If you’ve walked by the refrigerated convenience section at any health-focused supermarket lately, you’ve likely noticed a growing number of refrigerated protein bars. One of the pioneering brands, Perfect Bar, is even sold at Costco now—i.e. the trend is fully mainstream.
These protein bars require refrigeration to hold their shape, texture, and flavor, and to avoid spoilage, as they’re made with whole-food ingredients and no preservatives. Unlike boxed bars, they usually have an expiration date within a few weeks or months, though most can handle being out of the fridge for up to a week.
So, are these refrigerated protein bars any healthier than the shelf-stable options you’re familiar with?
“From a nutrition perspective, refrigeration alone is not a good indicator of a product’s healthfulness,” says Samantha Cassetty, R.D., director of nutrition at The Healthy Mommy. “The best snacks are low in added sugars and high in wholesome ingredients. If a bar checks most of these boxes, it can be a convenient snack.” (Related: Are Protein Bars Really Healthy?)
In addition to being a good source of protein and heart-healthy fats (nuts or nut butter are often the top ingredients), another benefit of some of these refrigerated protein bars is gut-boosting probiotics. A new line called ProBar Live, for example, contains the strain bacillus coagulans GBI-30, which has been well-studied and may help the body better absorb protein, says Cassetty.
That said, some—but not all—of these refrigerated these bars can be high in added sugars, which is why Cassetty suggests avoiding them for everyday snacking. Many are also pretty caloric (think, around 300-ish calories per bar), which would push them into mini-meal territory instead of a snack, she says. (Related: Is It Bad to Eat a Protein Bar Every Day?)
However, they do get high marks in the taste department, and can come in handy when you’re going a long stretch in between meals—say, when you’re traveling or in back-to-back meetings—or pushing it extra hard at the gym and needing something more substantial to tide you over. All in all, here are nine refrigerated protein bars worth trying.