Bars are a great portable snack, and while you can find healthier granola bars, some are loaded with added sugar and are closer to candy bars! Once you know what to look for, shopping for the healthiest granola bar is pretty simple. The following tips should help you decide which granola bar is healthiest for you and your goals.
Find the right bar for the occasion. Some bars are more substantial than others so choose one that works for your needs and the meal or snack occasion. When you're using a bar to replace a meal (say, breakfast or a mini meal while traveling) it should have more calories and protein than one you're eating as snack. Sometimes, kid-sized bars are the right size for the occasion, especially when used as a snack and weight loss is a goal. One way to know which size is best for you is to think about whether your workouts are on the tougher or lighter side, and the stretch of time between meals.
Watch out for added sugars. The healthiest granola bars are low in added sugars. I typically look for bars with no more than 8 g of added sugar, which is the amount in 2 teaspoons, but ideally, it would be even less--or even none. Unfortunately, current nutrition facts panels often don't separate between total and added sugar, making it difficult to know if the sugar comes from fruits (like dates) or another source (like honey or brown rice syrup). Read labels to see if there are any sugars listed; it doesn't matter if the sugars are more natural if they're excessive! If you see sugar (or a form of it, like fruit juice concentrate, agave, maple syrup, or any other type of sugar) as the first ingredient, you can find a healthier bar!
Look for whole grains. Some granola bars don't include any grains, but for those that do, look for 100% whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, quinoa and sorghum. Skip bars made with refined grains, like puffed rice (unless brown) or enriched wheat (which is another way of saying white flour).
Look for simple ingredients. It's easy to find granola bars made from ingredients you can identify. Many of the healthiest bars are made with just a few whole food ingredients (think: fruit, nuts, seeds, spices), though I've also included some with a naturally-sourced gum or inulin (which is a form of manufactured fiber). The one ingredient that doesn't make the cut is soy protein isolate. Whole food forms of soy (like edamame and tofu) are totally safe, but soy protein isolate is a heavily processed form of soy and according to researchers I've interviewed, is still a big question mark in terms of safety. If you're buying a protein-rich bar, scan the ingredient list for soy protein isolate since it's often a prime (cheap) source of protein in these items.
THE HEALTHIEST GRANOLA BARS
Nutrition stats: 220 calories, 6 g protein, 4 g fiber, 0 g added sugar (based on Peanut Butter Cookie variety)
Lara Bars are a top choice when it comes to picking a healthy granola bar because they're organic and made with just a few real ingredients. These bars are lighter in protein so instead of a post-workout snack, consider one as a snack after a light meal or pair it with a boiled egg or two and a green juice for an on-the-go meal (perhaps on a travel day). This type of bar provides steady energy, which is perfect for staying focused and productive between meals.
For those looking to lose weight, consider Lara Bar’s Bites, which allow you to choose a smaller portion that might be more in line with your goals. These bites can also be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth!
Nutrition stats: 200 calories, 6 g protein, 7 g fiber, 4 g added sugar (based on Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt variety)
These tasty, lower sugar bars are another option for a heartier snack or mini-meal. If you're making a mini meal out of it, consider pairing it with fresh or dried fruit to round out the nutrient profile.
I'm also a fan of KIND Minis. No matter how healthfully you're choosing your bar, if it isn't the right size for your needs, it can be excessive. I like that KIND gives you options to choose a bar size that matches your energy and hunger needs. Choose the size that makes the most sense for you!
Nutrition stats: 150 calories, 3 g protein, 2 g fiber, 7 g added sugar (based on Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate variety)
I like these gluten-free, whole grain bars for a hit of steady energy in the afternoon--particularly when I have a sweet tooth! They're sweet enough to satisfy my craving in a healthier way. But they're also made entirely with whole grains and are a healthier option than many grain-containing bars. If you like grain-containing bars, this one gets my thumbs up. It's also great to stash in your office drawer for days you might be eye-balling the vending machine.
Nutrition stats: 210 calories, 12 g protein, 5 g fiber, 0 g added sugar (based on Chocolate Sea Salt variety)
RXBAR (and LaraBar) get are naturally sweetened with dates instead of added sugars. Among the choices listed here, they're also higher in protein, which comes from egg whites. Since they are a good source of protein, an RXBAR would be a healthy choice after a workout, when you need the protein to help you repair your muscle tissue. However, if you're eating a meal shortly after a workout, you don't need to be overly concerned about this.
I also turn to these bars when I need a meal on the go. The protein-fiber combo is healthy and filling, so it's a good option when you don't have time to sit down to a proper meal. That said, you still need to pair it with something else to make it a meal replacement. I usually have it with a banana or another piece of fruit since those are portable options.
I'm also a huge fan of RXBAR Kids for lighter snacking occasions! It's basically the same bar but in a smaller format.
Nutrition stats: 240 calories, 15 g protein, 4 g fiber, 0 g added sugar (based on Pineapple Chia variety)
If you're looking for plant protein, this is the bar for you! It also happens to be gluten free, dairy free, and soy free, and many of the varieties have no added sugar, making it a great pick for vegans and vegetarians on the move! If you're traveling, this would be an especially filling option that you could pair with fresh or dried fruit and a green juice. Or, if your last meal was extra light, this would be a filling, heavier snack to tide you over.
If you struggle to figure out what to eat when your travel or work schedule disrupts your routine, schedule a call to see how I can help!