4 protein-rich snacks to leave on grocery store shelves right now

The human body has an impressive and innate ability to repair itself through the normal wear and tear of life. And that’s where the magic of protein comes in. There’s a reason nutritionists and health experts consider protein an essential part of the diet. These chains of amino acids play a role in muscle growth, digestion, hormone regulation, cell repair and energy production.

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“Protein contains the building blocks for muscle and tissue growth. It is necessary for optimal immune function and regulated mood,” says Sydney Greene, MS, RDand owner of Green health. “At their most basic level, protein is a tremendous source of energy and essential to prosperity.”

You may be looking for the best ways to incorporate more protein into your diet. There are plenty of protein-rich foods to snack on between meals. Why not use your snacking habit to your advantage?

“Protein helps build and repair lean muscle mass, as well as slow digestion, helping you feel full faster and stay full longer,” advises Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. “Because it slows down the digestion process and helps keep your blood sugar levels more stable, it can help reduce the occurrence of energy highs and lows throughout the day.”

But simply grabbing anything that advertises high protein content off the shelf isn’t going to cut it. Whether you’re trying to build strength, hit a weight loss goal, or just stabilize your energy, there’s a great way to add protein to your day.

“Just because a food is high in protein doesn’t mean it’s always good for you,” Goodson notes. “If it contains high amounts of added sugars or saturated fats – both of which can be found on the food label – then you may want to choose another option. Added sugars and saturated fats can add a lot calories and often not many nutrients.”

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to identify which foods are worth your money. Here are four high-protein snacks our experts recommend you skip for a balanced diet.

Courtesy of Amazon

FOR 1 BAR: 200 calories, 7 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 170 mg sodium, 21 g carbohydrates (

Protein bars are a convenient way to get your protein boost on the go. Nothing is easier to stuff into your bag for those busy days, and a better way to satisfy your hunger than a handful of crisps.

This protein bar packed with minerals and vitamins may seem like it has the best nutritional balance, but the ingredient list tells a different story, with 17 grams of sugar for every 15 grams of protein. “This bar has more grams of sugar than grams of protein,” says Greene. “Plus, the ingredient list is full of highly processed items.”

One ingredient that you can find in many protein bars is protein isolate. This bar contains a protein blend consisting of soy, whey and milk protein isolates.

“Ideally, the protein should come from a whole food source rather than an isolate. For example, Greek yogurt protein is different from ‘milk protein isolate,'” notes Greene. “You also want the grams of protein in a snack to be higher than the grams of sugar.” In short, it’s a snack you can pass on.

Quest Dipped Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bar
Courtesy of Amazon

FOR 1 BARCalories: 180, 9g fat (5g saturated fat),

Quest Bars offer a litany of dessert flavors like S’mores, Peppermint Bark, and Birthday Cake, so you can treat yourself sugar-free. People with diabetes or following a ketogenic diet should strictly limit their sugar intake, and this is marketed as a high-protein bar that may meet their needs.

How can you create a sugar-free cookie dough substitute? By using artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. These contain fewer calories and have no significant effect on your blood sugar levels.

But some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can harm gut health. “This product contains possible gastrointestinal irritants like erythritol (sugar alcohol) and corn fiber,” says Greene. If you have digestive issues like IBS, you might want to treat yourself to this “healthy” dessert.

You can find high quality protein bars if you know what you are looking for. Goodson recommends choosing bars that have a reasonable weight of 10-20 grams. “If you’re looking for bars, shakes, and powders with more than 30 grams of protein per serving, it’s probably not worth buying,” she says.

Clean Simple Eats Cookies 'n Cream Protein Powder
Eating simple and clean

FOR 1 CUT: 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 1.9 mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 4 g carbohydrates (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 20 g protein

When you’re trying to build muscle, you need to take in a lot of extra protein. For reference, Health line says the average person needs about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. But to gain muscle, you’ll want more than double that, with 0.7 to 1.0 grams per pound of lean body mass. Mixing protein powder into a smoothie, or even water, can help supplement the protein you get from your diet, making it easier for you to reach your goal.

But while this particular blend looks delicious and packs 20 grams of protein with zero grams of added sugar, it’s not the best if you’re trying to stay on track with a nutrition plan. Greene points out that this powder contains xylitol as a second ingredient, which won’t help you kick a sugar habit.

“Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are much sweeter than real sugar and can make you crave sweets throughout the day,” says Greene. For this reason, you better find another option.

dannon oikos pro vanilla greek yogurt
Courtesy of Target

PER CONTAINERCalories: 140, 3g fat (0g saturated fat), 20mg cholesterol, 45mg sodium, 8g carbs (0g fiber, 3g sugar), 20g protein

Yogurt is a nutrient powerhouse, compounding the benefits of protein, calcium, and probiotics. If you tolerate dairy, this is a good snack to curb cravings while reducing belly fat.

And yet, Dannon tried to amp up his Oikos Greek yogurt with unnecessary ingredients you don’t need in your bowl to get 20 grams of protein per serving.

“Greek yogurt on its own is naturally high in protein. This product adds whey protein to yogurt to increase protein grams,” says Greene. “In addition, this product contains ‘natural flavors’, which may cause gastrointestinal upset, as well as preservatives.”

Rather than buying the hype, stick to plain Greek yogurt, topped with peanut butter or other nuts for even more filling protein.

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