when calculating net carbs.
Fibers to Avoid
This fiber does not go undigested by the body, despite the claims. It cannot be subtracted from the total carb count when calculating net carbs.
Keto Protein Bars at the Grocery Store
There are several keto protein bar options at the grocery store, but they can be difficult to locate in an aisle full of other high-carb protein bars if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Most of these low-carb bars can be found in traditional grocery stores, or on Amazon. Some bars, like Quest, can also often be spotted in a gas station or other convenience store. Kirkland Protein Bars are only available in Costco or online, but they can be purchased in bulk, and are therefore more budget friendly.
The Kirkland Protein Bars are the Costco version of Quest bars. They are found in most Costco stores, or on Amazon. The four flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter chunk, chocolate brownie, and cookies and cream.
The bars are sweetened with stevia and erythritol, which are two of the most popular sweeteners used on a keto diet. Each bar has 15g of fiber in them on average, which comes from tapioca starch.
If you have had a Quest bar before, the texture of these bars is similar. Some people think the consistency is tougher but less chalky than Quest bars. For a fudge-like keto treat, heat a Kirkland Protein Bar (without the wrapper) in the microwave for 12-15 seconds.
Although the bars are low in net carbs, they are also low in fat and high in protein. I would suggest pairing this bar with a high fat snack, like pili nuts.
Macros for 1 bar are 190 calories, 6-7g fat, 22-23g carb (15g fiber, 3-4g erythritol, 3-4g net carbs), 21-22g protein.
Hands down, Quest has the most variety when it comes to flavor options for low-carb bars. Each bar is around 5 net carbs with 20-21 grams of protein, and only around 10 grams of fat.
Because of the low fat content, Quest bars are best paired with a high fat food. I personally love to heat these in the microwave for 15 seconds and then pair one with some low carb, high fat ice cream from Rebel Creamery. It makes a delicious dessert that tastes reminds me of an ice cream cake.
All Quest bars are gluten and soy free with no added sugar. The protein source is a blend of milk protein isolate and whey protein isolate. For fiber, Quest bars use soluble corn fiber. This can cause digestive problems for some people, so make sure to monitor how you feel after consuming a bar.
Quest bars make a delicious dessert. They are sweetened with stevia, erythritol, and sucralose. While sucralose is not optimal, it does not raise blood glucose levels and will therefore not have a negative effect on a ketogenic diet.
Most people describe Quest bars as chewy, with a slightly chalky taste. If you are not a fan of the texture, microwave the bar for 12-15 seconds to create a fudge-like consistency.
As mentioned above, Quest has a large variety of flavors for their bars. There are nearly 20 varieties including chocolate chip cookie dough, birthday cake, cookies and cream, and cinnamon roll, to name a few.
In my experience, Quest bars are the most easily accessible bars in grocery stores. They are also regularly found in convenience stores, gas stations, or health food stores. You can also purchase the bars in bulk online.
The macros for a chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bar are 200 calories, 9g fat, 21g carb (14g fiber, 3g erythritol, 4g net), 21g protein.
Dang Bars are plant-based bars with good keto macros. The company, Dang Foods, has other products that are not keto-friendly, but these bars are good to go with 70% of calories coming from fat, 20% from protein and 10% from carbs. There are several bars in the grocery store that are low-carb, but not many that are high fat like these bars, so these are great options if you don’t want to have an additional fat source.
The bars use chicory root fiber and are sweetened with stevia. Dang Bars have plenty of fat to help your stick to your keto macro ratios. The fat in the bar comes from coconut, cacao butter, and almond butter. For a plant-based protein source, Dang Bars use pea protein. The bars are also gluten free and do not contain added sugar.
The texture of a Dang Bar is somewhat chewy slightly crumbly, and not too soft. There is a bit of a crunch from pea protein crisps, coconut, and chia seeds.
The macros for 1 bar are: 210 calories, 15-16g fat, 10-11g carb (6g fiber, 5g net), 9-10g protein. There are 6 flavors of Dang Bars:
Power Crunch Bars are unique to the low-carb bar market because they do not contain added fiber. They are a great option if you find that added fibers in bars cause digestive problems. They are on the higher end of carbs, with 8-10g of net carbs per bar. However, this may be a good trade-off for you if your body is sensitive to added fibers.
Power Crunch Bars use a whey protein blend and contain wheat. They are moderately high in protein and fat, with an average of 13g of fat and 13g of protein per bar. Each bar is sweetened with sucralose and stevia.
The Power Crunch Bar texture is different from typical protein bars. They have a wafer consistency. The outside of the bar is a cream that protects the wafer-style interior.
There are currently 10 different flavors of Power Crunch Bars. The average macros for a bar are 205-220 calories, 13g fat, 9-11g carb (1g fiber, 8-10g net), 13-14g protein.
Power Crunch Bar Flavors:
Epic Meat Bars are great for a low-carb bar because they are made primarily of meat. As a result, a few of their bars only contain one or two grams of carbs. They are a great option if you are avoiding sweeteners, following a carnivore diet, or you want a savory snack. They are typically high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates so it would be good to pair this with a high fat snack.
Keto-Friendly Epic Meat Bar Options:
There are several different flavors of Epic Meat Bars, but only a few are optimal for keto. The macros for the Beef, Apple & Bacon Epic Meat Bar are 170 calories, 13g fat, 4g carb, 9g protein. This one is higher in carbs, but also higher and fat. The Chicken Siracha bar has 130 calories, 6g fat, 2g carb, and 13g of protein while the Venison Sea Salt & Pepper bar is only 80 calories with 3g of at, 2g of carbs, and 12g of protein.
Atkins is a low carb, high protein diet that is similar in nature to keto. The Atkins brand sells several products, including low carb bars. Their products are usually found in the pharmacy or health food section of a grocery store.
Atkins Bars do not have great ingredients overall. Some bars contain maltitol, which is a sweetener that raises blood glucose in a similar way to sugar. These bars should be avoided, so be sure to check the ingredients of a bar before purchasing.
The bars use glycerin as a fiber, which may have an impact on blood glucose for some people. Be aware of how you feel after consuming these bars or test your blood glucose to see if you have a negative response.
The Atkins Harvest Trail bars are sweet and savory bars meant to mimic the flavor profile of trail mix. The bars are free from artificial colors, preservatives, flavors, and sugar alcohols.
Soluble corn fiber is used in the Harvest Trail Bars, and they are sweetened with sucralose. These bars also contain sunflower and palm kernel oil, which are inflammatory oils that are not optimal, and should be limited.
The two varieties of Harvest Trail Bars are dark chocolate peanut butter and dark chocolate sea salt caramel. The macros for one bar are 170-180 calories, 12-14g fat, 12-14g carb (8-9g fiber, 1g glycerin, 3-4g net), 8g protein.
The Atkins Meal bars are not actually suitable for meal replacements. Each bar is roughly 200 calories, which could make a good snack or dessert. A few of these meal bars contain maltitol. The bars that do not have maltitol are labeled with “no maltitol” on the box.
Soluble corn fiber and glycerin is used in the Meal Bars, and they are sweetened with sucralose. These bars also contain sunflower, canola, and palm kernel oil.
Two varieties of Meal Bars contain maltitol and should be avoided. These are:
The bars that do not use maltitol are:
The Atkins Snack bars include wafer crisps and other bars that are lower in calories than the Meal Bar. None of the wafer crisps contain maltitol, but a few of the other bars do. The products that do not have maltitol are labeled with “no maltitol” on the box.
Soluble corn fiber and glycerin is used in the Snack Bars, and they are sweetened with sucralose and vegetable glycerin. These bars also contain sunflower, canola and palm kernel oil. All varieties of the wafer crisps have wheat flour as well.
The three varieties of the Atkins Wafer Crisp Bars are peanut butter, chocolate mint, and lemon vanilla. For one Wafer Crisp Bar, the macros are 190-200 calories, 14-15g fat, 8-10g carb (4-5g fiber, 1g sugar alcohol, 3g net), 10-11g protein.
The other bars vary slightly in nutrition depending on the flavor. The macros for the white chocolate macadamia nut bar are 170 calories, 8g fat, 15g carb (8g fiber, 3g glycerin, 4g net), 12g protein.
Four varieties of bars contain maltitol and should be avoided. These are:
The bars that do not use maltitol are: