Snack bars are a wonderful invention. They’re perfect for when alarm clocks “don’t go off” and there’s no time for breakfast, when there’s still 2 hours until dinner but lunch seems like it was forever ago, or you just need a quick pick-me-up mid-morning.
With so many different kinds of bars to choose from, it’s sometimes daunting to know which are “healthiest” for you. Each brand has its own claim to fame and a lot of the labels may be deceiving and look similar.
Using the coconut chocolate flavor of each brand, I’ve taken 12 snack bars and broken down the nutrition facts, allotting relative points to one another based on key factors of the label:
- Fiber content
- Protein content
- # of readable and total ingredients
- % Saturated Fat / Total Fat
- Fat content
- Caloric density
- Added Sugar
What I found was pretty surprising. A lot of the bars ranked pretty equally to each other, but because of points in different categories. So from this what I would take is that for most of the bars, there are some good and some bad things about them. Not one bar got a perfect score, and it’s hard to categorize all bars together when they’re meant to serve different purposes.
But, nonetheless, here’s an arbitrary ranking of 14 of the most popular snack bars out there.
1. Rx Bars
Rx bars are on the expensive side, but for good reason. With very few ingredients, all of which you can pronounce and understand, Rx bars are packed with protein and are very low in saturated fat and relatively low in sugar.
2. Clif Bars
Clif bars ranked high in protein and fiber content, as well as caloric density. The sugar content is pretty high as well as the number of ingredients – many of which aren’t ingredients that I like to call “readable.” You may be able to pronounce them, but you can’t visualize what it is (for example, you can picture what unsweetened coconut is, but do you know what soy lecithin is?) These bars are best for high intensity athletes and for long-term hiking snacks.
3. Simple Squares (Tied)
With 6g of protein and 3g of fiber, in addition to an impressive 100% readable ingredient list of only 7 ingredients total, Simple Squares overall rank high. There’s even a flavor with real coffee beans in there. Pretty cool.
3. Zing Bars (Tied)
These vegan bars are tied for third based on their high protein content and few ingredients. With no artificial sweeteners or additives, Zing uses a nut butter base with the mindset to encompass within each bar all that is necessary in a balanced meal – high fiber, protein, healthy fats, and low glycemic carbs.
3. Chia Bars (Tied)
Healthy Warrior’s Chia Bars may not be so filling, but they have few ingredients and little added sugar, plus a ton of Omega 3s, which reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation.
Larabars follow a similar mission as Rx bars in that the ingredient list is minimal and there is no added sugar. Because the base of Larabars are dates, they are sweet and a perfect pick-me-up to get you through the morning or to have a no-guilt dessert.
5. 18 Rabbits
Although low in protein and fiber, 18 Rabbits granola bars are sweet and made of few ingredients and paired with an apple and peanut butter act as a great breakfast or pre-workout snack.
6. KIND Bars (Tied)
In the hopes that their message of pronounceable ingredients inspires people to do the kind thing for their bodies, themselves and the world, KIND fruit and nut bars hold true to having few ingredients that are mostly all pronounceable. Although higher in calories than most other bars in comparison, KIND bars are heavier on the nut content, making it a great snack for when you need to make it through the afternoon but all you can think about is dinner.
6. Nature Valley Protein Bar (Tied)
With more protein than their original granola bars, Nature Valley protein bars are low in both natural and added sugars and high in protein and fiber. There is a moderate amount of saturated fat and unreadable ingredients but like 18 Rabbit bars, paired with a fruit, Nature Valley bars are an easy and convenient pre-workout or mid-day snack.
7. Odwalla Bars (Tied)
On the higher calorie side and the lower fiber side, Odwalla bars provide sufficient fiber and low-fat contents with many ingredients but few unreadable.
7. Luna Bar (Tied)
With similar nutritional content as Odwalla Bars, Luna Bars rank higher in protein content but lower in number of ingredients (both readable and unreadable). The caloric density is higher than most other bars in comparison, but the overall fat content is pretty low.
High in fiber (shocking right?) and high in protein, Fiber One bars are convenient and less expensive than many of their competitors. But, there is a trade off for the most ingredients listed on their label and with the highest percentage of unreadable ingredients. Regardless, Fiber One bars are low in sugar and on the lower calorie side, it becomes an easy on-the-go snack.
Layered with both flavor and protein, Kashi bars rank higher in the protein and fiber categories but lower in most others. With many unreadable ingredients, you may not know exactly what all the additives may be made out of, but among them are wholesome and energy dense ingredients as well.
At only 100 calories, Chewy bars are a throwback to middle school snack time. For sweet tasting granola bars, there isn’t such a high sugar content, but additionally there isn’t a high content of really anything. Low in fat but also low in fiber and protein, Chewy Bars don’t offer much nutrition at all.
As shown with all the ties among the bars, and that there weren’t many differences even with the highest ranking and lowest ranking bars, I’ve come to the conclusion that all bars are good for different things. If you’re looking for a meal replacer, the best bars if a bar is necessary are Rx, Simple Squares, KIND, and Clif bars.
If you’re looking to eat more wholesome and bars closer to “real food”, choose a bar with fewer ingredients: Simple Squares, 18Rabbits, Rx, KIND, and Larabars.
The best pick-me-up snacks are Larabars, Simple Squares (coffee flavor!), and Chia Bars.
But overall, there are goods and bads of each bar, and for what it’s worth, choose the bar that you like the best. Pair it with a piece of fruit and some nut butter, and enjoy.