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As it turns out, many snack bars are really not that healthy. In some cases you would be better off eating a candy bar. For a presentation that I did recently, I researched snack bars, and was surprised to find that some bars (even ones advertised with health claims) have more than 5 teaspoons of sugar per bar!

Snack Bars

This might not seem like a lot of sugar but when you consider that the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year it really makes you think about where all of this sugar is coming from. Why would we want to waste calories on snack bars that, at best, taste like cardboard with a glaze? Why not save them up for something a whole lot tastier…like a piece of cake?

Don’t get me wrong, snacks are important and should be eaten throughout the day. I just happen to believe that snacks don’t always need to come from a package. A healthy snack should include a fruit or vegetable, some protein, and/or a whole grain. If a snack is advertised as having only 100 calories, you need to consider where those 100 calories are coming from. Chances are, 100 calories of carbohydrate is not going to satisfy you for very long. That is why 100-calorie packs and snack bars are not always your best bet.

Here are a few healthy snack examples:

  • Half a sandwich on whole wheat bread with baby carrots
  • Greek yogurt with berries and almonds
  • Bowl of high fiber cereal with an orange
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Veggies and hummus
  • Cheese and fruit
  • Small bowl of soup with whole grain crackers

If you do eat snack bars, here is what to look for…

Choose bars with:

  • 150-200 calories for a snack
  • Heart healthy unsaturated fats from nuts and seeds.
  • Fiber (at least 3 grams per serving and preferably from natural sources not synthetic fiber which can cause gas, cramping… you see where I’m going with this?)
  • Protein (close to one serving of protein = 7 grams)
  • Sugar from natural sources like dried fruits. Avoid bars where the first ingredient is sugar in disguise like these code words…brown rice syrup, honey, agave nectar, molasses, evaporated cane juice, organic brown sugar, turbinado, fructose/glucose syrup, etc. Bottom line: aim for 12 grams or less, which is about 3 teaspoons – regardless of whether or not it is natural or organic. Sugar is still sugar.

Some of the better snack bars:

  • Kashi TLC (i.e. cherry dark chocolate, 120 calories, 2 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar, 5 grams protein)
  • Kind Bars (i.e. dark chocolate cinnamon pecan, 200 calories, 16 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 5 grams protein)
  • Luna Bars (i.e. vanilla almond, 190 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 11 grams sugar, 9 grams protein)

Some of the worst snack bars:

  • Cliff bar (i.e. chocolate chip, 230 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 23 grams sugar, 10 grams protein)
  • Balance Bar (i.e. honey yogurt peanut, 200 calories, 7 grams fat, 1 gram fiber, 18 grams sugar, 15 grams protein)
  • Odwalla Bar (i.e. banana nut, 220 calories, 5 grams fat, 5 grams fiber, 17 grams sugar, 4 grams protein)

21 Responses

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  1. Good article! It is probably good that my stomach dislikes them!

  2. I actually detest snack bars…I would so much rather have real food – an apple with peanut butter, a container of yogurt, some hummus, etc. than a bar that will taste mediocre at best and will keep me full for 2.5 seconds. The only ones I ever really eat are Larabars…they make for great pre-long run fuel, along with a scoop of PB. Great post!

  3. So true! Larabars are my favorite and I recently tried PURE bars which I love as well ! I love when I can read all the ingredients and they sound like actual food!

  4. cliff bars (peanut butter) are tasty, and used to keep me full til lunch. granted they aren’t the best for you, it did the trick for me!

    however, since i have more time in the morning, real food is much much better. more posts like this pal!

  5. Emily

    Great Post Corrine. Thanks for getting this much needed info out there. :)

  6. Great post. I recently did a healthy snack post too. Great minds think alike:)
    http://twopeasandtheirpod.com/10-in-10-healthy-challenge-healthy-snack-ideas/

    I don’t eat bars because they are loaded with sugar and junk. I prefer a natural snack like an apple:)

  7. Kel

    I was so with you, until I saw fiber one on your list. It is loaded with HFCS :(.

    Love the snack suggestions!

  8. Rodzilla

    Seems as if you’ve based your ratings on sugar content alone.

  9. @ Noelle and Joanne….thank you. Yeah most “snack” (energy) bars are garbage. You are so much better off having real food. I have had Larabars and they are tasty.

    @ Nicole….I have never had Pure bars. I will have to try them out.

    @ Matt…thanks Palps. Got to get that old popcorn post out.

    @ Emily….thanks! I miss you. Hope that you and your baby are doing well.

    @ Kel….Thanks…very good point and I agree. It was really hard to evaluate these bars because most are trash….but even though some have HFCS I chose the ones with the least amount of total sugar because even the ones that seem healthy are loaded with tons of “organic” sugar….which is really not any better. Here is a good article http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588 Hope you are doing well!

    @ Rodzilla….Yes, that is exactly what I have done. Most other bars had too much saturated fat and not enough protein and fiber to even be considered “healthy” although they are marketed that way. Most bars are trash. You would be better off having a some real food for a snack.

  10. great tips! I myself don’t like those 100-cal snack packs because they often lack nutritional value and will just leave you hungry within an hour or less! Much better to go for real food like you said :)

  11. Great post! I have totally stopped eating snack/protein bars. You can get so much more food, speaking volumetrically, if you just eat whole foods! My fav snack is 1 cup fat free plain yogurt, a little stevia, and 2/3 cup thawed frozen blackberries. It’s less that 200 calories and it’s a whole lot of food!

  12. Great ideas. The thing with cereal bars is that they are easy and don’t need refrigeration. Thanks for doing the research to find the good ones. I always get that question, which bar to eat, and that saves me time!

    Another snack option on the go is just dry cereal with a piece of fruit. Something like Wheaties (large in size and whole grain) is perfect.

    Nour

  13. Thanks for the making a list. Sometimes we just don’t have the time to make it from scratch.

  14. Hi Corrine…I was given your blog address by your friend and MY Dietician Christy! She’s a doll…and I am so excited having looked over all the wonderful recipes..let alone the fantastic photography! You make ALL the recipes so inviting.

    I posted on my blog a very healthy energy/fiber bar that I make from scratch. Christy approved! (I even gave her a sample). If you would like to post it here you are more than welcome. The recipe can be found on my blog sight. It is also about my cancer journey. Look for the post TO YOUR HEALTH.

    I’ll be visiting you often..and have signed up for your newsletter.

    THANKS for a great blog to visit full of great HEALTHY information.

    ps. I go by HOPE on my blog…P is for my real name.

  15. sm

    I know this is an old post, but I wanted to respond. First, I too love apples and peanut butter, but here are some facts.

    Large Apple and 2TBSP of peanut butter vs. Cliff Bar Chocolate Chip
    Calories 300 Calories 250
    Fat 17 grams Fat 5 grams
    Carbs 35 grams Carbs 45 grams
    Fiber 2 grams Fiber 5 grams
    Sugar 25 grams Sugar 21 grams
    Protein 8 grams Protein 10 grams

    I would say they’re comparable

  16. Hi Sm, thank you for your comment! I appreciate good comments like this. I agree that these nutrition profiles look deceptively similar. At a quick glance the Cliff Bar seems nutritionally equivalent to the apple and peanut butter, but it’s not.

    Cliff Bars may provide marginal health benefits, but they are highly processed, have a high glycemic load, contain fewer antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, (and this part is subjective) are less satiating than an apple and peanut butter. I’m a fan of satiation. It makes me feel good.

  17. Ashley

    Wow all this time I thought eating my regular Cliff Bar in the afternoon was good for me! I’m definitely switching back to Lara Bars, thanks for this post Corrine!

  18. George Ambrose

    Hey,thanks for the advice.My questoin is how about the (Atkins)bars and would you consider them good enough as snacks?? thanks much.

  19. Corrin

    I really LOVE oatmeal with blueberries in the morning!! Also bananas in cereal ( frosted flakes ) !!!!!

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