A quick glance at the nutrition bar section of your local grocery store is enough to leave anyone overwhelmed. Shiny packages promise everything from “natural, great-tasting ingredients” to keeping you full all day long and helping you lose weight.
The problem, of course, is that the package doesn’t tell the whole story ― sometimes, these “healthy” nutrition bars are about as healthy as your average candy bar. “Nutrition bars are notoriously loaded with sugar and very low in protein, leaving you feeling hungry within a few minutes of eating them,” nutritionist Tamar Samuels told HuffPost.
As a general rule of thumb, Samuels recommends becoming a package sleuth and looking out for several key ingredients. “Go for options that are high in fiber (at least 5 grams!), ideally from all-natural sources. Protein and fiber are both very satiating, which help to prevent blood sugar and energy crashes before your next meal,” she said.
And if weight loss or weight gain is your goal, Samuels recommends looking at calories. “Calories are important to consider, depending on your goal. If your goal is weight loss, I usually recommend keeping the calories for bars around 150 calories,” she said. “If weight gain is your goal, your bar should be at least 200 calories.”
To make following these guidelines even easier for you, we asked nutritionists to name some of their favorite nutrition bars. Here’s what you should look out for the next time you hit the grocery store.
Karina Heinrich, certified nutritionist and founder of The Karina Method, is all about these gluten-free, low-sugar, organic ingredient-filled nutrition bars. “I love Oatmega bars, specifically the Chocolate Coconut Crisp and the Vanilla Almond bar flavors,” she said. “They’re made with 14 grams of whey protein from grass-fed cows and 7 grams of filling fiber. They even have 250 mg of DHA and EPA fish oil added to help to meet your healthy omega-3 essential fatty acid requirements.”
88 Acres Bars
Got food allergies, or know someone who does? Nutritionist Tracy Lockwood Beckerman is all about 88 Acres bars. “I’m extremely into this vegan, seed-based company, which is free of the top eight allergens,” she explained. “So it’s great for kids to bring to school or for your co-worker that needs a nut-free working space. Their apple ginger bar will keep your taste buds interested and can even help soothe an upset stomach.”
Raw Crunch Bars
Looking for a low-sugar raw option that also tastes great? Raw Crunch bars will get the job done. “I’m all about these raw, food-based ingredients,” said nutritional expert Nikki Ostrower. “They’re organic, delicious and have only five grams of sugar.”
If you haven’t had an RX Bar yet, you’re missing out. These bars, which boast a simple list of great-for-you ingredients (including egg whites) are some of Samuels’ favorites. “Depending on the flavor, they have 200 to 250 calories, they have clean ingredients, and they have 12 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. That’s pretty great!” she said.
Health Warrior Chia Bars
You’ve heard about how great chia seeds are for you, right? Luckily, you can get them in nutrition bar form. “If you are looking for a great dairy-free vegan bar that provides high-quality sources of bone-strengthening calcium, check out the Health Warrior Chia Bar,” Heinrich said. “It is filled with organic, clean, plant-based ingredients. I love the Dark Chocolate Coconut Sea Salt flavor because it’s a delicious mix of sweet and salty. It’s filled with 10 grams of chia seed protein and 5 grams of fiber. Chia seeds are a great source of calcium and omega-3s as well.”
Perfect Bars are just about as good as it gets taste-wise, and they’re good for you, too. “I’ve been into the Perfect Bar because it’s made from real organic superfoods like peanut butter, flaxseeds and pumpkin seed oil,” Beckerman said. “It’s so real, the bar even needs to be refrigerated!”
If you’re looking for a super-filling bar, give the Bulletproof bar a try. “I like the chocolate chip cookie dough and shortbread cookie flavors,” Samuels said. “These bars keep you super-full and energized because of the MCT oil added. The ingredients are clean, and the texture is a nice change from the usual chewy and sticky nutrition bar.”
Kind bars have been popular for years, and for good reason ― in addition to tasting great, they’re good for you. “Kind Bar has always been an extremely easy-to-find, easy-to-read, and easy-to-enjoy nutrition bar,” Heinrich said. “Kind’s Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt flavor hits just the right spot with its well-balanced ingredients of almonds, cocoa powder and less than 5 grams of sugar.”