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The 9 Healthiest Energy Bars, According to Dietitians

Fuel up before a workout with these healthy energy bars.
FACT CHECKED BY Samantha Boesch
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Energy bars often get a bad rap because they're high in sugar, but the sweet snack has its time and place. It makes for a convenient option for when you need quick carbs — think: an uphill hike, an off-road bike ride, or when you're training for a half marathon.

"As a sports dietitian, I remind my clients to take in some form of carbohydrate if they're planning to work out for more than 45 minutes," says sports dietitian ​​Courtney Pelitera, MS, RD, CNSC, with Top Nutrition Coaching. Depending on the intensity of your workout, the general rule of thumb is to consume 30 to 60 grams of carbs for every hour of moderate to high-intensity exercise.

So while energy bars may have more sugar than your average protein bar, it's that extra sugar that's going to fuel you during your workouts. Energy bars provide those fast-digesting carbs by supplying glucose to the muscle cell to produce ATP (aka energy), Pelitera says. Plus, they're portable and easy to stash in your gym bag, backpack, or belt bag.

How to buy the healthiest energy bars

If you're looking for a healthy energy bar to give you fuel, here are some things you can look for:

  • Healthy carb sources: Carbohydrate sources can come from different fruits or fruit purees, honey, maple syrup, and oats, but they can also come from just plain ol' sugar, Pelitera tells us. It's best to choose energy bars that contain whole-food sources of carbohydrates (rather than added sugar) because they'll usually come with added nutrients, like vitamins and minerals.
  • Fewer added sugars: "It's a good idea to limit sources of added sugar in [energy] bars, otherwise, the nutrition profile starts to look more like that of a candy bar," Pelitera says. A good guideline is finding a bar with less than 10 grams of added sugar, Pelitera recommends.
  • Fewer grams of fiber and fat: Bars that are higher in fiber and fat are going to take a little bit more effort to digest, Pelitera says. "If you are new to eating something during exercise, you will want to try lower fiber and fat options first to avoid an upset stomach."

Below, check out the best healthy energy bars that can help power you through your next long bout of exercise — plus one bar you'll want to avoid eating before a workout. And for when you need a boost of energy in liquid form, check out the 10 Best Energy Drinks, According to a Dietitian.

The Best Energy Bars

Kind Energy Bars Peanut Butter

Kind Energy Bar
KIND Snacks
250 calories, 10 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (5 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 10 g protein

KIND Energy Bars are perfectly formulated for pre-workout fuel. "These are slightly different from the original KIND bars in that they have added carbohydrates and protein for sustained energy," Pelitera says. We also love that they have a bit of sodium, which is an electrolyte that can help with nerve and muscle function and replenish lost salt through sweat.

Plus, these taste just as great as what you'd expect from your tried-and-true KIND bars. "The texture of these is a little more similar to the traditional granola bar, which I find some athletes are looking for," Pelitera notes.

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Picky Bars Ah, Fudge Nuts!

Picky bars
Picky Bars
190 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 7 g protein

Made with ingredients such as peanuts, dates, and tapioca syrup, Pelitera loves Picky Bars and especially recommends them to her gluten-free athletes.

Each bar provides 25 grams of carbohydrate with a relatively low fiber count at around 2 to 3 grams (depending on the flavor), which is perfect for avoiding stomach upset, Pelitera says. Aside from being gluten-free, these are also vegan, soy-free, and kosher. Have a bar about 30 to 60 minutes before a hilly run or half-day bike ride.

Perfect Bar Layers Crispy Peanut Butter & Berry

Perfect Bars Layers
Perfect Bar
250 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (2 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 9 g protein

While a classic PB+J sandwich may get you through a day on the slopes, the beloved sandwich isn't very portable. Instead, upgrade your ski snack to a Crispy Peanut Butter & Berry Perfect Bar.

These pack all the goodness of your favorite sweet sandwich, including 28 grams of carbs and a bit of extra protein to keep you going. "Carbs are needed after exercise for recovery purposes and an energy bar [with] a protein source can make a great combination," says Jordan Hill, RDN, MCD, CSSD, with Top Nutrition Coaching.

We love that these boast a chewy texture coming from the fruit spread, plus some crunch from toasted oats. These are best preserved in the fridge (or in cold weather), but they'll also keep fresh at room temperature for up to a week.

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Kate's Real Food Bars Dark Chocolate Cherry & Almond

Dark Chocolate Cherry & Almond
Kate's Real Food
130 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 70 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 3 g protein

Kate's Real Food Bars are made of just that: real foods. Scan the ingredient list and you'll see gluten-free oats, honey, almond butter, and dried cherries, among other tasty energizing picks.

"These bars are great for athletes because they are primarily carb-based but low in fiber, which provides a 'quick carb' to be easily digested and absorbed for quick energy," Hill says. "The ingredients are all whole foods, which tends to be easier on someone who has a sensitive gut, especially around exercise," Hill says.

Just keep in mind that the serving size for these is half a bar, which is what the nutrition facts panel represents.

Larabar Peanut Butter Cookie

Larabar Peanut Butter Cookie
190 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (4 g fiber, 20 g sugar), 4 g protein

Larabars are whole-food bars that use minimal ingredients to get the job done. "They are primarily made of dates, providing a natural source of sugar for quick carbs during exercise," Hill says.

Depending on the flavor, one bar packs around 26 grams of carbs with only 3 grams of added sugar. "Larabars can be eaten before, during, or after training, for energy or to replenish carb stores in the body," Hill says. Choose from delicious flavors, such as Peanut Butter Cookie, Banana Chocolate Chip, Apple Pie, or Blueberry Muffin.

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That's it. Fruit Apple + Blueberry Bar

That's it bar
That's it.
100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (4 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 1 g protein

That's it. Bars are made with just fruit and fruit alone, exactly like the name suggests. For example, the Apple + Blueberry bar contains one apple and 20 blueberries, so these are almost like better-for-you fruit leather that'll give you fast energy.

"It's a great source of quick carbohydrates that will be easily digested and absorbed before, during, or after workouts," Hill says. Bonus: Because it's made of real fruit, one bar can count as a serving of fruit for the day, Hill tells us.

Skratch Energy Bar (Sport Fuel)

skratch energy bar
260 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 5 g protein

Skratch Energy Bars are a solid pick for gluten-free, plant-based athletes. "With 34 grams of carbohydrate made from whole foods, this is a great option for long endurance endeavors," Pelitera says. So instead of relying on added sugar for energy, these bars contain whole-food carb sources.

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Dave's Killer Bread Snack Bars Cocoa Brownie Blitz

Dave's Killer Bread snack bars
Dave's Killer Bread
210 calories, 10 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (5 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 4 g protein

The makers of your favorite sandwich bread created a killer-good energy bar. Dave's Killer Bread Snack Bars start with a base of energizing whole grains, and depending on the flavor, you can find dried fruit, honey, or chocolate chunks on the ingredient list, too.

"This is a good option for those that are looking to change up their usual energy bar," Pelitera says. "They are a bit higher in calories, fat, fiber, and protein than some of the other bars—which is great for long-term sustained energy." Pack these on your next long hike or bike ride for lasting fuel.

Taos Bakes Toasted Coconut + Vanilla Bean

Taos Bakes
Taos Bakes
210 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (3 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 5 g protein

"Taos Bakes uses whole-food organic ingredients and is a great option for a quick carb source," Hill says. These bars are made with a base of organic multi-grain cereal plus peanut butter and omega-3-rich chia seeds and flax seeds. They contain 30 grams of carbohydrates per bar for energy plus some fat, which can help provide more lasting energy for endurance training.

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The Worst Energy Bar

Fiber One Chewy Bars

fiber one oats & chocolate chewy bars
Fiber One
140 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (9 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein

While Fiber One Chewy Bars are full of carbohydrates, about a third of the carbs come from fiber. And that's not a good thing when you're looking for quick energy before or during a tough workout. "Fiber is a fantastic nutrient for heart and gut health and it keeps us satiated, but during exercise, it can cause GI discomfort having the potential to negatively impact one's experience while exercising," Hill says. Instead, enjoy this bar as a snack instead of for training fuel, Hill recommends.

April Benshosan, MS
April is a born-and-raised Brooklynite who has a passion for all things health, wellness, and tastebud-related. Read more about April