Which is worse: “I ate a Snickers bar as a meal” remorse or “I should have eaten a Snickers bar as a meal” remorse? Most on-the-go protein, meal or snack bars are high in sugar like a candy bar, but replace recognizable candy elements with some unrecognizable starchy protein additive. They taste as good as they sound, but they’re within budget, at hand, mess-free and good enough. For me, that second kind of regret hits when I realize that carob never has been chocolate and never will be chocolate, but I fell for it again. To satisfy my personal yin and yang (the balance of food and health), I’ve tested all the meal bars I could find before turning to Google.
A health note: Whether you’re on the run or if hitting the books has left you in dire need of a blood sugar boost, always mind your consumption of pre-packaged bars. A sweetener in many products, including the classic Clif Bar, is brown rice syrup. Even organic versions add arsenic to your food. The FDA does not regulate arsenic levels save one brand of baby formula–it’s only suitable for infants of at least 12 months. As a meal or supplement, one bar’s a safe cap. Fresh food is undeniably better, but it’s not always possible. Fast and at hand doesn’t only exist in drive-thru or space-food form. These picks omit the packing-peanuts quality of soy-protein puffs.
1. The one worth searching for: 18 Rabbits’ Haute Diggity Date offer a coconut, almond and honey chewy that’s so addictive I’ve actually purchased eight at once fearing that Peet’s wouldn’t restock. I will unashamedly go as far as to call this snack mouth-watering. It’s the closet I’ve found to Ina Garten’s (very pricy) homemade granola bar. Available at Peet’s Tea and Coffee
2. The one you haven’t heard of: Gnu Fruit & Fiber Chocolate Brownie Bar is a low-calorie grab sweetened with dates. I’m hard pressed to find any other 140 calorie snack that’s also worth 48 percent of one’s daily value of fiber with an added bonus of 4 grams of protein. Available at Whole Foods
3. The one similar to, but better than, a Nature Valley bar: Kashi Pumpkin Spice Flax Bars are the warm, autumnal answer to the average Crunch bar. I advise these be eaten exclusively outdoors and while in motion to avoid a change of clothes. Available at Jewel Osco
4. The one you’ve bypassed: Starbucks’ Blueberry Raw Bars look like bird food. In fact, I was so surprised by my first bar’s scent of cinnamon and welcome stickyness, I needed my friends to try it. Pinch me, am I dreaming? This didn’t fall apart on me! At $4.00 per bar, I’ll always have a moment of doubt at the register, but these vegan, raw, entirely organic, gluten-free, handmade suckers do deliver. Available at Starbucks
5. The one that’s high protein: They’re more awkward to eat publicly because their name denotes a weight-loss plan, but ThinkThin High Protein Bars are essentially softer, sugarfree, high-protein Charleston Chews. Each of the twelve available flavors offers 20 grams of protein to keep you full. Available at Whole Foods
Want to make your own? Check out Spoon’s homemade granola bar recipe.