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Best Meal Replacement Bars: 5 Healthy & Tasty Choices In 2024

Karla Tafra

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

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Jacked Factory Authentic Bars - best meal replacement bars

Jacked Factory Authentic Bars

  • High protein
  • Manufactured in the USA in a cGMP-certified facility
  • Free from artificial sweeteners and fillers

Transparent Labs best meal replacement bars

Transparent Labs UNCUT High Protein Energy Bars

  • High protein
  • Gluten-free, non-GMO
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives
Quest Nutrition best meal replacement bars

Quest Nutrition Protein Bar

  • Zero sugars and low-carb
  • Huge variety of flavors
  • No artificial additives, colorings, or fillers

We all strive to have homecooked meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but more often than not, we don’t succeed. The fast, busy lives we all lead leave us to grab something on the go more times than we would like. That’s where meal replacement bars come in, offering a great option for when you’re unable to eat a healthy, balanced meal while still offering all the nutritional benefits.

5 Meal Replacement Bars On The Market In (February. 2024)

Best Meal Replacement Bars In 2024

Jacked Factory

A great meal replacement option for those who are on the go and need something wholesome and delicious.

  • High protein
  • Manufactured in the USA in a certified Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facility
  • Free from artificial sweeteners and fillers
  • Some flavors contain added sugars and artificial colors

Jacked Factory promotes great-tasting products made with real food and zero artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Their Authentic bars are high in protein, made with whey protein isolate, and come in eight delicious flavors. Each bar has 14-16 grams of protein and a high amount of fiber which helps keep you fuller for longer. 

The bars are manufactured in a cGMP-certified facility which means they adhere to their rigorous standards, which ensure high-quality, potency, and purity of ingredients. Even though they’re made without artificial sweeteners, some of their flavors contain added sugars, as well as artificial colors (birthday cake flavor). 

Still, most people rave about their delicious flavors, with some of the crowd’s favorites being peanut butter candy, s’mores, and kitchen sink.
The added sugars can be quite high, with some having 19 g per bar. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 24 grams of sugar per day and men 36.

Transparent Labs

A high-protein meal replacement bar made with real, wholesome foods for physically active people.

  • High protein
  • Gluten-free, non-GMO
  • Free from artificial sweeteners, additives, preservatives
  • Expensive, but with discounts if you purchase a bundle

Transparent Labs UNCUT High Protein Bars are meal replacement bars that support muscle growth and provide an energy boost when you need it the most. Made with only whole, real foods, these high-protein bars are as natural as possible. 

The formula is gluten-free, sugar-free, non-GMO, and free from any artificial ingredients. Sweetened with natural honey, they are delicious in both flavors: chocolate chip and chocolate coffee. One bar is around 290 calories and comes with 16 grams of protein, making it a perfect post-workout snack as well as a meal replacement.

Quest Nutrition

Perfect high-protein, healthy meal replacement bars for those who are keeping a low-carb, sugar-free diet.

  • Zero sugars, gluten-free, and low-carb
  • Huge variety of flavors
  • No artificial additives, colorings, or fillers
  • Low on the calorie end

Quest Nutrition’s Protein Bars are delicious and nutritious and come in 16 staple flavors with limited seasonal editions. They are low-carb and rich in fiber, making them perfect for anyone trying to reduce their carbohydrate intake. 

They are gluten-free, sugar-free, and free from any artificial flavors, additives, preservatives, and colorings. One bar contains around 20-23 grams of protein and one to five grams of net carbs. Unfortunately, the bars are really low on the caloric side, mostly around 200 kcal, which isn’t enough calories for a full meal replacement bar. They are, however, the perfect low-carb, high-protein nutrition bar that supports muscle growth and aids in recovery. 

Quest lovers report their bars being best after being put in a microwave for 15 seconds, and many enjoy adding them on top of their oatmeal, yogurt, and even pancakes.

Orgain Organic

A delicious and organic plant-based protein bar that’s made with real foods and promises to not upset your stomach.

  • Plant-based, so suitable for vegans and vegetarians
  • USDA Organic
  • Gluten-free, non-GMO, low-sugar
  • Low calorie
  • Does contain some added sugars

Even though at only 150 kcal, Orgain’s Organic Protein Bar can’t be considered a meal replacement bar, the plant-based, dairy-free ingredients allow you to eat two at a time. The formula is labeled USDA organic, and it’s completely gluten-free and made with non-GMO ingredients.

One bar contains 10 grams of protein, so not the highest on the list, but if you double the amount, you get right up there with any whey protein meal replacement bar. It’s on the affordable side and comes in five delicious flavors, with many people’s favorite chocolate chip cookie dough. Orgain fans like to take the nutrition bar after their workout or as a mid-day snack, especially on a busy day when getting in a healthy, wholesome meal is almost impossible. 

Atlas Protein Bar

A true meal replacement wellness bar with stress-reducing ashwagandha aiming to help you relax and improve your metabolism.

  • Sugar-free, low-carb, non-GMO
  • Both, grass-fed whey and plant-based options
  • Added adaptogen ashwagandha
  • Expensive when compared to other meal bars, but offers a discount when you subscribe to their Atlas Club Membership

Atlas Protein Bar is a high-protein meal replacement bar that comes in whey protein and plant-based versions. Even more so, they are so low in sugars and overall carbs that even those on keto diets can enjoy them. They are unique in the sense that the formula contains powerful food ingredients such as the famous adaptogen, ashwagandha. 

Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory[1], antioxidant, and immune-boosting properties that help lower your stress levels, fight off free radicals, and support your immune system for overall improved health and well-being. 

They are on the expensive side, but you unlock discounts and free shipping when you become a member of their Atlas Club Membership.

What Are Meal Replacement Bars? 

Meal replacement bars are similar to protein bars or energy bars but higher in calories. They usually offer a great balance of all three macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates (carbs), fat, as well as fiber, although the majority are still high in protein[2]. They fall in between the 200 and 400 kcal range and offer a great alternative to a healthy, balanced meal when you aren’t able to cook or buy out from a restaurant. 

They usually have a long shelf life, so they’re perfect for traveling and when you have a jam-packed schedule as they’re preventing you from grabbing the first convenient yet calorie-dense snack you see.

The best meal replacement bars help with your hunger cues and reduce cravings. They are also gluten-free, non-GMO (meaning they are free of genetically modified organisms), and free from added sugars, synthetic additives, thickening agents, and artificial colors and flavors.

Why Meal Replacement Bars?

Meal replacement bars are an amazing way to prevent yourself from grabbing the most convenient fast-food item when you’re crunched on time. The reality of today’s life has us spending more time at work, in school, or in our commute than in our kitchens, and meal prep isn’t a real option for many people. 

These bars can help not only curb your hunger cues and cravings but also replenish your macro and micronutrient stores in one tiny serving, so you know that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Opt for the best meal replacement bars for weight loss, they reduce cravings, curb appetite, provide essential nutrients, and help you stay within your calorie goals.

Still, it’s important to say that most dietitians don’t recommend eating them regularly as even though they contain a good ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, nothing can compete with real, whole foods.

How Do Meal Replacement Bars Work?

The best meal replacement bar has an optimal ratio of protein, carbs, and healthy fats, with added dietary fiber for improved digestion, as well as zero or minimal added sugar. They help you replace a meal you would have normally had if you were to be in your kitchen and cook it yourself.
Even though they can’t replace real foods, they are one of the best options when you’re on the go and want something to support your health instead of harming it. The high-protein content is supposed to keep you fuller for longer and help curb your cravings as it takes longer to consume. The added dietary fiber helps improve bowel movements and lower your cholesterol levels.

How To Pick The Best Meal Replacement Bars

When it comes to choosing the best meal replacement bar, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • High-quality ingredients – first and foremost, you want to choose a notorious brand for its high-quality ingredients. This way, you’ll be sure of the potency and purity of their ingredients, knowing you’re getting all the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients meant to improve your health and not work against you. 
  • Organic ingredients – if possible, choose organic because it adds another extra level to the quality standards and ensures your ingredients, as well as the production stages, are clean, rich in nutrients[3], and come with no artificial additives
  • Free from artificial ingredients – always go for those meal replacement bars that are free from any artificial flavors, additives, colors, and thickening agents our bodies cannot process. Best meal bars have real flavors from dark chocolate, vanilla extract, and peanut butter, giving them a rich and delicious flavor without artificial preservatives. 
  • Free from allergens – if you’re allergic or intolerant to certain foods, choose gluten-free bars, dairy-free bars, soy-free bars, or nut-free bars, and make sure you’re getting the best possible option for you and your health. 
  • Vegan diet – if you’re following a plant-based diet, choose amongst those organic brands that are fully plant-based or have great plant-based options. Many bars come packed with pea protein, brown rice protein, hemp protein, or a combination so you get the full amino acid profile. 
  • Sugar-free or low-sugar – when you’re choosing the best meal replacement bar, you don’t want it to be high in sugar and cause a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash. Additionally, high-sugar foods tend to cause inflammation and gastrointestinal distress, and since you’re aiming for a healthy meal that will fuel and nourish your body while you’re on the go, you don’t want to cause yourself digestive issues and have to deal with that until the end of your day. The best meal bars have naturally occurring sugar that flavors the bar just enough for it to taste delicious but not too much to cause distress. They usually come from dried fruit or dark chocolate chips which come with a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. 
  • Enough calories – and lastly, you want to make sure the meal replacement bar is a meal replacement bar, meaning it has at least between 200-400 kcal. If it’s on the lower end of 200 kcal or lower, dietitians recommend having a piece of fruit or yogurt next to it. Especially since these bars aren’t personalized, and they can’t work the same for both a 120 lb woman and a 200lb man.

Summary

Eating healthy and maintaining a balanced diet isn’t hard when you have the time to cook every one of your meals. For the majority of people, that’s not a realistic situation, they’re forced to eat something on the go. 

In these situations, the most convenient way to go about it is to grab something quick and ready to eat. Unfortunately, most of these options are unhealthy, full of artificial ingredients and flavors to mask the taste, and loaded with sugars and other nutrient-dense ingredients to bump up the caloric value while giving you minimal (if any) nutritional value. 

Meal replacement bars come in handy, but they’re so much more than that. With their combination of adequate amounts of protein, carbs, and fats, meal bars contain whole food ingredients that are rich in vitamins and minerals, helping you increase your energy levels, support weight loss, improve your digestive system, curb your cravings, and fuel your body so it can function at the most optimal level. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are meal replacement bars effective for losing weight?

Yes, in many situations you might find yourself reaching for a quick and convenient snack or fast-food meal that contains way more calories than you need. Combined with other meals, this can quickly add up to over your energy expenditure, getting you in a caloric surplus. Meal replacement bars are usually high in protein, which takes longer to digest and leaves you feeling fuller for longer, curbing your cravings and helping increase your satiety. They also usually contain a good ratio of protein, carbs, and fats, helping you fuel and nourish your body while staying within your calorie intake goal.

How frequently may I consume a meal replacement bar?

Even though they are great for emergencies when you’re unable to have a healthy, home-cooked meal, meal replacement bars shouldn’t be eaten too often because they’re still processed and often don’t contain enough calories to replace a meal. They’re great when you need them, but try to use them only sparingly and focus on getting more whole foods onto your plate.

Can I substitute a protein bar for a meal?

Most meal replacement bars are high in protein, so they qualify as protein bars. Still, if they’re under the 250 kcal range, most dietitians recommend adding a piece of fruit or Greek yogurt next to it, so you get enough calories to sustain you until your next meal.

How nutritious are meal replacement bars?

The best meal replacement bars are made with healthy ingredients that have adequate nutrients to fuel your day and that are rich in vitamins and minerals to support your overall health and wellness. They are also usually packed with additional fiber and other superfoods that can enrich your diet and help boost your immune system to the fullest.


+ 3 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

  1. ‌Priyanka, G., Anil Kumar, B., Lakshman, M., Manvitha, V. and Kala Kumar, B. (2020). Adaptogenic and Immunomodulatory Activity of Ashwagandha Root Extract: An Experimental Study in an Equine Model. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, [online] 7. doi:10.3389/fvets.2020.541112.
  2. Jovanov, P., Sakač, M., Jurdana, M., Pražnikar, Z.J., Kenig, S., Hadnađev, M., Jakus, T., Petelin, A., Škrobot, D. and Marić, A. (2021). High-Protein Bar as a Meal Replacement in Elite Sports Nutrition: A Pilot Study. Foods, [online] 10(11), p.2628. doi:10.3390/foods10112628.
  3. Crinnion WJ (2022). Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Alternative medicine review : a journal of clinical therapeutic, [online] 15(1). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20359265/#:~:text=for%20the%20consumer-,Organic%20foods%20contain%20higher%20levels%20of%20certain%20nutrients%2C%20lower%20levels,(1)%3A4%2D12.
Karla Tafra

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

Karla is a published author, speaker, certified nutritionist, and yoga teacher, and she's passionate when writing about nutrition, health, fitness, and overall wellness topics. Her work has been featured on popular sites like Healthline, Psychology.com, Well and Good, Women's Health, Mindbodygreen, Medium, Yoga Journal, Lifesavvy, and Bodybuilding.com. In addition to writing about these topics, she also teaches yoga classes, offers nutrition coaching, organizes wellness seminars and workshops, creates content for various brands & provides copywriting services to companies.

Medically reviewed by:

Kathy Shattler

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