Ok, so KIND bars aren’t “healthy” per the FDA labeling laws, but in my opinion they sure do beat the heck out of most “health” bars out there. Why not crack down on the bars who’s labels claim they are “nutritious”, “balanced”, “perfect for the active lifestyle”, all label claims that Americans tend to take as “healthy” anyways. This article really summed up the whole KIND controversy well, if you’re interested.
Today I want to share with you my top nine snack bar picks. Why nine? I honestly couldn’t find a tenth. I’m sure there are more out there, but I looked at Giant Eagle Market District and Whole Foods, and this is what I came up with. To me a good snack has 150-300 calories (this really depends on how hungry you are, and how many calories you need in a day), and includes 5-15 grams of protein, 10 g sugar or less (more allowed if there is fruit and/or veggies in the bar) and at least one fruit or vegetable (because snacks are the perfect opportunity to get fruits and vegetables in your diet, you know you need about 2-3 cups a day?!). Not many bars, if any, fall have all these traits (mainly because they don’t count as fruits or vegetables!), but that’s why I typically say bars aren’t necessarily the best snack. I mean, they work when you’re in a pinch, but overall they aren’t really the best every day choice. Regardless of what I say, you may still want to have a bar everyday, so here are my top nine picks!
- KIND bars with 5 g or less added sugars per bar, and KIND Strong bars
- Pro: 250 calories or less, and most have an excellent source of fiber, contain at least 10 grams of protein, and have anywhere between 4 g and 10 g added sugar. These are all fantastic qualities in a snack bar. That’s not to mention the fact that the ingredients are all familiar and relatively easy to pronounce. Very rare in a bar! I love the whole nuts, which are loaded with potassium, magnesium and even a little calcium (all missing in American’s diets). The KIND Strong bars are nice because they offer a savory flavor instead of all the (almost sickening sometimes) sweet flavors out there.
- Con: They all contain chicory root for fiber (it’s rare to find a bar that doesnt), which means they are off limits for some who are following a low FODMAPs diet (chicory root is an “O”ligossacharide, which can cause some GI upset if consumed in excess). Chicory root isn’t harmful but I’d rather get my fiber from whole fruits, and veggies and nuts (too bad all that fiber isn’t from all the nuts in the bars). Also, for individuals on a lower calorie diet (ie: ~1100-1500 calories) these bars might contain too many calories.
- MOJO Bars
- Pro: : Lower FODMAPs (finally, no chicory root to give you gas!) and 200 calories or less. Each bar contains 10 g of protein or just slightly less, and also 12 g or less of sugar (ok, a bit over my 10 g rec. but I’m still happy). Another thing I like is that the ingredients are all pronounceable and common (nuts, seeds, and sugars made from brown rice. But, regardless of the fact that it’s “brown rice syrup” it’s still added sugar, don’t forget). And as far as taste, they are my favorite (especially the one below!).
- Con: I wish they had a bit more protein, but I typically have a string cheese with mine or a small plain Greek yogurt to add more protein (if I’m really in the mood for a hefty snack). The fiber is also sort of low, with only one variety being a “good source” of fiber. I guess that’s what happens when a company doesn’t add chicory root. I think I’m happy without it!
- Luna Protein Bars
- Pro: Less than 200 calories, good source of fiber and protein, also for those who care, they are now Gluten Free.
- Con: A bit too much sugar in my opinion. Similar to the regular Luna bars, they contain more than my recommended “less than 10 grams”. I also don’t really like the long list of somewhat strange ingredients. I say strange because it just seems like a lot and some are random (although, mainly pronounceable and recognizable!).
- Lara ALT bars (especially the Lemon Pound Cake, which has the lowest amount of sugar)
- Pro: Higher protein and not much sugar (most of which is natural sugars from fruit). Sure, the sugar goes above the amount I typically suggest, but the fact that most is from fruit gives it the “ok” in my book. Also no weird ingredients, all very clean and wholesome (ok you caught me using words that really don’t mean anything). Basically, ingredients you can pronounce and you won’t need a dictionary for! I also love that it’s pea protein instead of soy, which seems to be overly used in our food supply.
- Con: Higher in calories, so definitely use this as a snack when you’re pretty hungry and have a while before your next meal (and if you’re on a higher calories diet; 1700-2500). This could also be used as a post-LARGE workout snack/meal. Also, still higher in sugar than I like, even if it’s from natural sources, but the fact that I could count this as about half a serving of fruit? I love that.
- Good Greens
- Pro: Great for many lifestyles; gluten free, vegan, low glycemic. Also contains about 10 g protein (nice), an excellent source of fiber and some omega-3. They contain fruits and vegetables (yes, in pureed/powdered form, but still, this is a nice bonus), plus probiotics. Also, there are so many wonderful varieties, all which, in my opinion, taste delicious. I actually prefer the chocolate covered ones (go figure). Overall I love that the Good Greens bars contain so many wonderful nutrients, mainly from wholesome food sources. No, I don’t actually count one bar as a full day’s worth of fruit and veggies like the wrapper suggests, but I’d certainly count it as one! More than any other snack bar out there.
- Con: The fiber is mainly from chicory root, which is an isolated fiber (to be fair, that’s the source of fiber in about 99% of the bars I saw on the shelves). There is nothing wrong with that, but just remember that it’s always best to get fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This is, however, the only bar that actually contains whole fruits and veggies (which does contribute to some of the the fiber, too). These bars contain agave, which, in addition to the chicory root prebiotics, isn’t low FODMAPs (if you care). Lastly, these bars contains roughly 15 g sugar, which is above my recommendation for bars (some of this sugar is from fruit though, which is nice). Also, the “yogurt coating”, as with all bars covered in “yogurt” isn’t really yogurt. Just sayin’. But you knew that (how could it be real yogurt?!).
- Pro Bar MEAL (meal replacement!)
- Pro: Convenient meal replacement bar that is packed with nutrition. All pretty low in sodium (some of them are actually less than 100 mg, others are no more than 200 mg). All are an excellent source of fiber (20% DV or more) and have at least 10 g protein. Also, they all have a good source (or even excellent source) of iron (from the nuts and seeds). I also like that they contain fruit puree, although again it’s always best to eat whole fruit, just saying.
- Con: This is not a snack, it’s a meal replacement. Make the meal even better by pairing it with a glass of milk or a small plain Greek yogurt for more protein (crumble the bar into the yogurt, yum). The sugar is high, and most is from added sugars (notice all the syrups) but some is from dates and fruit purees (not an “added” sugar source).
Bars that aren’t sold individually
- Kashi Snack Bars: Most Kashi bars, other than the ones that are stuffed with “fruit” and made to look like a Nutrigrain bar, are a good snack choice in my opinion. They aren’t a great source of protein, but I typically pair mine with a cheese stick or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt. Boom! You could also do an ounce of walnuts or almonds if you don’t do dairy (or even if you do). They all contain wholesome ingredients, not too much added sugar (generally less than 10 g) and at least a serving of whole grains (or two!) and heart-healthy omega-3 (some varieties).
- Nature Valley Bars — I’ve been eating these bars for years. The crunchy variety is low FODMAPs (aside from the honey and oat flavor) and they can be broken into two snacks (one package comes with two bars, each with only 90-calories). These bars are packed with whole grains and recognizable ingredients. They also contain a good source of fiber. The protein isn’t great, at all, so I typically pair mine with a Greek yogurt and sometimes a piece of fruit (if I just stick to half the package). Nature Valley also makes a protein bar, which I like. It’s not too high in calories and it’s pretty tasty.
- KIND Healthy Grains — Another great snack choice from KIND. These come in a box and would be best as mentioned above, served with a fruit (or a yogurt I suppose, since they are low in protein) to make the snack more balanced. They are gluten free and most are also low FODMAPs. One-hundred percent whole grain goodness, with less than 10 grams of sugar.
What’s your favorite snack bar? I know there are plenty other great bars out there but I didn’t want this blog post to be so long that you didn’t read it. I had to draw the line somewhere! See you next week with a Gluten Free Strawberry and Lemon Cake bar recipe!