Breaking Down Bars: A Review of 8 Protein Bars Marketed as “Healthy”

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Protein bars. A convenient snack when you’re on the road or a nice blood sugar spike when you’re fading fast around 2 p.m. in the office. But as I get more informed about nutrition, the more wary of these bars I become. Many of them contain upwards of 100 fat calories, ingredient names I don’t even know how to pronounce (what even is monosodium glutamate?!). Typically, the fewer ingredients the better, and raw foods beat processed foods any day of the week.

BUT sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. You can’t easily bring an organic, four course meal on a hike with you, and when you’re running from meeting to meeting throughout the day, it’s not always possible to heat up a lunch, no matter how good you are at meal prep. Sometimes you have to resort to the dreaded granola/protein bar. So I decided to do a test of eight different bars currently being marketed as “healthy” in the organic section at Kroger to see which tasted the best, which actually held me over the longest, and which had the strongest calories to nutrition ratio. (FYI: To keep it a relatively fair playing ground in terms of taste/ingredients used, I looked for bars with some variation of chocolate/peanut butter/caramel mix.)

Here were the results, starting with my least favorite & working its way up to the protein bar king:

 

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8. Larabar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

I was just overall unimpressed by this bar. It markets itself as “the original fruit and nut food bar” right on the packaging, and I don’t doubt this for a second- I feel like there’s been so many improvements made to protein bars since then, and none of them have found their way into this bar.

Taste: 5 out of 10

Appearance: 4 out of 10

Satisfaction: 6 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 10 out of 10

Calories: 210 kcal

Protein: 5g

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7. Wegmans Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate

Now it pains me to say this, because I love Wegs with all my heart. But basically, the taste was there, but the trade off of calories vs protein/time til hungry again just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. Sorry, Wegs, you know you still my boo. 

Taste: 10 out of 10

Appearance: 10 out of 10 (minus the fact that mine was a little smooshed from sitting at the bottom of my backpack on a four hour flight)

Satisfaction (time til’ hungry again): 6 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 8 out of 10

Calories: 230 kcal

Protein: 7g

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6. ThinkThin Salted Caramel

This bar just didn’t woo me in any way. Tasted good, was low in calories, but just not my favorite. And I was hungry again pretty soon after eating it. But, if you’re looking for a low-cal option before a workout or just a quick pick-me-up, this might be your go-to!

ALSO- QUICK PLUG FOR THINKTHIN INSTANT OATMEAL. This brand has changed my life!! Breakfast has always been my favorite meal, but I struggle with finding a healthy, quick option after the gym before running out the door in the morning. These bowls are great- they taste AMAZING, have a ton of protein, and are a quick way to get a hot meal in in the morning. Plus, I can make them right at my desk at work if I’m really running late. I highly, highly recommend. (Peanut butter and berry are my favs.)

Taste: 8 out of 10

Appearance: 9 out of 10

Satisfaction: 5 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 8 out of 10

Calories: 150 kcal

Protein: 10g

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5. GoMacro Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Macrobar

This bar is tasty, the ingredients healthy, and amount of protein great for a bar (11 grams?! I mean come on!) But no matter what I cannot justify consuming almost 300 calories on a bar. There are so many other things I would rather sink my teeth into. 

Taste: 8 out of 10

Appearance: 7 out of 10

Satisfaction: 8 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 9 out of 10

Calories: 290 kcal

Protein: 11g

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4. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

I am a huge fan of KIND bars. Plain and simple, I love what they’re about, I love that they use all natural ingredients and that you can SEE the ingredients in the bar. Plus there’s so many different flavors to choose from, and they all taste great, which is something you don’t find in a lot of granola bar brands. I do, however, have to be in the mood for a more crunchy bar- I usually favor the more chewy ones- but KIND also has several new chewy bar options as well. (P.S.: Flying Delta? Next time ask for a dark chocolate chunk KIND bar when they come to get your snack order. Those sneaky stewardesses won’t tell you up front it’s an option, but if you ask, they have them hidden! Waaay more satisfying than pretzels, I promise.)

Taste: 9 out of 10

Appearance: 10 out of 10

Satisfaction: 8 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 10 out of 10

Calories: 200 kcal

Protein: 6g

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3. Clif Chocolate Brownie

I’ve been eating Clif Bars since I was six years old. So considering the other snack foods I ate throughout the 90’s (Gushers, Dunkaroos, GoGurt, Kraft Cheese Dippers, you get the idea), I never considered Clif Bars to be a healthy food option by any means. But the more I looked into it, Clif is actually a really quality bar, with a decent amount of protein. Plus it just tastes so good- almost as good as dessert!

Taste: 10 out of 10

Appearance: 9 out of 10

Satisfaction: 9 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 8 out of 10

Calories: 250 kcal

Protein: 9g

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2. Luna Chocolate Salted Caramel

One word to describe this bar- yum. I’m a sucker for a good caramel/chocolate combo, and this just hits the spot. Plus add in the whopping 12 grams of protein, and this bar can serve as a full meal replacement at very few calories, putting it high on my list!

Taste: 10 out of 10

Appearance: 9 out of 10

Satisfaction: 10 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 9 out of 10

Calories: 170 kcal

Protein: 12g

AND THE WINNER IS:

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1. RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt

I. Love. This bar. My brother first introduced me to it as we were driving through Joshua Tree National Park… aka deep in the dessert of SoCal, with few Golden Arches in sight and a hangry passenger demanding sustenence. Clearly I pack well for long road trips, might want to fix this before I head from New York back to Cali this summer. Buuut, my hangry needs aside, this bar is delicious, and my favorite thing about RXBAR’s is that the ingredients are listed right on the package: 3 egg whites, 6 almonds, 4 cashews, 2 dates, no b.s., plain and simple. You know what you’re getting- a natural, protein-packed bar. Plus I just love the story behind the brand.

LITTLE FUN FACT: Wegman’s was the first supermarket to sign RXBAR to a regional distribution deal. There ya go again Wegs, stealin’ my heart. At the literal top of the food chain, always. 

Taste: 10 out of 10 (but VERY chewy- beware, probably have the dates to thank for that)

Appearance: 10 out of 10

Satisfaction: 10 out of 10

Quality of ingredients: 10 out of 10

Calories: 210 kcal

Protein: 12g

 

Did I miss your favorite bar on this review? Drop me a line in the comments below and I’ll be sure to test it out!

 

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