Are nutrition bars just candy bars in disguise?

I happen to really like some of the nutritional bars out there. I think they work great as on-the-go breakfasts or snacks. Sometimes if I am craving something sweet I will have one for a snack that contains a little bit of chocolate in it. However, are these really any better than eating a candy bar or cookie? I’m here to fill you in on the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to nutritional bars.

There are so many options in stores now when it comes to choosing a granola bar or nutritional bar. They all claim to have high levels of protein, fiber or other vital nutrients and minerals. However, it’s important to know you cannot take everything you read at face value. You must look deeper into the actual nutritional quality of the bar. Just looking at the claims on the front of the package won’t cut it. Marketers work very hard to sell you on their product and make it look appealing. My recommendations are to turn the package over and really look at the nutritional facts on the back, as well as, the ingredient list. Know what you are eating. You’d be surprised to find out what’s really in certain foods that claim to be healthy. The truth is, most claimed nutritional bars are, in fact, almost as bad as eating a candy bar. They are loaded with sugar and unnecessary fats. Below are some examples of bars to avoid and ones that I recommend enjoying.

1. Balance Gold
Calories: 210
Fat: 6 g
Sat. Fat: 4 g
Carbohydrates: 23 g
Dietary Fiber: <1 g
Sugars: 14 g
Protein: 14 g
This bar looks like it would be a good option, however, the name is Balance, yet there isn't a balance of nutrients. Most of the fat is saturated and there's relatively no fiber. This bar may taste good due to the fat content, but it won't keep you full for long.

2. Go Lean Chewy Bar
Calories: 290
Fat: 6 g
Saturated Fat: 4.5 g
Carbohydrates: 45 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 31
Protein: 13
This bar has many bad qualities. It is very high in calories, high in saturated fat, and has tons of sugars! If you were going to opt for this bar you might as well have had a candy bar. (See below)

3.Special K Protein Snack Bars

Calories: 110
Fat: 3.5 g
Sat. Fat: 2 g
Carbohydrates: 15 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 11 g
Protein: 4 g
There’s really not much to this bar. It might look appealing due to being low in calories, but it won’t fill you up and you’ll end up snacking on something else shortly after. Relatively no fiber, little protein….low nutritional quality.

4. Slimfast Snack Bar
Calories: 100
Fat: 5 g
Sat. Fat: 2.5 g
Carbohydrates: 14 g
Dietary Fiber: 1 g
Sugar: 7 g
Protein: 1 g
Gotta love the 100 calorie snacks, right? Wrong! This bar may be low in calories, but like the Special K bar it lacks nutritional value. Half of the fat is saturated and relatively no fiber or protein to fill you up.

Now let’s take a look at the nutrition facts of a Snickers bar.

Snickers: 1 package 280 cal 14 fat grams 5 grams saturated fat 30 grams sugar

Notice a similarity to this and the Go Lean Chewy bar? Not to mention that the ingredient lists on these bars are full of unnatural foods, additives and chemicals. Try substituting with the list below.

1. Luna Bars
Fat: 6 g
Sat. Fat: 2 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Sugar: 10 g
Protein: 9 g
These are one of my favorite. They have a great balance of fat, fiber and protein to satisfy my hunger and keep me from snacking. they are also loaded with natural, organic ingredients.

2. Lara Bars
Calories: 220
Fat: 9 g
Sat. Fat: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 33 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Sugar: 20 g
Protein: 4 g
These are a little higher in calories, but are still a healthy option. They have adequate amounts of fat (hardly any saturated), fiber and protein. They also are made with healthy, organic ingredients without additives.

3. Cliff Bars
Calories: 240
Fat: 5 g
Sat. Fat: 1.5 g
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Sugar: 22 g
Protein: 10 g
These are great bars to eat if you are super active or as a meal replacement bar. Lots of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein to keep you going through a long workout or busy day. A Cliff Bar and a piece of fruit could make a great on-the-go lunch!

4. Pure Bars
Calories: 200
Fat: 9 g
Sat. Fat: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Dietary Fiber: 5 g
Sugar: 18 g
Protein: 6 g
These have recently become another favorite of mine. These bars are completely raw with a short ingredient list of organic fruits and nuts. Nothing processed or added to these, the name says it all……Pure 🙂

Hopefully this helps when choosing a nutrition bar. The key points are to look for one with whole food ingredients with little or no additives. Also make sure to choose a bar that does not have hydrogenated oils in it. Hydrogenated oils are bad, bad, bad. Another key point to remember is to look for one with a balance of nutrients. The bar should have a little fat (very little or no saturated fat) and adequate fiber and protein to satisfy you. Remember not all bars are created equal so find one that works for you 🙂


3 thoughts on “Are nutrition bars just candy bars in disguise?

  1. Wow thats a lot of good info. I always look at protein alone to judge the bars never thought about looking into the additives. Thanks!

  2. Great stuff! I had a coach in high school that would always tell us to just eat a snickers bar instead of health bars cuz they are basically the same…Guess he was partially correct.

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