The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Snack Bars
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The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Snack Bars Slideshow

Find out which snacks are not as wholesome as they seem
The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Snack Bars
istockphoto.com

The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Snack Bars

The Healthiest and Unhealthiest Snack Bars
istockphoto.com

Ah, snack bars. You can throw them in your purse, pack them in your kid’s backpack, and keep a box of them in your car for dire snacking situations. The variety of snack bars on the market is insane. There are bars that boast slimming superpowers, protein powerhouses, and filling fiber. Then there are the bars that don’t even attempt to pretend — you know, the ones that are essentially candy bars with some rice crisps mixed in.

Companies can get pretty crafty when crafting their snack bar products. Where a wrapper implies nutrition and wellness, oftentimes added sugars and other artificial placeholders are all that’s really hiding inside. We scrutinized the nutrition facts of some of the most popular bars on the market, decoding ingredient lists and reading reviews to discover which bars really stood out — and which you should probably leave on the shelves.

On this list, we included the 22 most popular snack bars on the market. We ranked them in order of healthiest to least healthy, so by the time you get to the end, you’ll know for sure which bars to avoid. Click here for our comprehensive ranking of the healthiest and unhealthiest snack bars.

GoMacro Bars

GoMacro Bars
GoMacro

These wholesome, filling bars have really appealing names: Wholehearted Heaven, Sweet Rejuvenation, and Protein Paradise are a few of our favorites. All the bars are cold-pressed and nut-butter based, resulting in a chewy, sweet sensation for your snack. They’re nutritious, delicious, and able to satisfy even the most nagging hunger.

Rise Bar

Rise Bar

A new company, Rise Bar has risen from the shadows as a new favorite for healthy people everywhere. The bars are made with five ingredients or fewer — seriously simple ingredients. Like, unless they just mashed almonds and dates into a bar, they couldn’t get any simpler if they tried. They’re crazy good for you, with healthy fats, protein, and even some natural sugars and nutrients to fuel you through a busy day.

Health Warrior Chia Bar

Health Warrior Chia Bar
Health Warrior/itemmaster

The only war these bars are starting is against processed snacks. There’s nothing artificial about these miniature bars — they’re cute as can be and made primarily from chia seeds, a superfood that can boost your brain and keep you full for longer. They’re 100 calories each, vegan, and packed with omega-3 fatty acids. After you eat one, you’ll actually feel satisfied from your snack.

RXBar

RXBar
RXBAR/itemmaster

These bars make the bold claim, “No BS,” and they’re not lying. There’s nothing hiding in these nutritious protein bars, and snacking on one will be both satisfying and nutritious. The ingredients are listed in bold print on the front of the bar, consisting mainly of egg whites, dates, and nuts. Each bar provides an ample serving of protein and natural sugars for energy alongside healthy fats to balance out your snack.

Square Organics

Square Organics

Chocolate bars that are actually good for you? Yes, please. Square Organics has done the impossible with these treats. In a tiny square of rich dark chocolate, you get 13 grams of plant-based protein, natural sugars, and even a healthy dose of fiber. The ingredients are all natural, soy free, gluten free, and vegan, so truly everyone can enjoy.

Zing Bar

Zing Bar

Finally, the flavorful health food bar we’ve been looking for! It might be because Zing Bars were created by nutritionists, but these snacks know what they’re doing. They’re made from all natural foods and provide a healthy balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates to keep you satisfied and sustained. Forget the gritty, oat-filled nutrition bars of the bleak past. With flavors like Mint Chip and Chocolate Covered Coconut, who could pass these up at snack time?

Lara Bar

Lara Bar
Larabar/itemmaster

These bars come in dozens of fun flavors, all of which are packed with nutrition. They use minimal, all-natural ingredients, keep the calories under 200 per bar, and are entirely non-GMO. The ingredients are all recognizable foods like almonds, dates, and other healthy options — just compacted into a convenient and portable snack!

88 Acres

88 Acres

The story behind these bars is super cute. A man almost died from tree nut contamination in a restaurant, and his girlfriend (who conveniently grew up on a farm) was inspired to craft allergen-free snacks for kids and adults everywhere. She makes her bars using mostly natural sugars with a little brown rice syrup to sweeten things a little more. The bars contain a blend of nutritious seeds along with fruit, oats, and immunity-boosting spices. The healthy fats and natural sugars in these bars make a great combo for lasting energy.

Kind Bar

Kind Bar
KIND/itemmaster

Though some have debated whether these bars can legitimately be marketed as “healthy,” our verdict is: Yes, they can. The transparency is impressive. Every single one of their bars is simply, “whole ingredients like nuts, mixed with fruits and spices bound together with honey,” according to their website. Honey is sugary, sure, but it has a plethora of healthful attributes and requires zero chemicals or processing before use. You can see the whole nuts in every bite. Kind Bars are a sweet treat turned healthier and a great alternative to afternoon dessert.

NuGo Dark Bars

NuGo Dark Bars

Each bar is dipped in dark chocolate — a surprisingly healthy (yet decadent) twist to an even healthier bar. The seven scrumptious varieties are gluten free, vegan, and non-GMO; they boast fascinating flavors like Pretzel Dark Chocolate and Dark Spicy Chocolate. Each bar contains a good amount of protein, too, and an impressive list of vitamins and antioxidants. It is still a chocolate-dipped soy crisp bar, though, and definitely not a fruit and nut or other natural fuel bar. We like to save these for chocolate cravings and treats.

Quest Bars

Quest Bars
Quest Bar/itemmaster

Quest Bars are fan favorites for the gym-goers and macro-counters of the world. They have an impressive amount of protein and a shockingly low number of net carbs — the carbs that aren’t made of indigestible fiber. They’re low-sugar because they’re sweetened with stevia. The taste gets mixed reviews, and while these are a healthy choice for a snack, they’re not made of very many real food ingredients. If it weren’t part of a bar, we doubt you’d be eating large quantities of soluble corn fiber on the reg.

Nature Valley

Nature Valley
Nature Valley/itemmaster

“Nature” might be in their name, but these bars are far from natural. Their most popular product is their Oats ‘n Honey bar, a crunchy, rock-hard snack that makes a mess when you eat it, no matter how hard you try to keep the crumbs in the wrapper. The bar is mostly oats and sugar, mixed with a little canola oil and other additives. It’s pretty good for you and boasts an impressive nutrition facts sheet — but lacks a critical ingredient. It needs protein.

Luna Bar

Luna Bar
Luna Bar/itemmaster

Luna Bar is Clif Bar’s female-marketed spinoff, and it’s not much better than the original. While each bar does have an inspirational quote intended to carry you through your day, this bar’s ingredients will likely fail to do the same. The first ingredient of the bars is a “protein grain blend” followed by various syrups, sugars, and oil solids. Why they don’t use wholesome ingredients like nuts and seeds instead of processed oils is beyond us, but we’re not fans of these sugary snacks.

Kashi Layered Granola Bars

Kashi Layered Granola Bars
Kashi/itemmaster

These have been a classic healthy choice in the snack food aisle for as long as we can remember. They’re chewy, crunchy, and sticky all at the same time somehow, and they get mixed reviews when it comes to flavor. However, they aren’t as good for you as they taste. They’re mostly made from oats and sugar, along with some other filler ingredients to add flavor and texture. The oats provide whole grains, which are a plus, but we wanted more nutrition from our bars than that.

ThinkThin

ThinkThin
thinkThin/itemmaster

You might think you’re getting thin while you’re eating them, but these diet nutrition bars aren’t all that great for you. Sure, they’re low-calorie and have a significant amount of protein, but they’re lacking the healthy fat and natural energy needed to truly keep you full till your next meal. Plus, the ingredient list is a mile long — who ever asked for glycerin and sunflower oil in their snack?

Special K Nourish Bars

Special K Nourish Bars
Kellogg’s/itemmaster

They are advertised as “what snack dreams are made of,” but we’re not sure whose dreams they’re talking about. Certainly not ours — we dream of our snacks either being healthy or real tasty to make up for it. These bars are neither. Each bar has four different types of added sugar on the label along with healthier ingredients like cranberries and peanuts. We are grateful Kellogg’s used real nuts in the manufacture of these bars — we’re just not sure why they used so much else.

Nutri-Grain

Nutri-Grain
Kellogg’s/itemmaster

The name of this bar makes us think of our grandparents and bales of wheat — but the reality of these bars is much less wholesome. Their overly processed, jam-filled bars are packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives. While they’re relatively low in sugar, they don’t have a whole lot else going for them. After you eat one, you likely won’t feel full, happy, or satisfied. Think of these more as chewy, mealy cookies rather than a healthy snack.

Chewy

Chewy
Quaker/itemmaster

Quaker is notorious for its not-so-honest health claims, and this bar is a perfect example. Sure, each miniature bar has 100 calories, but calories aren’t everything when it comes to nutrition. And a bar that’s low in calories and lacking in sustenance is going to feel like you snacked on a candy bar instead of a real, filling food. Their ingredient list is a nightmare, and one of their proudest claims on the package is that they use “real chocolate chips.” We’re not sure that’s something to be proud of in a “healthy” packaged snack.

Fiber One

Fiber One
Fiber One/itemmaster

These bars are favorites of Weight Watchers customers and calorie counters due to their low calorie count and diet-friendly appeal. However, the reality for your body eating one of these bars is bleak. Their most popular variety, Oats & Chocolate, is a sticky mess of saccharine disappointment, tallying in at 2 grams of protein, tons of carbs, and only 4 grams of hunger-fighting fat. The vitamin profile is equally deficient. Womp, womp.

Zone Bars

Zone Bars

These protein bars taste more like candy bars — and they’re about as nutritious as candy bars, too. The number of artificial ingredients far exceeds what we can fit on this slide, and each chewy bite is hiding a ton of added sugar and processed oils. The bars do provide some protein, so we’ll give them that. We just wish they did more with the protein and less with the other stuff.

Clif Bar

Clif Bar
Clif/itemmaster

The first ingredient in these super-sweet nightmares is (you guessed it) sugar. Organic brown rice syrup, to be exact. But the fact that it’s organic and brown doesn’t make it any less of a bad idea for a midday snack. The spike of sugar is going to result in a crash later, which is left unaided by significant sources of healthy fat or protein. A person doesn’t need this kind of energy bomb unless they’re doing something that’s as strenuous as climbing an actual cliff.

PowerBar

PowerBar
PowerBar/itemmaster

One of the OG nutrition bars on the market, PowerBar is likely here to stay. But we do wish they’d use their resources to craft a healthier recipe. As you could probably guess from their sticky, squishy texture, PowerBars aren’t that great for you. Just one bar has 26 grams of sugar (it’s the first ingredient!) and only 4 grams of healthy fat. They’re labeled “Performance Energy” and they’re not lying — you will get a serious spike of short-term sugary energy from these processed snack bars.

While some of these snacks aren’t as nourishing as we’d like, snack bars aren’t the only convenient option for crushing midday hunger. These other new snacks are both fun and nutritious innovations this year.

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