With every new discovery—be it a product or a cause—there comes a following, and with that it can be difficult to separate those hopping on the bandwagon of a fad, trying to make a profit off of the overeager consumers, and the more authentic proponents of the idea. With the recent surge of dietary supplements and substitutes (dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan) it can be hard to find the greatest common factor among convenience, nutritional value, taste, and cost. The bar (typically granola) seems to be the point of intersection for most of these, but how many of the bars marketed as meal-complementary and diet-friendly commodities really serve the consumer what he thinks he’s getting? The ideal bar—that is, the healthiest bar that dares not sacrifice nutrition for taste—will be made up mostly of complex carbohydrates featuring whole grains, will avoid shortcuts to good taste such as simple sugars, starches, and trans fats, will pack a good amount of protein (approx 10g), and will be supported by some good fiber (approx. 4g) and any number of essential vitamins and minerals.
With so many brands soliciting our consumership it can be hard to make sure you get the most out of what you buy—to make sure you buy the right product. So, here’s some help; below is a list of some of the approved-of big names and a small blurb making each one unique. It’s important to observe that many bars forfeit certain health benefits in the building up of another.
The amount of protein is impressive (a whopping 13g), but the caloric value and sugars weigh it down. However, having as much sugar as many competitors, the slightly harder to find Zing bars end up being a better choice for a pre- and post-workout snack. The 14g of sugar come from agave nectar which is produced through a process similar to that which makes corn syrup so thick and sweet.
They come in a slew of flavors, and have an attractive, even calming wrapper, and it’s a surprise that the candy-like taste comes from a lower-than-average dose of sugars (a little less than two peanut butter cups) with some saturated fat. It’s one of the better tasting bars and features an injection of Vitamin D. The drawback? It’s a little small.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous and long-standing, Clif Bars make the list because of their ability to nearly replace a small meal. Its 250 calories are made up of 10g of protein, 5g of fat (only 1.5g of which is saturated fat), 5g of fiber. Unfortunately, its heavy size comes with roughly 20g of sugar.
Smaller than the typical bar, this soy-based product undercuts its competitors with low sugar (~12g), and only 4g of fat. With such a small bar, there’s also a lower amount of protein at 4g, but it maintains the average 4g of fiber.