Health

The 5 best protein cookies and how to spot the healthier options, according to a dietitian

Table of Contents: Masthead StickySummary List Placement Anyone who knows me will tell you: I am a cookie monster. They'll also tell you I'm passionate about fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle — but I won't sacrifice one for the other. I'm all about balance and enjoying the sweeter things in life in moderation. However, when it was brought to my attention there exists an array of baked goods packed with protein, I made it my mission to find the best protein cookies on the market. To reiterate, you can have your cookies and be healthy, too. But there are a few...

Table of Contents: Masthead StickySummary List Placement

Anyone who knows me will tell you: I am a cookie monster. They’ll also tell you I’m passionate about fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle — but I won’t sacrifice one for the other. I’m all about balance and enjoying the sweeter things in life in moderation.

However, when it was brought to my attention there exists an array of baked goods packed with protein, I made it my mission to find the best protein cookies on the market. To reiterate, you can have your cookies and be healthy, too. But there are a few caveats. Protein cookies are a great post-workout snack because they help build and repair muscle tissue and keep you full. 

However, just because a snack is labeled as “high protein” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy or considered clean eating. At the end of the day, a cookie is a cookie.

In order to identify the healthier alternatives, I’ve included a few key details to keep top of mind at the end of this guide, as well as insight from Samantha Cassetty on how to shop for protein cookies and the best methods for spotting healthier options.

During our medical review, dietitian, Erika Villalobos-Morsink, advised that most, if not all, protein cookies are going to contain some amount of artificial sugars and artificial additives. She also advised that serving sizes and what’s necessary to fill someone up varies greatly from person to person. 

As is the case with adding any supplement to your daily intake, we recommend consulting with your doctor first to see if it’s right for your diet.

Here are the best protein cookies: 

The best overall

Now, I know what you’re thinking: This isn’t a cookie, it’s a cookie bar. And you’re correct — but The FlapJacked Soft Baked Cookie Bar checks all the boxes of the above-listed criteria to be crowned the best protein cookie.

Pros: Whole food ingredients, low-calorie count, 10 grams of protein per serving, made with pre and probiotics to support a healthy gut, gluten-free

Cons: Low on fiber

Let’s begin with its ingredients list. Each of the brand’s three flavors (chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter, and chocolate brownie) is made with pre- and probiotics. The bars offer 10 grams of a combination of whey and pea protein, and are sweetened with organic date paste, organic brown rice syrup, and organic tapioca syrup. The rest of the ingredients list contains whole food ingredients I both recognized and could pronounce. 

The FlapJacked Soft Baked Cookie Bars also get an A+ for flavor and texture. The cookie itself is soft, but the goodies inside, like chocolate chips, protein crisps, and peanuts, provide a satisfying crunch. They don’t leave a strong protein powder-like aftertaste lingering in your mouth either, which, as someone who loathes the taste of protein powder, is much appreciated. These decadent treats taste like a dessert, only they’re better for you and sweetened with sugars that come from natural sources. I’d eat one post-workout, but I’d also gravitate towards any of the three after dinner.

As far as macronutrients were concerned, one FlapJacked bar has 10 grams of protein per serving. The chocolate chip and chocolate brownie protein treats are 180 calories each and contain 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 29 grams of net carbs. The chocolate peanut butter cookie bar is 215 calories, with 10 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber, and 23 grams of net carbs. 

The best crunchy cookie

Sandwich cookies are a rare breed in the protein cookie category and Buff Bake’s confections are a better-for-you sweet that’s gluten-free and packs 12g of protein.

Pros: Hormone-free protein listed as its first ingredient, excellent portion size, made with real, whole-food ingredients, taste homemade, free of sugar alcohols, gluten-free.

Cons: Low on fiber

There are a handful of crunchy protein cookies on the market that taste good, but Buff Bake exceeds expectations in all categories. One of the reasons why these treats taste amazing is because they’re made from a shortlist of whole foods you’d find listed on a homemade cookie recipe. They come in four flavors — Birthday Cake, Double Chocolate, Peanut Butter Cup, and Snickerdoodle — and each ingredient label lists hormone-free whey protein as its first ingredient. 

The base of the cookies is also made up of palm oil, cane sugar, gluten-free oat flour, natural flavors, egg, salt, and baking soda. Various additions like almond butter, peanut butter, and chocolate create each individual flavor profile.

So, let’s review: The cookies are gluten-free, non-GMO, free of sugar alcohols, and made with relatively clean ingredients. And as if the ingredients list wasn’t reason enough to indulge, the macronutrients of these cookies are just as satisfying. One package of four cookies is 220 calories and contains 12 g of fat, 12 g of protein, 9 g of natural sugar, 2 g of fiber, and 15 g of net carbs. 

Plus, if you want to trick your brain into thinking you’re getting more snackage than you actually are, these cookies are the way to go. Rather than one giant cookie sandwich, one package of these treats contains four smaller-sized cookies to nosh on, breaking up your indulgence. They’re great post-workout or as a healthy dessert alternative.

The best soft cookie

Lenny & Larry’s protein cookies succeed in making you forget they’re not actually a cookie but do be warned that one cookie is actually two total servings.

Pros: Perfectly soft cookie, available in many flavors, very filling, vegan-friendly, made with plant-based protein, made without artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, high fructose corn syrup, or soy, non-GMO, high in fiber

Cons: One cookie is two servings, dense, made with enriched wheat flour, so they’re made more like a traditional cookie, high sugar content

Lenny and Larry’s The Complete Protein Cookie was the first protein cookie I ever tried. The year was 2015, and I was coming home from an awesome gym session when I snacked on one of the brand’s ginormous chocolate chip cookies in the parking lot of a Planet Fitness. It was soft, flavorful, and I didn’t taste a single trace of protein powder. You could say it was love at first bite; I’ve been a loyal fan ever since. 

Lenny & Larry’s protein cookies are, in a word, big — but that’s because one cookie actually yields two servings, so you might want to cut the confection in half and save some for later. These protein snacks are also quite dense: Enriched wheat flour is the first ingredient on the list, which may or may not be why they taste like a bakery dessert. It’s also made with chicory root fiber to keep you fuller, longer. 

All of Lenny & Larry’s cookies are non-GMO certified, free of dairy, eggs, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, high fructose corn syrup, and soy, and made with plant-based protein. One serving (aka half of the entire cookie) has, on-average, 210 calories, with 7 g of fat, 8 g of protein, and 5g of fiber to its name. 

The only major caveat to this cookie is its high sugar content — 12 g per serving, 25 g per cookie, on average. My advice? Save these for a healthy-ish dessert.

The best plant-based

Nothing about Munk Pack’s plant-based protein cookie tastes overly earthy. Instead, these decadent treats are bursting with flavor and packed with good-for-you ingredients. 

Pros: Gluten-free, vegan-friendly, don’t have an earthy protein taste, made without sugar alcohols, dairy, soy, and eggs, contain a decent amount of fiber, relatively low carb

Cons: One cookie is two servings, dense

The first thing you’ll notice about Munk Pack’s protein cookies is their size. They’re not quite as big as the Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie, but they’re just as, if not slightly more, dense. However, like the Lenny & Larry’s Complete Cookie, Munk Pack’s cookies yield two servings, so you might want to save half for later. (But no one’s going to judge you for eating the whole thing in one sitting — they’re that good.)

The first ingredient on each of the brand’s five flavors (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Double Dark Chocolate, Snickerdoodle, Coconut White Chip Macadamia Nut, and Oatmeal Raisin Spice) is peanut butter, so you know they’re providing some healthy fats. They’re also made with gluten-free oats, as well as oat flour, which helps contribute to their volume and the satiety you feel after eating. 

What I love about this protein cookie is that it’s something the majority of snackers can enjoy. It contains zero sugar alcohols, no gluten, no soy, no dairy, and no eggs. Plus, one serving is 160 calories, 6 g of fat, 15 g of net carbs, 3 g of fiber, and 8 g of protein, making it a perfectly nourishing and energizing option. Pack these for your next hike, bike ride, or in your gym bag — they’re awesome post-highly intensive activities. 

The best low-sugar

For anyone who genuinely enjoys the taste of protein (because I know you’re out there), look no further than these cookies from Quest

Pros: High in protein and fiber, great for workout recovery.

Cons: High in fat, strong protein aftertaste, made with sugar alcohols and whey protein which can upset a sensitive stomach.

Three out of the brands five cookie flavors (Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, and Snickerdoodle) list a protein blend of milk isolate and whey protein isolate as their very first ingredient, so you know these cookies pack a mean punch of the macronutrient. This is the cookie you grab after a workout to replenish your energy and aid in muscle recovery.

As far as low-sugar protein snacks go, the macronutrients of Quest cookies are fantastic. Unlike oversized cookies that yield two servings, this big-enough treat is a single serving. The cookies are 220-240 calories and contain 15-16 g of protein, less than 1 g of sugar, and 9-12 g of fiber each. 

The biggest caveats of the Quest protein cookies are that they are very high in fat and, though they have less than 1 gram of sugar per serving, they are made with erythritol, a sugar alcohol. If you have a sensitive stomach, I’d suggest passing on these.

What else we considered

ShrewdFood

ShrewdFood had my heart at first bite because these cookies pack an incredibly satisfying crunch. They come in two flavors — Oat & Chip and Oat & Berry, both of which are fabulous — but what really sets these protein cookies apart from the rest is its recipe’s inclusion of fruits and veggies. One package equates to a serving of fruits and vegetables from 10 different sources, including broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, maitake mushrooms, and papaya. 

They also contain 1 billion probiotics and are made with prebiotics, so your digestion is well taken care of when you’re munching on these miniature snacks. Plus, one serving is an entire 1.65 oz package that yields 8 grams of protein, and I can vouch that you’ll be full and feeling good when you reach the bottom of the bag.

How to shop for protein cookies

1. Try to avoid artificial ingredients, like sugar alcohols.

Because protein cookies are processed foods, they can be rich in artificial ingredients, explains registered dietitian, Erin Palinski-Wade. However, most of the protein cookies you see at the store will have some amount of these. 

“Opt to choose protein cookies made from mostly whole food ingredients and remember they should be enjoyed as a snack on occasion,” she told Insider.

2. Look for cookies with at least 3 grams of fiber

“An added bonus [when shopping for protein cookies] would be a choice that is rich in fiber (3 grams or more) for an added feeling of satiety,” said Plainski-Wade. 

If you want to go even further, you can pay attention to where that fiber is coming from — i.e. nuts and seeds over functional ingredients like corn fiber or chicory root fiber.

“Often, a really high fiber count is a sign that you’re getting a lot of functional fiber rather than fiber from a whole food source,” and, depending on the form, “functional fiber can trigger stomach discomfort,” Cassetty added.

3. Get familiar with different kinds of grains

“For grain-containing cookies, ideally, the grains should be whole grains like oats or brown rice flour or whole wheat flour,” Cassetty said. “If you see ‘enriched wheat flour,’ it’s another way of saying white flour, so it’s a sign that the cookie is even more processed than one with whole grain flour.”

What is a protein snack?

Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert and co-author of Sugar Shock, told Insider that the FDA considers food high protein if it provides you with 20% of the recommended daily value, or 10 grams of protein. However, this doesn’t necessarily align with individual needs. 

“For the purposes of taming hunger to stay focused and productive, a snack with 6 to 8 grams of protein is usually suitable,” Cassetty said.

This still doesn’t mean you should just grab anything that has the words “protein” and “cookie” in it off the store shelves. It’s important to dig into what exactly is in the snack to determine if it is, in fact, right for your diet. 

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: