Sure, your rumbling tummy might make the magnetic pull of the drive-thru seem irresistible, but silencing the temptation without expending all your willpower is simple with just a little planning. How little? Just throw one of these nutrition bars in your bag before you leave the house to put mindless munching to rest and continue melting away those love handles.
While the majority of nutrition bars are essentially candy bars in disguise, cleaner options that can help push you closer to your goals really do exist. But to find these fairy godmothers, there’s one important rule you need to follow: Read the label! Often, the options with the shortest and most comprehensible ingredient list are always going to be the best ones. And then from there, your next step is to look at the nutritionals.
But that’s all easier said than done, right? That’s why it’s Eat This, Not That! to the rescue! Of the nearly hundreds of items on the market, we’ve pinpointed a few of our favorites. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, build muscle, or rev up your energy mid-afternoon, there’s a better bar for that—and we’ve highlighted them below. Take a look, and then make sure you check out Best and Worst Protein Powders for when you’re preparing your next smoothie!
Your Goal: Keep your skin glowing. (And it wouldn’t hurt if it was good for your health as well)!
Eat This: Kind Nuts & Spices Madagascar Vanilla Almond
Nutrition: 210 Calories, 16 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 7 g protein
Kind bars—particularly the Nuts & Spices line—are some of the best options available across the board. This one is packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E thanks to the almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts. These nutrients can help promote healthier, younger looking skin and ward off wrinkles. It’s also much lower in sugar than most bars (with only 4 grams!) which is important because eating too much sugar has been found to promote aging of the skin. And if you’re still not convinced this is a great choice, listen to this: This particular KIND bar was actually ranked #1 in its category in our exclusive report on Every KIND Bar—Ranked!
$13.10 for 12-pack ($1.09 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Whether it’s because of a restless night’s sleep or the classic mid-afternoon slump, you need some energy.
Eat This: Simply Protein Chocolate Mint Whey Bar
Nutrition: 150 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 15 g protein
Looking for a mid-afternoon snack? Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition suggests eating a bar with more than five grams of protein. “There is a limit, however,” she continues. “You don’t want 25 plus grams of protein because your body can’t absorb it and it can cause stomach upset. Also, to get that amount of protein in that amount of space sometimes [requires] very processed protein, which isn’t good either.” This bar serves up a moderate, but steady, hit of 15 grams of whey protein for a light 150 calories. Plus, roasted split peas provide resistant starch and fiber to help stabilize blood sugar levels, keeping you energized for the rest of the day—just like these 23 Best Foods for Energy.
$23.31 for 12-pack ($1.94 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Protein, protein, protein. And carbs.
Eat This: Aloha, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
Nutrition: 270 calories, 13 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 26 g carbs (6 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 18 g protein
Say Aloha to a toned body with this bar. If you’re looking to build muscle, eating whole foods is a better choice. But if a bar is your only option, then you want some carbs along with the muscle-building stuff. “Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers,” says Smith.
$29.99 per 12-pack ($2.50 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Lose weight without feeling like you’re eating less—or giving up the foods you love.
Eat This: Boundless Nutrition Oatmega Crisp Bar in Vanilla Almond
Nutrition: 190 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 120 mg sodium, 21 g carbs (7 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 14 g protein
Calories are key when it comes to weight loss, but Smith explains looking at sugar is also important, as sugar consumption is linked to inflammation and insulin resistance—two health issues related to weight gain. With 14 grams of protein and more satiating fiber than sugar, this pleasantly-flavored Oatmega bar will actually fill you up, not out. For more help with choosing packaged foods that don’t have too much sugar, check out these 32 Eat This, Not That!: Low-Sugar Packaged Foods.
$21.49 for 12-pack ($1.79 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Bolster your brainpower so you can stop lagging behind on your work.
Eat This: Kind Bar, Nut Delight
Nutrition: 210 calories, 16 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 6 g protein
With nuts like walnuts, brazil nuts, and almonds as the main ingredient in this bar, it is packed full of brain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging found that by including walnuts into your diet daily can help improve cognitive health and boost memory. Besides eating more walnuts, find out what foods you should avoid in these 22 Best & Worst Foods for Your Brain.
$14.50 for 12-pack ($1.20 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Whether you gave up dairy to decrease your congestion, reduce inflammation, or because you’re lactose intolerant, you’re looking for alternative sources of bone-strengthening calcium.
Eat This: Health Warrior Chia Bars, Coconut
Nutrition: 110 calories, 6 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (4 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 3 g protein
While chia seeds are usually credited for their awesome omega-3 counts, Smith points out that they’re actually a great source of calcium, too, with about 180 mg per ounce. Though supplements and bars are not the best way to get more nutrients into your body, choosing ones with nutrient-dense ingredients like chia seeds will be your best bet at fortifying your diet when you’re in a pinch. On a related note, ever wonder about omega-6s? In this video, we answer your question about “Should I Eat Omega-6s?”
$18.75 for 15-pack ($1.25 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: You need a small, easily digestible snack full of simple carbs, which are essential for providing fuel for your muscles and allowing them to maintain higher intensity exercise, and a little bit of protein, to help prevent muscle breakdown.
Eat This: Larabar, Apple Pie
Nutrition: 190 calories, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 5 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (5 g fiber, 18 g sugar), 4 g protein
Larabars are great because they’re made with just a few simple, natural ingredients, but there’s a catch: Because they have a lot of sugar, the only time Smith recommends using them is for workouts. “Since they are lower in protein, fiber, and fat, digestion happens pretty quickly [and you can get a short burst of energy with no stomach upset]—it’s kind of like eating a banana,” says Smith. She recommends eating it about an hour before a workout for a natural boost of energy to carry you through your sweat session.
$15.19 for 16-pack ($0.94 each) at Amazon.com
During A Workout
Your Goal: If you’re spending a day biking, surfing, jogging, or hiking, you’ll want a bar that’s easily digestible and full of refueling carbs.
Eat This: 22 Days Nutrition, Pineapple Chocolate Chip
Nutrition: 230 calories, 12 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 26 g carbs (4 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 6 g protein
Any endurance athlete and weekend warrior understands day-long excursions are some of the only times it makes sense to eat something with a lot of simple carbs—so don’t go grabbing one for your desk job. 22 Days Nutrition makes a vegan bar with simple carbs that still offer extra vitamins and minerals from unrefined sugars, like dates, pineapple, and coconut syrup.
Your Goal: Replenish spent energy stores and fuel muscles with protein to recover and build.
Eat This: Epic, Chicken Sesame BBQ
Nutrition: 120 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (3 g sugar), 15 g protein
To promote muscle repair and growth after your workout, lean sources of meat protein is ideal. So when you can’t grill up a chicken breast or grab a turkey sandwich, try this savory, jerky-style bar. It’s delicious, and unlike typical dried fruit and whey protein bars, it contains no added sugars.
$25.44 for 12-pack ($2.12 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: You’re trying to lose weight and counting calories, but need a snack—stat.
Eat This: Health Warrior Chia Bars, Banana Nut
Nutrition: 100 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (4 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 3 g protein
Chia bars rank as one of the better nutrition bars for a reason—chia seeds have a lot to offer your body in the nutrient department. When you just need a little something to munch on, this bar is perfect because it’s low in calories but rich in soluble fiber which can promote better regularity and curb cravings better than any 100-calorie bag of chips can.
$14.22 for 15-pack ($0.94 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Have a healthy alternative for those diet-derailing cravings that can make any diligent dieter weak at the knees.
Eat This: Strong & Kind Honey Mustard
Nutrition: 230 calories, 16 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 10 g protein
For those times when you’re dying to grab that bag of honey mustard potato chips, but you’re actually hungry, you can reach for one of these unusually flavored bars from Kind’s Strong & Kind product line. They’re still made with the same basic nuts and seeds formula like the sweet varieties, but this twist on flavor introduces a whole new type of bar to your taste buds and will kill off any junk food cravings in a matter of bites. With 10 grams of protein and 16 grams full of healthy fats, you’ll actually make it to dinner without so much as a single rumble. Speaking of healthy fats, find out the 20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin that you need to add to your meals!
$15.95 for 12-pack ($1.32 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Something to tide you over—and give you similar nutritionals to the real thing—when you don’t have time to stop for a meal. You’re looking for the whole package: a hefty dose of protein, fiber, healthy fats, and an ample amount of energy-providing, long-lasting complex carbs, all for over 200 calories.
Eat This: PerfectBar, Carob Chip
Nutrition: 330 calories, 18 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 50 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (5 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 16 g protein
While we’d recommend eating a balanced meal whenever possible, we understand that having a busy lifestyle—whether it’s flying for work or vacation, cheering your kids on at an all-day soccer tournament, or chronically being in meetings throughout the afternoon—means that on-the-go or last-ditch-effort nutrition has a role in your diet. When that’s the case, reach for a Perfect Bar. These 330-calorie bars are a balance of healthy fats, protein, and both simple and complex carbs to energize you and fill you up. Plus, with over 20 high-nutrient, antioxidant-rich superfoods, you’ll help fuel your weight-loss efforts.
$24 for 8-pack ($3.00 each) at Perfectbar.com
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Your Goal: Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth without the sugar crash.
Eat This: Kind Fruit & Nut Delight
Nutrition: 200, 13 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 6 g protein
With real fruit pieces—instead of white sugars and loads of syrup—to give you that touch of sugar you’re looking for, this KIND bar will curb your sweet cravings while filling you up with healthy fats and protein at the same time.
$14.05 for 12-pack ($1.17 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Chomp down on some rich chocolate without undoing your weight-loss progress.
Eat This: Larabar UBER, Dark Chocolate Peanut
Nutrition: 210 calories, 14 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (3 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 6 g protein
This UBER bar contains not one, but two chocolate ingredients; one of which is cocoa powder, and the other is pieces of pure dark chocolate—not that alkalized, chocolate-flavored “coating” stuff. Combined with almonds, peanuts, sea salt, and some of our Eat This!-approved sweeteners, you can’t get much more guilt-free than this.
Keep In Your Bag
The Goal: A versatile bar that offers a balance of nutrients—protein, fats, and carbs—in moderate amounts.
Eat This: Rise Protein Bar, Sunflower Cinnamon
Nutrition: 280 calories, 15 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 21 g carbs (2 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 15 g protein
This Rise bar is a balanced bar that can be anything you need it to be: a post-workout recovery, a grab-n-go snack, or even a light breakfast. It’s mid-range when it comes to calories, protein, and healthy fats and is sweetened with a low-glycemic sugar (coconut nectar), so it won’t spike your blood sugar. All components work together to maximize and sustain your energy stores. Plus this vegan bar is packed with sunflower seeds, one of the top sources of magnesium—a mineral that strengthens bones and plays a role in brain and muscle function. Oh yeah, we said vegan, which means you can nosh on it anytime without it leaving you bloated like a whey bar might.
$24.69 for 12-pack ($2.05 each) at Amazon.com
Your Goal: Get your gut health in check by upping your prebiotic, soluble fiber intake.
Eat This: NuGo Fiber d’Lish, Banana Walnut
Nutrition: 140 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 30 g carbs (12 g fiber [9 g soluble, 3 g insoluble], 8 g sugar), 4 g protein
Not only will this bar help you keep things moving along in the bathroom, the high soluble fiber content will also help to mend your belly. When your gut health goes awry (typically due to an imbalanced diet high in sugar and fatty foods), you can suffer from ailments like skin problems, sleep issues, depression, and weight gain. Incorporating foods rich in prebiotics—like the oats, flax, inulin, and bananas found in this bar—can help feed and strengthen the beneficial bacteria in your belly so they can overtake the bad guys, fend off inflammation, and shut off your fat genes.
$21.99 for 16-count ($1.37 each) on Amazon.com