Snack bars come in all sizes, flavors, and promises. Some promise balanced nutrition, but are really just empty calories. Others promise high protein content, but come with a heavy price tag of sugar.
This week, we went on a mission to find the most nutritious snack bars. We put 6 of the most popular granola and protein bars to a challenge: Which bar delivers in taste and nutrition?
In order to give the snack bars a fair chance, we divided the competition into 2 rounds.
Round 1: Who’s Hiding The Protein?
Competitors: Clif Builder’s Bar Chocolate, Larabar Chocolate Chip Brownie, Clif Bar Regular Chocolate Brownie
Objective: Identify the bar with highest protein content and least amount of sugar.
These three competitors represent chewy chocolate bars that all have different protein contents. Taste-testers were told to pick the best-tasting bar of the group, in addition to identifying the one they thought had the highest protein content.
Round 2: Most Nutritious Snack Bar
Competitors: Kind Bar Cranberry Almond, Odwalla Super Protein Bar, ThinkThin Crunch Mixed Nuts
Objective: Best all-around snack bar based on Fat, Protein, and Sugar.
These three competitors represent fruit & nut granola bars that promise a balanced, nutritious snack. Taste-testers were told to choose the best-tasting bar, in addition to identifying which bar they thought was the healthiest.
Round 1: Clif Builder’s Bar Chocolate
Clif Builder’s Bar packs 20 grams of protein, the most of all three bars, while containing the least amount of sugar of the trio, with 2o grams. Clif Bar Regular contains only 9 grams of protein, while packing 23 grams of sugar. Larabar also contains 23 grams of sugar and had the least amount of protein in the group, with only 4 grams.
Surprisingly, many of the taste-testers thought that Clif Bar Regular had the most protein. They remarked that it had a chalky texture, similar to other high-protein bars. Larabar tasted the most natural, likely because its main ingredient is dates.
However, due to their high sugar content, all of these bars should only be consumed by physically active people.
Round 2: ThinkThin Mixed Nuts Bar
ThinkThin bars are the only bar in the second round of competition that have more protein than sugar. They packed 8 grams of protein and had only 6 grams of sugar per bar. Kind Bar also received high marks in taste, but contains half as much protein as ThinkThin (4 grams) and almost twice as much sugar (11 grams). Both ThinkThin and Kind Bar contain 1.5 grams of Saturated Fat. Odwalla received the lowest marks in taste in the entire round. Although it contains the most protein (14 grams), it also has the most sugar (17 grams).
Sugar is most common additive used to improve taste in granola bars. Most of these are simple sugars, which can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels. If you are eating them during a window of physical inactivity (e.g. sitting in class or at the office), the extra energy goes unused and can be stored as fat.
ThinkThin Crunch Mixed Nuts Bar offers a perfect balance of taste and nutrition. They contain the least amount of sugar of all the bars we tested (6 grams), while providing a good source of protein (8 grams).
This led us to create a Granola Bar Rule of Thumb: Choose a bar that has more protein than sugar. In addition, stick to fruit & nut flavors, as chocolate and yogurt varieties tend to be a surprising source of saturated fat.
Until next Wednesday, snack wiser!