Energy bars come in all shapes and sizes, with widely differing calorie counts and nutritional values. Picking the right bar for your needs can vary, but nutritionists warn that not every one is what it purports to be. In other words, just because an energy bar cries “energy” or “nutrition” doesn’t mean it doesn’t clock its fair share of sugar, calories, and fat—all the things you might be trying to avoid by opting for such a snack in the first place. Medical experts advise us to keep an eye on protein, fiber, and whole-grain content when we select energy bars, as these nutrients help make us feel fuller, longer. This list will help you identify the best available choices.
These tasty little snacks are a great source of protein and fiber, with low sugar and fat content and solid nutritional value; they also come in a nice variety of flavors. Nutz Over Chocolate tastes exactly like you’d expect, while others, like the Caramel Nut Brownie and S’mores, also live up to their name. Typically, LUNA bars are about 180 calories each and contain ten to eleven grams of sugar, six to eight grams of fat (no trans fats), and nine to ten grams of protein; plus, they’re chock-full of essential vitamins. You can also feel good about their ingredients, as most are organic, and the company promises that it doesn’t use any genetically engineered products.
Stay away from Kashi’s GoLean Chewy bars (though its TLC chewy granola bars are a good choice), but go ahead and indulge in any of the company’s other offerings, including GoLean Crunchy! and Roll! bars. Each provides up to twelve grams of protein and six grams of fiber, and averages fewer than two hundred calories and five grams of fat per serving, depending on your selection. Whether you’re looking for crunchy, sweet, or salty-sweet, Kashi makes just about every kind of bar to match your craving—and makes it sensibly.
These bars meet all the right nutritional requirements, including providing twenty-three vitamins and minerals (along with 100 percent of your daily vitamin C and E) and approximately fifteen grams of protein. They also come in great flavors, such as Almond Brownie, Honey Peanut, and Cookie Dough. They come a little too close to crossing the sugar-overload line (most original Balance bars contain about eighteen grams of sugar), and each bar contains about six grams of fat, but the good outweighs the nearly bad here. Balance Gold bars pack a few more calories than the original variety, but they go down like candy—they taste like slightly chewy chocolate bars.
Zone Perfect Bars
These health treats also border on the more sugary and calorie-heavy side, but only by mere grams—each bar averages 210 calories, seven grams of fat, and seventeen grams of sugar. Zone Perfect bars also offer fifteen grams of protein and a great deal of essential vitamins, including 100 percent of the vitamin C and E you need each day and 50 percent of your recommended daily riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6 intake. In addition, the bars’ high protein concentration can get you from lunch to dinner without your being ravished by the time you get home. They’re a little on the dense and chalky side taste-wise, but they should definitely do the trick when it comes to curbing your appetite.
While these treats pack in extra calories and sugar content, they make up for those features with their all-natural ingredients. The latest Clif product, the Clif C Bar, includes one serving of fruit per snack, and 70 percent of the ingredients are organic. However, it’s less nutritious than the original Clif Bar, which offers the most organic ingredients, twenty-three essential vitamins, and approximately nine grams of protein (though it can climb up to 250 calories and contains about six grams of fat and twenty-two grams of sugar). If you want something a little less decadent, why not pick up Clif’s kids’ line of treats? Z Bars average about 130 calories each and are made with whole oats and twelve essential vitamins.
In a thriving, $3 billion industry, there are literally hundreds of energy-bar options out there from multiple companies. While the above brands are some of the best known, plenty of other ventures are looking to capitalize on this craze as well. Regardless of which specific on-the-go snack you grab, just be sure to always check its nutrition label.
Updated February 25, 2011