These bars get their allure from convenience and the health halo that comes from being compared to other grab-and-go options, like fast food. However, many bars are glorified candy bars by a different name, hiding high sugar contents under healthy claims of more energy and lean protein.
If you’re really craving a candy bar, you’re better off grabbing the real thing — in moderation, of course. Your body won’t know the difference between a bar of chocolate and some of these sugar-laden choices, but your taste buds might, setting you up for worse cravings and a binge later on. If, however, you’re looking for a bar that’s going to satisfy your hunger and aid your weight loss, turn to one of our picks for best nutrition bars, and walk right past these no-good bars that will grow your gut.
Detour Lean Muscle Bar, Cookies N’ Cream Flavor, 1 bar
|Saturated Fat||6 g|
|Sugar Alcohol||22 g|
The “lean muscle” headline may cause you to take a second glance, but the 32 grams of protein doesn’t justify the nearly 400 calories this bar will cost you. That’s enough calories to qualify as a meal, and it sure won’t fill you up like a plate of whole foods for the same amount of calories. “They do have a hefty amount of protein, but their carbohydrate content is mostly sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols can be difficult to digest and, in large amounts, can cause gastrointestinal distress (bloating, gassiness, diarrhea) in most people. To make matters worse, they also have high amount of saturated fat,” says Maria-Paula Carrillo, MS, RDN, LD.
PowerBar Performance Energy Bar, Chocolate Flavor, 1 bar
|Saturated Fat||1 g|
Twenty-five grams of sugar will definitely boost your energy — but expect a serious crash not too long after. “This bar was formulated to fuel endurance workouts. Bars like these have high loads of carbohydrate from sugar (the first ingredient), and are not created as a meal replacement or day-to-day bar for the majority of the population. Because it’s made to provide quick fuel, it’s also low in protein and fiber,” says Carrillo. That’s a sacrifice you just shouldn’t make when you’re trying to burn fat; fiber and protein are the two nutrients that will keep you feeling full and satisfying and, therefore, out of the snack drawer.
Balance Bar, Chocolate Peanut Butter Flavor, 1 bar
|Saturated Fat||4 g|
The second ingredient (after the protein) on this label is fructose, aka sugar! Not to mention, sugar and glucose syrup aren’t much farther down the list of ingredients. Your body turns excess sugar into fat and stores it away, and this bar packs a glut of the sweet stuff that your body will funnel right to your gut. “The truth is that not all bars are created equal. Energy bars can fit into your meal plan, but being savvy about nutrition labels and ingredients is necessary in order to make the best decision,” says Carrillo. Checking for too much sugar (try to stay under 10 grams) can be a good place to start.
Clif Bar, Chocolate Brownie Flavor, 1 bar
|Saturated Fat||1.5 g|
Clif Bars are a popular choice among the masses due to their wide range of flavors and accessibility, but according to Carrillo they’re not a balanced snack choice. “Clif bars have too many carbohydrates (more than half from sugar) for the average person. Their nutrition composition make them a better choice for endurance athletes who require fuel for activity lasting longer than one hour,” says Carrillo. You could have a serving of chocolate for fewer calories than this bar.
Zone Perfect Nutrition Bar, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Flavor, 1 bar
|Saturated Fat||2.5 g|
|Fiber||less than 1 g|
With 10 grams of protein and only 180 calories, this bar may look like a good choice at first glance, but don’t be fooled. It contains four different forms of sugar within the first six ingredients listed on the nutrition label. Brown rice syrup and corn syrup are at the top of the list, meaning they have more of a presence in the bar than any other ingredient. And with less than one gram of fiber, this bar will break down quickly and leave you hungry for more instead of fuelled and focused.