Nutrition Bars: Healthy or Just Hype?
Strolling through the supermarket you’re bound to see a massive selection of nutrition bars. They all look healthy. But which actually are and are not? Let’s look at top healthy energy bars, the best protein bars, and some granola bars that probably belong in the snack aisle.
GoodHousekeeping.com turned to a nutritionist to suss out the best protein bars.
- Aloha Bars. Certified USDA organic and vegan, Aloha Bars made their debut in Trader Joe's stores all across the US in 2020. These non-GMO bars have a three-to-one ratio of protein to sugar, with zero sugar alcohols or stevia. On average, bars have 14 grams of protein and between four and five grams of sugar. Much of the protein comes from pumpkin seeds and peanuts, with flavors from cinnamon, vanilla bean, and cacao.
- KIND protein bars. These ranked second on Good Housekeeping's list, getting points for their 100% whole grains. While the KIND bars do have added sugar, it's minimal, with about five or six grams per bar. With that you get an average of twelve grams of plant-based protein, so even their Chocolate Chunk bars can be considered healthy.
- Orgain. Another vegan protein bar, Orgain made the grade for coming in with about ten grams of USDA organic plant-based protein per bar, bars that are soy-free, non-GMO, and only about 160 calories each. You get only about five grams of sugar and five grams of fat in an average bar—even their chocolate chip cookie dough flavor!
- ONE Bars. Packing in 20 grams of protein per bar, ONE bars also rank high on the list. Many of their bars have just one gram of sugar. And you don't have to sacrifice taste for a low-sugar snack, with flavors like blueberry cobbler, butter pecan, cinnamon roll, and, true, even a birthday cake bar variety. The calorie count is a little higher than with other bars, coming in at about 220 calories per bar, but you have to expect that for the flavorful experience.
Best Energy Bars With No Sugar Added
Health.com did a deep dive on energy bars with no added sugar, getting their sweetness from natural fruit. Keep in mind that just judging bars by total sugar can be misleading. Naturally occurring sugar in fruit is healthier than the processed sugar that many manufacturers add to their bars. Here are Health.com's top picks.
- RXBars. These get high marks for simple ingredients. RXBars are made of three egg whites (amounting to 12 grams of protein), nuts including almonds and cashews, fruits including dates and blueberries, and other natural flavors. They do have some sugar, but the seven to 15 grams you get per bar comes from natural fruit.
- Larabar. This is another no-added-sugar offering that rates well in the health department, that is if you stay away from Larabars with chocolate chips. However, all of the others only get their sweetness from natural fruits including apples, raisins, and dates. Other healthy ingredients include cashews, walnuts, and almonds.
- Thunderbird Bars. Rounding out the top three, Thunderbird Bars are made with seeds, nuts, fruits, and spices. For most of them, that's it! A few Thunderbird Bars have vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes and whole grains such as buckwheat groats. On average, each bar has about 20 to 25 grams of natural sugar, which is on the higher end, but still healthier than cane sugar or corn syrup.
- Kellog's Strawberry Nutri-Grain Bar. The issue here is that all fruit isn't the same. Natural fruit in its pure form is healthier than processed fruit. Kellog's Strawberry Nutri-Grain bars have strawberry puree concentrate, as well as corn syrup, fructose, and other sweeteners. You could almost call these candy bars.
- Chocolate Brownie CLIF Bar. As the name has Chocolate Brownie in it, you should be wary of this one. Unlike other CLIF bars, which are much healthier, the tasty Chocolate Brownie CLIF bar is calorie-dense and has little nutritional value.
- Quaker Chewy Dipps Peanut Butter. A delectable treat, true, but the Quaker Chewy Dipps Peanut Butter bars are packed with saturated fats, loaded with sugar, and don't have enough fiber to quell your appetite for long.
- Kashi Honey Almond Flax. These appear super-healthy at first glance, made mostly of nuts and granola. But the "Honey" part of Kashi’s Honey Almond Flax Chewy Granola Bars isn't the whole story; instead of natural sugar, this treat gets its sweetness from added sugar.
While there's no substitute for a well-balanced meal, the best nutrition bars do make for healthy snacking. So next time you’re shopping maybe you’ll look for good protein bars, or, even better, pick up the ingredients for homemade energy bars.
Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.