Which nutrition bars are best?
When sitting for a meal doesn’t fit into your busy schedule, reaching for a nutrition bar is a convenient solution.
Nutrition bars are jam-packed with healthy ingredients and nutrients to keep hunger in check until your next substantial meal. No matter your dietary needs, there’s a variety with the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat for you. Macros aside, there are just as many — if not more — delicious flavors to suit any craving.
Take a look at our buying guide to select a nutrition bar to aid you in your health and diet goals. Our top choice is Kind’s Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt Bars, which offers a tasty combination of sweet and salty that’s sure to satisfy your cravings.
What to know before you buy nutrition bars
Types of nutrition bars
- Energy bars: These bars have higher carbohydrates at around 20 to 40 grams. They also contain up to 20 grams of sugar. They’re a good temporary boost to tide you over until your next meal.
- Meal replacement bars: These bars have higher calorie contents — usually over 300 — to be more filling. They also tend to have more protein and fiber. They’re a fine substitute for a meal but shouldn’t regularly replace them.
- Snack bars: These bars are essentially healthier alternatives to other snack foods. They usually have a higher sugar content than protein. While they have some nutritional strengths, more than anything, they’re a treat with some positive macros.
If you have health issues, such as food intolerances or allergies, it’s important to read ingredient lists carefully. Many brands take these concerns to heart and list if their bars are vegan, gluten-friendly, or sugar-free.
Some bars advertise if they’re diet-friendly, which is helpful if you follow a specific diet, like paleo or keto. Some consumers say there are mild discrepancies, but if you only model your intake after a diet, you’ll be fine in the gray area.
What to look for in quality nutrition bars
Protein aids in building muscle and helps you feel full longer. Nutrition bars can have between 4 and 20 grams of protein per bar, though most of them hover around 8 to 12 grams. If you’re weight training, high-protein bars are perfect as post-workout snacks.
Carbohydrates provide a burst of energy, though they won’t make you feel satisfied as long as protein. Expect to find between 4 and 25 grams of carbohydrates in most nutrition bars. If you need a burst of energy and it’s not too long until your next meal, high-carb nutrition bars are a good option.
Fiber aids in regular bowel movements and, like protein, contributes to a satisfied feeling. On average, nutrition bars offer between 3 and 8 grams of fiber. Opt for a high-fiber bar if you need a substantial snack, or if you need help reaching your daily fiber goal — for men this is around 30 grams, and for women it’s 25 grams.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Common healthy fats in nutrition bars include nut butters, chia seeds, and coconut.
Trans fats, on the other hand, are considered unhealthy fats as they contribute to heart disease. As a rule of thumb, sticking to nutrition bars lower in all fats is best for staying heart-healthy.
Nutrition bars contain natural sugars, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols. It’s a good idea to choose a lower-sugar bar, preferably natural sugar, especially if your goal is weight loss. While artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols won’t spike your insulin, there are some studies that suggest they may have negative impacts on your long-term health.
How much you can expect to spend on nutrition bars
Single nutrition bars cost between $1-$4 per bar, so if you consume them often, you’re better off investing in a value pack of five to 24 bars at a time. Generally speaking, the better the ingredient quality, the more the bar costs.
Nutrition bars FAQ
Q. My nutrition bar contains carrageenan. What’s that?
A. Derived from seaweed, carrageenan is an inexpensive thickening agent. It gives the nutrition bar a creamier, denser consistency. Some people who have certain health conditions and food sensitivities may experience gastrointestinal issues from it.
Q. Should I refrigerate my nutrition bar?
A. No, because it can harden the bar and make it difficult to break apart and chew. There are certain nutrition bars that are supposed to be refrigerated and have much softer, chewier consistencies.
What nutrition bars are best to buy?
Top nutrition bar
Kind’s Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt Bars
Our take: Lower-sugar option that’s packed with flavor and comes in plenty of delicious varieties.
What we like: Natural ingredient list with only 5 grams of sugar. Bars are gluten-free. If you like sweet/salty combinations, you’ll love their flavors.
What we dislike: Some reports that bars are too hard to bite into.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top nutrition bar for the money
Zone’s Perfect Protein Bar Variety Pack
Our take: Smoother texture than other bars. Most varieties have a low glycemic impact and include heart-healthy nutrients.
What we like: These bars have around 14 grams of protein. They’re quite delicious if you’re a fan of chocolate.
What we dislike: At around 190 to 220 calories apiece (depending on the flavor), they’re not exactly satisfying as meal bars.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Our take: Simple ingredients combine to pack a flavor punch. Satisfies a sweet tooth as a healthier option.
What we like: Has a flavor profile for almost everyone. One of the few bars that can be worked into most diets. Soy- and dairy-free.
What we dislike: Expect a coarser texture and higher sugar content in certain bars.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Sian Babish writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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