Snack Bars: Real Food or Really Unhealthy?

By blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page!


Walk through any grocery store and you’ll notice the increasing amount of shelf space committed to snack bars. They’ve even invaded places like gas stations and have a decent retail presentation in stores such as Target and Walmart.

No one can argue that snack bars are not convenient. They are the perfect size for tossing into your purse, throwing into a lunch box, or taking with you when traveling. But if you buy those bars and pat yourself on the back for selecting a “smart snack” that’s nutrient dense, you may be confused like so many others. Because let’s face it, breaking down all the different bars can be just that – confusing. Laundry lists of ingredients that are hard to pronounce may make you falter, but when combined with a food label that shows lots of vitamins and minerals, it makes you second guess things. They’re healthy, right? Not so fast.

Snack Bars: Real Food or Really Unhealthy? on 100 Days of #RealFood

Pros and Cons of Popular Snack Bars

  • LÄRABARs have long been a favorite bar of ours. They contain minimal ingredients and no added sugars. They are readily available in many stores and are the perfect pick-me-up for adults and kids alike, offering sound, real nutrition.
  • Quest Bars have been touted as the #1 bar for athletes and others, and with claims of packing 20 grams of protein and 17 grams of fiber into a super sweet bar, I can see how they try to make that claim! But look a little closer at the ingredient list, and you’ll see very little that resembles anything found in your kitchen.
  • Raw Crunch Bars are made by a couple based in our beloved hometown of Charlotte, NC. The bars offer a tasty blend of seeds and nuts with just a touch of honey to bind the bar together. Growing in popularity, you can now find them easily at many health food stores.
  • Clif Bars were forever the choice of sustained nutrition for outdoor enthusiasts, but a closer look at their ingredient list may have you less enthusiastic. Beginning with organic brown rice syrup (aka refined sugar!), the list, unfortunately, goes downhill from there.
  • Created by Clif’s co-CEO, Kit’s Organic Bars are the world’s “better than their brother” bar (i.e., Clif) and are a far superior choice in my opinion. All ingredients are also organic – bonus!
  • Recently slammed by the FDA, Kind Bars give the appearance of being a better bar, boasting nuts and dried fruit, but don’t be fooled. The addition of other additives makes it a no-go in our book.

Snack Bar Comparison Chart

LÄRABAR Quest Bar Raw Crunch Clif Bar Kit’s Organic Kind
Cost Per Bar (prices will vary) $0.92 $2.39 $2.50 $0.99+ $2.08+ $1.19+
# of Ingredients 2 – 9 8 10 17* No more than 8 13+
Added Sugar? No Yes (sucralose) Yes (honey) Yes (brown rice syrup, cane sugar) No Yes (glucose, apple juice)
What We Like Minimal, non-processed ingredients Not much unfortunately Handmade in small batches, organic, non-processed ingredients Contains rolled oats, walnuts, & bananas* Minimal, organic ingredients Contains dried fruits and nuts
What We Don’t Like  Nada! Added protein & fiber, non-nutritive sweetener  Nada! Too many processed ingredients, added protein & fiber, natural flavors, refined sugar Nada! Added fiber, soy lecithin, vegetable glycerine, refined sugar
Extra Info Gluten, Dairy & Soy Free, non-GMO N/A Raw (contains living enzymes), paleo  N/A  N/A  N/A

*We looked at the Banana Nut Bread Bar

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Shopping Tips

Ingredients to look for when seeking a healthy bar:

  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruits (without added refined sugar)

Put down that bar if it contains these ingredients:

  • Refined sugars – Including (but not be limited to) sugar, cane sugar, cane juice, brown sugar, barley malt, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, agave, and more. Basically anything that includes the word “malt,” “syrup,” or ends in an “-ose.” We give a nod to those products with naturally occurring sugars from dried fruit or more natural added sugars used in moderation (such as honey and maple syrup).
  • Highly processed additives you would not cook with in your own kitchen.
  • Added protein, fiber, or caffeine.

What’s your favorite real food snack bar? Or, if you can’t make up your mind, you could always make your own! :)

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172 thoughts on “Snack Bars: Real Food or Really Unhealthy?”

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      I personally love the Cranberry Pecan Granola – love that it has organic ingredients including nuts and seeds and that it’s gluten free. It does have 7 g of sugar per serving, but that seems pretty normal for granola. The bars have quality (and not a lot of) ingredients and not too too much sugar for a packaged bar.

      Do you enjoy them?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi there. I like Perfect Bars but they do have some more processed ingredients in their bars such as various powders and rice protein. Here’s an example: Peanut butter, organic honey, nonfat milk powder, organic rice protein, dried whole egg powder, organic flax seed oil, organic sunflower seed oil, organic olive oil, organic pumpkin seed oil, dried whole food powders (organic flax seed, organic rose-hip, organic orange, organic lemon, organic papaya, organic tomato, organic apple, cherry, red bell pepper, organic alfalfa, organic celery, organic kelp, organic dulse, organic carrot, organic spinach.

  1. Chrystal Foster

    I’m wondering if you have tried RX bars and if so, what are your thoughts. They are supposed to be fairly clean.

  2. Suggestions on bars that contain no nuts? I’d love to find one for my son who is allergic to peanut/tree nuts but is still minimally processed with no refind sugars/additives.

  3. my son takes a bar with him to school every morning but the center is nut-free…any suggestions for a great bar that DOESN’T contain nuts of any kind?? (or even made in a facility that does use nuts?)

  4. I use to workout a lot did cross fit for 3yrs and i was addicted to quest bars. I have had larabar but they seem to have a lot of sugar even tho there is no added sugar. And then i just came to my senses and just started eating fruits and nuts and real food. :)

  5. I just discovered That’s It bars at Kroger yesterday. They have two fruits in them and that’s it- no other ingredients at all. We grabbed a bunch of different flavored to try. So far they’re all kid and mom approved. I also like that they’re only about 100
    Calories instead of the 200 you so often see. My 4 year old doesn’t need a 200
    Calorie bar, especially since he usually wants something to go with it http://www.thatsitfruit.com/

  6. I get the whole “don’t eat added/refined sugars” matra (hard to live by sometimes, but I get it), but the chart leaves out the fact that Kind bars (at least, the ones I buy) are gluten-free, etc.
    Also, just curious as to why added protein and/or added fiber is bad in your book. I have a competitive athlete in the family (a swimmer that burns approx. 1500 cals per workout, depending on the day), so that added protein can be a lifesaver for me at times. This comment is not related to the Quest bars – we’ve never tried them (and I know this is not a forum for athletes) – I am just wondering about your theory on this – is it just the “added” word (ie, not naturally found in the ingredients) or something else? (Also, not a criticism to you…I love this site!) Thanks!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi AJ,
      Thanks for your comment. Very valid points, and very well put. You are correct; we strive to obtain food by the original source, if you will. So fiber from it’s source, and protein the same, without “adding” it. With that being said, I do know that you are not the only one facing the challenges of your swimmer; many athletes are in the same boat. My suggestions would be:
      hard boiled eggs
      nuts
      nut butter sandwiches/on fruit (great for fiber + protein)
      chicken breast sandwich (or I’m sure you’ve done the plain chicken breasts + piece of fruit/vegetables)
      Not sure if that helps but I hope so!
      Kiran

  7. I’m looking for a bar that is low in sugar for my dad who has cancer. We’ve been advised to avoid sugar. The only ones we can find that use stevia also have a bunch of other weird stuff. I thought Larabars would be good but even though the sugar comes from dates, there is still a ton of concentrated sugar in them (and anything else I can find).

  8. Thanks for the list! Wondering what your thoughts are on That’s It bars!? Typically 2 ingredients…hence “that’s it”!! :-)

  9. My favorite bars are RXBARs. I like the peanut butter and my daughter loves the choc sea salt. We still only have them occasionally though.

  10. One ingredient that is a non-starter for me in snack bars or “health bars” is chickory root in any form. It causes intestinal issues in almost every single case. You end up extremely uncomfortable with horrific gas. Just not worth it.

  11. I heard Larabar is now owned by General Mills and contributed a lot of money to support Monsanto and support GMO use which is sad. Reason I stopped buying them.

  12. nice article! hope you get a chance to check out The YES Bar someday. i created it for my gluten and dairy free son precisely because everything else was so not healthy or not tasty! i never intended to start a company but there are a lot of us real foodies out there who need these quick portable real food snacks for real life with real kiddos! :) a super shout out to all the artisan companies helping reclaim our food system. and the customers who support us. we are all in this together!

  13. I have a Nut allergy too. I Make homade: 1 banana per 1 cup of oats, mix in whatever else you want. Raisins, chocolate, sunflower seeds, if you want a sweetener honey, your choice of sugar. Shapei into size and shape you want bake at 350 for 15 minutes for soft or longer until desired hardness..

  14. My problem is I am allergic to nuts – any suggestions on how to find healthy snacks/bars that are safe for me to eat?

  15. I’m wondering what you have against added protein in a bar? I am trying to get more protein into my diet, so opt for the higher protein bars. Unfortunately they are usually horribly sweet and high in sugar. I would love to find a not so sweet alternative that has about 20-25g of protein.

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Jo. Added protein typically comes in the form of a processed isolated protein ingredient rather than a whole food ingredient.

  16. You missed a bar that is as tasty (not cardboard or powdery), but downright yummy! For outdoor enthusiasts and picky eating kids, the Tram Bar, Grizzly Bar, Tiki Bar, Handle Bar, and Stash Bar will please both. Would love it if someone would throw these organic bars into a test like this… Betting they’d win for health, nutrition, and taste!!

  17. I’m actually curious about sugar alcohol. I bought a protein bar called Think Thin and it claims 0g of sugar, but has sugar alcohol listed. i tried to do research but couldn’t really find anything about it. do you have any thoughts on it?

  18. I have been struggling with bars for a long time. In fact with any granola as well. My children have severe peanut and nut allergies. Are there any bars (or granola) that toucan recommend that don’t contain nuts or are processed near nuts?

    1. Make home made 1 banana per 1 cup of quick cooking oats. Mix in anything else that’s safe like raisins, honey, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, chocolate. Shape and bake at 350 at least 10 minutes then until desired hardness.

  19. Thank you for the great comparison chart! I add a little p’nut butter and flax meal to my breakfast larabar and often dip that into a dab of farm honey and raw seeds.
    Love Lara Bars!

  20. I realize the sugar in the Larabar comes from dates primarily so it is a natural sugar. However, when most of the bars are coming in at 18-20 g per bar, how can that be a good choice?
    The recommendation for children under 8 daily serving of sugar, in any form, is 12 grams or less.
    I’m interested to hear a low sugar, real food choice for bars. My kids love them and ask for them all the time. They are a travel treat only at this point in our lives due to price and ingredients.

  21. Most are not healthy. They’re high in calories and fat for the amount of food you’re eating, and often loaded with sugar. They’re just the product of good marketing campaigns (and yes, I’ve fallen for it in years past – not anymore though :)

  22. We travelled to the US a few years ago and I loved Lara bars! We can’t buy them here though, but I’ve noticed a proliferation of bars like them in the last year or so. I have stocked up on lots of date-based bars in the last year or so, but I find that I don’t end up eating them most of the time and they sit in my bag for what can’t be a healthy length of time!

  23. I’m new to this. could you explain why larabar 19 g sugar, cliff bar 23 g sugar, versus quest bar 2 g sugar are so different? thank you

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi Freddy,

      If you look closer at the Quest bar, it actually uses synthetic sweeteners. The sugar in LARABARS comes from the dates, which is a naturally occurring sugar. I hope that helps? Please let us know if you’d like more information on this!

    2. DONNA MASCI-BREDIN

      You say they have no added sugar, but thats not true.. The Larabar Peanut butter chocolate chip has added sugar…19 grams!!

  24. Larabars really mess with my blood sugar so I prefer something like the Raw Crunch that I make at home. Very few carbs, lots of nice healthy fat and protein. And, as others have pointed out, Larabar is now owned by the evil empire, so profits from them flow back to the parent company who fight GMO labeling….

    1. Here’s the last batch of Scott’s Divine Yum Yums that I made:
      ¼ cup sesame seeds
      ¼ cup hemp seeds
      ¼ cup raw cacao powder
      ¼ cup sunflower seeds
      ¼ cup of chopped almonds
      ¼ cup raisins
      ¼ cup cranberries
      ¼ cup currants
      ¾ cup almond butter
      Shredded coconut
      Mix all ingredients except coconut. Roll into balls. Roll balls in the coconut to cover.
      Lots of variations. Sometimes I use peanut butter, goji berries, more walnuts than almonds, some cinnamon – whatever I am inspired to throw in.
      Since it is mostly nuts and seeds, it’s high in protein and good fat, moderate in carbs, tastes great!

  25. I think it also depends on what kind of activity you are eating them during. For backpacking and climbing, the added sugar and protein in Clif bars provide additional energy while being light weight and requiring no cooking.

    On the other hand, so does homemade granola bars and trail mix, which we also put in our packs (Clif bars are for food/energy emergencies). :)

  26. Have you had the opportunity to try our IDLife His, Her, and Kids Bars? Certified Organic, Certified Gluten Free, Non GMO Verified, Kosher. Keyed to the needs of each individual group. Let me know if you’d like to try one. I love to share!

  27. Great post! Thanks for the information. Not all KIND bars have additives. I love the Strong variety that are savory rather than sweet. Really a great alternative to bars that taste like candy or dessert.

  28. This is a great share! I have women in my health and fitness group who swear by Quest Bars and are always sharing how good they are. I have tried to de-bunk that myth and point out that Sucralose is a no no, so I am grateful for your chart to help them choose more wisely in the future. Thank you!!

  29. Critical Reader

    Hi Kiran,

    The ingredient list on the Raw Crunch Bar does not match their nutritional information. Honey is listed on the 10th position, but the bars are supposed to have 18 % sugar. None of the other ingredients can account for that sugar amount. It seems like someone was creative with the ingredient list. Also, the first four ingredients are sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and cashew – all pretty cheap, but the 28 g bar costs USD 2.50 – that equals USD 40 for one pound. Together with the outrageous claims (“protein, if eaten raw from plant food is better absorbed and less is needed”, “living enzymes”) that bar should be put on the deceptive products list.
    It is just amazing how a few buzz words (minimally processed, raw, organic, etc.) make people spend 40 bucks per pound of sunflower seeds.

    1. Thanks for your concern and attention to detail. The sugar content in our bars is composed of the honey as well as the fruit and/or dark chocolate added. Please keep in mind that all of our ingredients are high quality and organic. We encourage people to make their own health bars, however our goal is to let food be food and provide the convenience, and well as the quality ingredients that you would use in your own kitchen. Our process does not differ much either, we have been hand-mixing, forming and dehydrating our bars in very small batches since 2003. Most of our customers are repeat buyers because they appreciate quality and they can tell the difference in our product. When foods are cooked at high temperatures much of their vitamins and minerals are damaged, or destroyed by heat. Our bars are dehydrated at very low temperatures for a long duration, rather than cooked at high temperatures on an assembly line in a matter of minutes. Our process ensure that the protein is not denatured and all the vitamins, mineral and enzymes are intact. This in turn makes it easy for your body to recognize and absorb. Have a beautiful day.

      1. Critical Reader

        Could you please tell us how much % honey you are using? I cannot get your ingredient list in line with your nutritional information. How do you explain that every single of your bars has the exact nutritional make-up although different ingredients are used?
        According to the nutrition facts on your packages your bars are a major source of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is heat stable. And also minerals are not destroyed by heat. Could you please correct that information on your web page or provide evidence on how minerals can be destroyed by heat? Could you also provide information on how an intact (active?) enzyme would be beneficial when ingested. Which enzymes are you exactly referring to? Did you perform any tests showing that the nutrients in your bars are better absorbed than nutrients in bars heated at a higher temperature?
        Many people consider European food regulation superior to the US American one. I do not 100 % agree with that, but there are a few nice features in Europe. For instance, random health claims are not allowed and manufacturers have to provide scientific proof.

      2. Yes, I am happy to provide information on how intact enzymes are beneficial when ingested. According to the pioneer of enzyme research, Dr. Edward Howell, Raw foods (foods heated under 118 degrees) are enzymatically alive which means these foods have active enzymes within them to help digest 40 to 60% of that particular food. Since cooking destroys enzymes, cooked and processed foods are enzymatically dead which means there are no live enzymes within that food to help with digestion. These dead foods place a lot of stress on the digestive system, the pancreas, the immune system, the whole body.
        Drs. Reginald Garrett and Charles Grisham in their book “Biochemistry.” You depend upon digestive enzymes to help you break down the carbohydrates, proteins and fats that you eat into smaller chemical particles that your intestine can absorb into your bloodstream.
        According to Dr. Edward Howell, we are all born with a ‘bank account’ full of enzymes. Every time we eat raw foods, we put enzymes in our bank account. Every time we eat cooked or processed food, or food with no enzymes, we must pull enzymes out of our bank account to help us digest the food.
        It is important to eat about 50% or more of raw plant food with each cooked meal when possible. There are approx. 1,800,000 species that eat raw food, yet only one that eats cooked.
        As far as your question on cooking and mineral loss in foods, According to Vanderbilt University, a 1990 study published in the “Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology” found that cooked foods contained about 60 to 70 percent of the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc found in uncooked foods. Boiled, soaked, parched, fried and stewed vegetables lost the most minerals. Water-soluble nutrients, such as thiamin, folic acid and vitamins B6 and C, are especially affected by excessive cooking, according to the University of Kentucky and Harvard Medical School.
        Lastly, our ingredient proportions are confidential and the FDA recognizes that food manufacturers do not need sacrifice their trade secrets by disclosing exact proportions. Our company has, however, taken the proper steps for all of our calculations. Thank you and I hope this answers your questions.

      3. I agree with you that heat destroys enzymes, but equally does the digestive system. Enzymes present in food are not relevant for digestion. The human body continuously produces enzymes and is not dependent on enzymes provided by food.

        Minerals are not destroyed by heat. Actually, in solid foods, the mineral content is determined from the ash – that means the sample gets literally burnt. The losses in mineral content with food preparation are due to washing out the minerals with water, etc. If you take a nut and just roast it you are not losing any minerals.

        I agree with you, many vitamins are heat sensitive, but some are not. Vitamin E is not heat sensitive and that is the only vitamin which is present in significant amounts in your snack bars.

        I am not asking you for a full disclosure of the percentage composition of your bars, I am only asking you for the percentage amount of honey used. The FDA proposed a change of the nutrition facts label that would require manufacturers to list the amount of added sugar. Lisa Leake has actually written about it here: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2014/02/28/dont-read-nutrition-facts-labels/ and expressed frustration over the current label that does not allow customers to distinguish between naturally occurring and added sugars. In light of the FDA proposal the amount of honey used can hardly be consider highly confidential.

      4. Kathy:
        It’s like pulling teeth. Don’t we have a right to know what is in our food? Even the FDA acknowledges that consumers should be informed about the amount of added sugars. In your case, that is the 9th out of 10 ingredients. And you as the owner of the company can freely decide which information to disclose. Unless you have something to hide, I don’t understand why you would make such a big secret out of the honey content.

      5. The sugar content in our bar comes from either the naturally occurring sugar in the organic fruit or the raw honey (or the organic sugar from the dark chocolate and raw honey in the dark chocolate variety). Yes as the owner, I do have something to hide, that would be our trade secrets. The fact that it took us 5 years to get our proportions of ingredients just right to make a great tasting convenient product. If you do not like these sugar sources you should probably make you own. Thanks.

      6. Critical Reader

        I have no problem with the sugar sources, but I have a problem with your ingredient list. Telling me the percentage amount of a minor ingredient which you will anyways have to disclose by law in near future is not giving away a trade secret. I am not buying your crunch bars, because I consider them as highly overpriced and I don’t like your misleading advertisement.

      7. Critical Reader

        Hi Kathy, my I remind you about my last post. I asked you about the percentage amount of honey you use for your bars. Could you please answer that question.

  30. Good to know. I would love to see a follow up with good recipes for homemade granola bars. I have yet to find one that does not fall apart. Thanks! I love your posts.

  31. Wow this is such an informative post! I tend to only do LaraBars when I absolutely need to have a snack bar (or I usually make my own). But this list is helpful! It’s amazing how many granola/protein/snack bars are toted as healthy and all-natural but they are anything but. I’ll have to try some of the others you gave the stamp of approval!

  32. we love Lara bars! Also, we recently found an energy bar made by an Austin based company called Bearded Brothers. Their coconut Mango bar is yummy and filled with healthy ingredients! One more fav for us is That’s it bars….just two ingredients…that’s it lol :).

  33. I thought Kind bars were recommended by you somewhere previously? In a post? Cookbook? I’m so disappointed- we’ve been buying them at Costco and my kids love them. I thought they would’ve made the good list :/

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      So sorry, Ashley. They are under Amy’s Pantry Real Food Rule Benders which means that they don’t completely fall under Lisa’s rules. Sorry for the confusion!

      1. Ok thanks, so I’m not completely imagining things :). I guess if they’re a rule bender than they’re better than a lot of other brands, just not the #1 choice. I’ll have to keep my eye out for the other recommended brands at the stores I currently shop at (Wegmans, Costco, Giant). Thanks for the reply!

  34. This is a great overview for snacks. , especially snacks for kids. But what I dont think is clear enough in this post, especially looking at the comments here, is that limiting audience. For me (a competitive triathlete), I need different nutrition than many people. So Quest or ALT or another bar with added sugar, protein, fiber is exactly what I need.

    Also – my favorite Kind variety (almond coconut) has minimal ingredients – almonds, coconut, honey, sugar, crisp rice, and chicory root fiber. Please give credit where credit is due!

  35. I’ve been buying Element Bars for several years now and really like them. They are “made to order” so you can choose your own ingredients. www. elementbars.com

  36. Have you ever reviewed the Mariani honey bars? The one I am holding has peanuts, honey,peanut butter, almonds, almond butter, crisp brown rice, salt. I got them at Walmart.

  37. Perfect Foods bars are yummy. A few flavors. Based out of San Diego. They are large though so either need to be split in half or replace a meal. Only downside is they must be refrigerated.

  38. Deborah Handley

    Thanks so much for this very informative article. While I don’t eat these bars on a regular basis as you mentioned they are very handy to toss in your purse for those times you are on the road and need a quick snack. Before this lately I’ve been standing in front of the huge array at my local Whole Foods reading the backs of the labels of bars trying to make a decision on which new bar to try next. I’ve gotten so tired of my usual choice which was the Pure Organic brand. I’m so excited to have some new choices to try that I know now are healthy ones. Thanks again! Love your blog and I’ve learned so much!

  39. Larabars are a staple in our house, but so are Picky Bars (based in Bend, Oregon). My husband is an athlete and swears by them for pre-workout energy. They are available online and at REI. I would love to know what you think about them. :)

  40. We usually buy or make traditional larabars, but my gym friends really like the ALT version because of the extra protein. I haven’t looked into them much, but they say they use pea protein. What do you think about this version? I also wish mini larabars were more readily available. They are a more acceptable kids size and more the size I cut when we make them at home.

  41. Although the Kind bars do in fact contain glucose syrup and soy lechin, it is my understanding that they are under FDA notice for their fat content. The FDA is saying that something with that amount of fat doesn’t fit in their definition of healthy. So, while I agree they do have additives, I don’t necessarily agree with the FDA.
    For store bought bars, we like to keep larabars on hand. We like the peanut butter ones best, as they have less sugar and more protein than some of the others.
    I make these http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2015/05/11/cashew-coconut-snack-bars/ with honey and raw almonds for my kind bar loving husband.

  42. Enjoy Life gluten-free bars in Caramel Apple and Sunbutter Crunch are my go-to bars for breakfast on my morning commute. I’m not into the whole gluten-free thing, but these aren’t sweet and haven’t gotten boring.

    1. The Uber bars do, but traditional Larabars do not. Except the ones with chocolate, those have some sugar in them.

    2. Michelle,
      I know which ones you mean! LARABAR has several different products. If you visit this page you can find out more about each: http://www.larabar.com/products. The ones referred to here are the original LARABAR. Generally they are made from a combination of dates, other fruits, and nuts (& those are the only ingredients!). I hope this helps!

    1. The Costco shopping list was written by someone named Amy. It says “Amy’s Pantry Real Food Rule Benders” and then she explains that they eat clean about 80% and then lists some things she buys at Costco that are not “clean.” She explains that she buys Kind bars because they have less sugar in them, she notes that they have glucose and soy lecithin in them.

      We don’t buy Kind bars as I think they’re expensive and unnecessary. We buy Lara Bars when we find them at Big Lots for half the price of Costco. We eat clean about 80% of the time too, but if I want to eat something with soy lecithin in it, it better be chocolate! LOL

  43. While I completely agree that Quest bars are full of non-real food compliant ingredients, they’re also the only bar I’ve found that packs that much protein for the amount of calories and carbs. I lift heavy weights 4-5 times a week but also have severe sugar issues. Quest bars offer me the protein I need while staying low on carbs (which I have to watch carefully). I have yet to find a real-food alternative, even using natural ingredients, that meets all of these criteria.

    That being said, I try to eat real food as much as possible! Quest bars are one of my only “exception” foods. :) Great post!

    1. I feel the same way about the quest bars, at least one of them. I have tried many and most of them contain artificial sweeteners. The Brownie one is the only one that doesn’t that I like and I eat that one as my go to quick snack. I like the balance of carbs to protein to fat in it.

  44. Go raw bars are great (I believe they are different than raw crunch). As someone allergic to gluten and peanuts they are perfect and have very few ingredients.

  45. Another energy bar to note and they’re DELICIOUS:

    http://www.rbarenergy.com/

    From their website:
    Gluten free. Dairy free. 7 ingredients or less.

    No Syrups. No Pastes. Just real food.

    “We make RBars because on-the-go people need delicious, healthy & easy to eat food. Our customers feel better, healthier and accomplish more by fueling with our hand-crafted products.”

    -Founder & CEO Brian Cornelius

    Delicious, Healthy and Easy to Eat.
    RBar Energy was created by athletes and food enthusiasts who were tired of dry and hard nutrition bars that are difficult to eat. Our project started small, experimenting in a home kitchen with only a handful of ingredients. As RBars became more popular we’ve found unique ways to ramp up production yet keep our products as simple as day one.

    Made By Us. Always Fresh & Simple.
    Just like the first 150,000 bars that we literally hand-pressed in our first three years, RBars are still made by us because our mission hasn’t changed. Our mission is to make delicious, healthy nutrition bars that are easy to eat and always fresh. RBars have seven recognizable, whole ingredients or less in every bar. And those ingredients are fresh, arriving at our facility from farmers and people we know and trust.

    Designed From the gRound Up.
    “But why are they round,” you’re wondering? Well, yes, we do like to be different but there’s more to it than that. Have you ever opened a rectangular shaped bar and half of it falls on the ground? Round RBars are more compact, easy to carry and always remain in one piece. Every part of an RBar is designed with your busy and active lifestyle in mind.

    Make the delicious, healthy and easy to eat choice. Make RBar, your bar!

  46. Boy do people like to complain. Pretty sure the title of this post was SNACK bars…NOT protein bars. Lisa and her team members are wonderful bloggers that work hard to provide others information on REAL unprocessed food, products, etc. that work for their family. Lisa has stated in a previous post as to why HER family doesn’t concern themselves over grams of protein (or grams of anything). This isn’t an exercise/workout blog…it’s a real food blog. Are you only concerned about bars that contain protein? You can’t get your protein other ways? Try Nutvia’s Hemp Protein. Or…continue eating whatever protein bars you’ve been eating that contain whatever processed junk they contain and stop complaining about why this blogs families didn’t include them in their chart.

    1. I, for one, was not complaining. I just trust this website and the advice given and was hoping they had some good suggestions for something that would also fit into my life style. No need to attack those of us who are also looking for additional protein in their snack bars just because you aren’t!

  47. Hey Lisa, I love your blog and it’s one of my favorite places to read about whole foods!! I wandered about the RX bar . It is listed as one of the whole 30s accepted bars, and I have been very pleased by It. In the coffee cacao it has 1 fig, 8 almonds, 3 egg whites, 2 dates, and that is it!! 200 cal, 12g protein . I still love Lara bars, and the RX bar is a little more expensive but I prefer it ! Just thought it was worth mentioning !! I agree with you about the quest bar and all its ingredients !!!

  48. Thank you for this information. I was a regular Cliff-bar eater for years – I’m glad I have stopped that habit. Has anyone tried to make their own Lara or Kind type bars? I’m thinking it wouldn’t be too much work and much better!

  49. Thank you for this article, is have a good friend that is a nutrtrisionist and she recommended the Quest Bar. She said it was clean, when I looked at the ingredients I did not agree. I didn’t feel like arguing so I let it go. As I can see by many of the comments above many people like to argue about what is really clean eating. I appreciate your honest, no-nonsense advice.

  50. I make my own protein bars. The sweetness comes from using medajool dates. The bars are easy to make and taste soooo much better then the ones purchased in the store. There are a lot of different recipes online and it only takes a few minutes to make once you find the recipes you like.

  51. Excellent info, thank you! What I struggle with the most as someone who works out a lot is finding a good, healthy nutrition bar with enough protein in it to sustain me through an hour of weight lifting or for recovery purposes. Unfortunately the 3 bars you love above (Larabars, Raw Crunch, Kit’s) typically have 5 grams or less of protein, which is not really enough for me. Do you have any recommendations for any bars that are better for me but have more protein for those of us that work out regularly?

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Lori,
      I absolutely understand where you are coming from. I have been into fitness for 20 years and an athlete growing up. I honestly don’t watch my protein as much as lifters do, though, as I’m more into cardio and do little lifting (in all honesty). What about coupling one of the bars mentioned along with a hard boiled egg? Or a glass of milk? At this time I don’t personally have a good protein bar to recommend, but am curious to hear if other readers do. Sorry I cannot help more!
      Kiran

    2. Take a handful or two of pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds, etc. They are high in protein and delicious. There are no added ingredients either!

    3. RX bars are great for more protein. Protein comes from egg whites (you don’t taste them) and the rest of the ingredients include things such as dates, nuts, fruits etc. No added sugars. Super tasty.

  52. I have to wonder if Larabar is a sponsor or supporter of the blog? Because it sure seems like they’re getting an easy pass here.

    You note as “extra” that Larabars are gluten free and non-GMO…so is KIND, but that’s not noted. You list KIND as having 13+ ingredients…the basic bars I see (Vanilla Almond) have 7. If you’re going to include the more complex ‘protein’ type bars for one brand, you should do that for all the brands. Larabar makes protein bars that have added sweeteners (brown rice syrup) and proteins and ten or more ingredients.

    While it’s not a refined sugar, Larabar’s reliance on dates as a main binder and sweetener means the bars still have a LOT of sugar — 16 to 25 grams! Lots of unrefined sugar is still too much sugar. I’ll certainly admit they taste good, but our family doesn’t buy Larabars (or any other snack bars) that often anymore because I’d rather just hand my child a banana if we’re going to load up on fructose.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Rachel,

      You are correct that I left out the information on KIND bars being non-GMO and GF. I stand corrected. I did note that I looked at one brand of KIND bars (Banana Bread). I just looked at the Vanilla Almond one that you mention, and here are the ingredients:

      Mixed nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts), honey, non GMO glucose, chicory root fiber, crisp rice, madagascar vanilla, soy lecithin.

      We do not choose these bars because of the glucose, chicory root fiber or soy lecithin. In addition, you mention the LARABAR protein bars – but those are not the bars that we are referencing above. We agree that those have ingredients that we don’t consider *real*, but the traditional ones are very much in line with our “rules”.

      I hope this helps.

  53. Problem is none of the alternatives offer the same amount of protein we get from Quest. If we simply needed a non-protein/pick-me-up bar the Larabar would be great. However, we need a specialized bar, thus Quest.

    Would you be able to put together a “best protein bar” list.

    1. Hello Claudia,

      There is special kind of LARA bars that contains more protein, and it was designed for people who need more than there is in ‘usual’ LARA bar. They are a bit bigger and called ALT, http://www.larabar.ca/products/alt.

      Also, there are Epic Bars (http://epicbar.com), packed with protein and made from clean ingredients. My husband loves them!

      Hope it helps,
      Viktoria

      1. Little correction on my side, the protein LARA bars unfortunately contain sunflower oil :(
        But other than that, I was thinking, that maybe you can do homemade LARA bars with added clean protein powder (like Vital Proteins). That could be nice!

        V.

      2. oh yes! that is a great idea. I am a horrible baker/cook so I would need to find some great recipes. Thank you for that.

      3. I thought that making homemade bars would be too complicated, but it actually is pretty easy and quick. You can also roll then into ‘energy bites’. Lisa has lovely recipe: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/07/01/recipe-homemade-larabars-4-ways-including-nut-free/

        Or Katie from wellness mama has some great ideas:
        http://wellnessmama.com/1047/energy-bars/
        http://wellnessmama.com/5475/chia-seed-energy-bars/
        http://wellnessmama.com/7942/chocolate-coconut-energy-bars/

        I will try to experiment with adding protein powder to these soon, and will let you guys know about the results:)

        Have a lovely day!:)

    2. Maybe a meat based bar like Epic Bars or Tanka Bars, or RX Bars which are similar to Larabars but have egg white added for protein.

    1. I agree, we love perfect bars also. We live in San Diego County so I also love supporting a local company. That’s it bars are also tasty. Honestly I don’t know how people choke down Quest bars. I bought one and ended up throwing it out because it tastes gross.

  54. I love Lara Bars thanks to your insight, can sometimes make them at home as well.

    I just recently found the fruit bars Thats It! at Costco and love them. They contain only two ingredients which are both fruit, hence the name Thats It!

    I keep them in my bag and give them to my kids when we are on the go at snack time.

  55. I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions for a bar that has NO nuts, seeds, or chocolate? My son loves a Larabar for an occasional on the go snack but finding one my daughter is willing to eat is so hard! She isn’t allergic, but just has a hard time with the texture of nuts and seeds and even oatmeal sometimes. We have plenty of real food snacks for her, but I would like the convenience of leaving something in my purse and knowing she will eat it if need be!

  56. This article was right on time for me. I just bought some Luna bars and brought 1 to work with me today. Only to find that its not as good for me as I thought..The 2nd and 3rd ingredients are organic Cane Syrup and Dried Can Syrup. Further down the list are a few ingredients I definitely don’t have in my kitchen and are hard to pronounce..big sign! Thank you!

  57. I have been baking my own crackers lately. Finally perfected them. I use sprouted organic garbanzo bean flour and ground flax/ hemp seeds with equal parts water. Add a ton of no salt seasonings. Really tasty with salsa or nut butter.

    1. To make a single batch of about 40 crackers I use
      1 Cup of bean flour and 1/4 Cup of ground flax seeds/hemp
      I like to season it with ground pepper, garlic powder, basil and oregeno and tumeric. mix with 1 and 1/4 cups of water. I let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour sometimes overnight, I’ve been getting the same results regardless. The dough does thicken up. I drop a teaspoon of dough on my cookie sheets, they do spread a little while baking. I found my pizza stone cookie sheet and newest non stick one
      ( Nordic Ware) work great, They just slide right off!
      I bake at 350 on convection setting in my oven for 20 mins, flip them over for another 10-12 mins, Then I shut off my oven and just let them hang in there for awhile. I have found that this helps them to crisp up more and stay crispy even when stored in my pyrex bowl with lid on.
      Hope you try them out…really simple to make and I love them!

  58. We’ve followed this guidance for a while and we love Lara bars. However I’ve been disappointed that they seem to have launched new sub-brands that don’t meet the same standards of the original. I love Lara bars because they have just fruit and nuts, no sugar, no flavorings, no renamed sugar. The new bars like Uber and Alt have things like brown rice syrup, brown rice flour, sunflower oil and “natural flavors”. Its like they missed the message on why the original was so popular and expanded with bars that are just like all the others. I actually thought of you while reading the labels in the store and was curious about your take on these sub-brands.

    1. I agree the taste so much better then the store bought ones Most of them to me taste like the box they come in… I don’t like eating wood either (cellulose) . Plus I thought that would be more like “real food”

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