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Regularly fueling your body with nutritious meals and snacks is essential for your overall health.
However, you may occasionally find yourself short on time and in need of a quick meal replacement to take on the go. Meal replacement bars are also a good choice for people who are traveling and don’t have access to healthy meals.
Additionally, if you’re hitting the trails on a backpacking or hiking trip, you may be searching for portable meal bars to keep you energized while exploring the great outdoors.
Keep in mind that although meal replacement bars are a great choice in a pinch or when trying to travel light, they should not be regularly relied upon if you have the ability to prepare complete meals.
Also, many bars that are advertised as meal replacements don’t contain nearly enough calories to constitute a meal. This is especially true for backpackers and hikers who burn a large number of calories per day.
The bars on this list are made with whole food ingredients and contain at least 250 calories per bar.
Even though some people may be satisfied with this number of calories for a light meal or snack, most people need many more calories per meal to maintain their weight, depending on their body size and activity level (
If you’re using bars to replace breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s a good idea to pair them with other foods to ensure you’re consuming enough calories.
Bars can be combined with other portable foods like hard-boiled eggs, trail mix, Greek yogurt, or fruit paired with nut butter or cheese to create a more complete meal.
Here are the 10 best meal replacement bars for 2021.
A note on price
General price ranges with dollar signs ($ to $$$) are indicated below. One dollar sign means the product is rather affordable, whereas three dollar signs indicate a higher price range.
- $ = under $25 per multipack
- $$ = $25–$50 per multipack
- $$$ = over $50 per multipack
Note that all the products in the roundup have comparable prices per ounce (28 grams) of $1.07–$1.75.
They’re generally sold as multipacks with either 8, 12, or 15 items per pack, depending on the product.
Sans Meal Bars are one of the best whole food options for meal replacement bars on the market. Each bar is made with nutritious ingredients like nuts, fruit, oats, egg whites, and flax seeds. They’re also dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free.
Plus, these bars contain no added sugar and are higher in calories than most bars, which makes them appropriate to use as a meal replacement.
Here is the nutrition info for the PB&J Bar:
Thunderbird bars are paleo-friendly energy bars that are made with nutrient-dense ingredients like nuts, hemp seeds, and coconut. Plus, they’re sweetened with dates — not sugar.
These bars are a bit low in calories and protein, so they should be paired with other high protein foods like eggs if you’re using them for a meal replacement.
Here is the nutrition info for the Hemp Sunflower Pumpkin Seed Bar:
ProBar offers higher calorie, on-the-go meal bars that are made with healthy ingredients like oats, peanut butter, cashews, raisins, and flax seeds.
While these high calorie bars contain 13 grams of added sugar, they make a perfect choice for hikers and backpackers who need the extra carbs to fuel them throughout their day.
Here is the nutrition info for the Superfruit Slam Bar:
The Good Lovin Bar makes bars that are perfect when you’re looking for a quick bite on the go. These bars are certified organic and GMO-free, as well as sweetened with fruits like blueberries, dates, and raspberries.
Good Lovin Bars are best refrigerated or frozen. Therefore, they may not be the best option for travelers or hikers, though they can last outside of the fridge for about 1 week.
Plus, they’re lower in calories and protein than other meal bars on this list and would need to be paired with other nutrient-dense foods to create a filling meal.
Here is the nutrition info for the paleo-friendly berry flavor bar:
Perfect Bars come in a variety of tasty flavors and are higher in calories than most protein bars, making them a good option for a meal replacement. They’re high in protein and made with filling ingredients like peanut butter and whole egg powder.
Keep in mind that Perfect Bars are best refrigerated, though they can be left at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Still, this may make them less appropriate for traveling or hiking, especially at higher temperatures.
Here is the nutrition info for the Coconut Peanut Butter Bar:
As the name suggests, EXO Cricket Energy Bars are made with crickets. Crickets and other insects are a sustainable source of protein, which is why EXO uses cricket powder to give their products a protein boost (
In addition to cricket powder, these bars contain wholesome ingredients like seeds, spices, and fruits. They’re also paleo-friendly.
Here is the nutrition info for their Banana Bread Bar:
Kate’s Real Food makes energy bars that are packed with ingredients that can help keep you fueled throughout your day. They’re filling and shelf-stable, making them a good choice for hikers and backpackers.
They’re lower in protein, so it’s a good idea to pair these bars with a protein-rich food like hard-boiled eggs, nuts, or jerky.
Here is the nutrition info for their Lemon, Coconut & Ginger Bivy Bar:
If you’re looking for a nut-free bar option, Rise Bars are an excellent choice.
The Sunflower Cinnamon Protein Rise Bar is made with five ingredients — sunflower seeds, coconut nectar, pea protein, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.
Since it’s under 300 calories, pair this bar with another filling food to make it appropriate for a meal.
Here is the nutrition info for the Sunflower Cinnamon Protein Bar:
Big Spoon Roasters makes energy bars in delicious flavors, including Figgy Chai, Cherry Pecan, and Apricot Pepita. These bars are dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free and loaded with nutritious, whole food ingredients like peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruit.
Enjoy these bars alongside hard-boiled eggs or veggies and hummus for a complete meal.
Here is the nutrition info for their Cherry Pecan Bar:
GreenBelly Meal 2 Go Bars were created by a backpacker who struggled to get proper nutrition while on long backpacking expeditions.
They’re very high in calories and carbs, making them an excellent choice for hikers and backpackers who need to refuel with calorie-dense, portable meals while on the trail.
Here is the nutrition info for a two-bar serving of their Mango Cashew Coconut Bar:
When shopping for meal replacement bars, it’s important to consider why you’re using them as a meal replacement. If you simply need a quick option when you’re short on time, bars may be a good choice.
Likewise, people who are traveling, backpacking, or hiking may find that meal replacement bars are a convenient way to nourish themselves when preparing a meal isn’t an option.
However, if you’re using meal replacement bars to lose weight, you may want to reconsider. Whenever possible, you should take the time to prepare whole, nourishing meals for yourself, especially when trying to lose excess body fat.
Although bars can be a convenient option to occasionally rely on for energy, they may not be best as a weight loss tool. As mentioned above, most meal bars are too low in calories for most people.
Consuming a bar with only a couple hundred calories as your breakfast, lunch, or dinner could result in you overeating at subsequent meals, which can derail your weight loss efforts.
Whether you’re trying to lose, maintain, or gain weight, fueling your body with nourishing meals that contain the appropriate number of calories for your body size and activity level is key.
Regardless, when shopping for meal replacement bars, choose products that contain whole food ingredients like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits. Select bars that deliver at least 250 calories and contain no added sugar whenever possible.
Keep in mind that products made for hikers and backpackers who require a large number of calories per day usually contain added sugars and are high in fat to meet their energy demands. Under these circumstances, some added sugar is OK (
Pairing bars under 300 calories with other nutrient-dense foods can help round out the meal and ensure you’re getting enough calories, as well as macronutrients and micronutrients.
Remember that calorie needs differ significantly depending on factors like age, sex, weight, and activity level. Talk to a registered dietitian if you’re unsure how many calories you should be consuming per day.
Although preparing complete meals is always the best option, meal replacement bars can be a great choice when you need a quick, nourishing fuel source.
When choosing a bar, make sure to pick products that are made with healthy ingredients like the bars listed above.