Taste Test: Snack Bars
Truth be told: When 4 o’clock rolls around, we’d rather be downing a chocolate chip cookie than a snack bar. But with the new-fangled flavors and range of healthy ingredients, many snack bars are creating a win-win situation. Which brands satisfied our cravings and offered the most nutrition? Here are the results from our taste test.
We used our typical rating scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the highest) for this taste test. Each brand was evaluated based on taste, texture and nutrition, paying special attention to calories, fat, sodium and ingredient quality.
Per serving (1 bar): Calories 240; Fat 10 g (Saturated 2 g); Sodium 5 mg; Sugars 9 g
We like GoMacro’s ethos: vegan, wholesome, sustainable and, as the name would dictate, macrobiotic. The one problem, however, was the flavor didn’t stack up to the other bars we tasted. The Cashew Butter had a nice appearance and soft, chewy consistency, but it lacked that creamy, nutty taste we were hoping for (especially considering the higher calorie and fat content). With a little more sweetness, or even a dash of sea salt, perhaps it would tip the scales in the right direction.
Per serving (2 bars): Calories 180; Fat 7 g (Saturated 2 g); Sodium 100 mg; Sugars 9 g
Kashi’s granola bars fall into two main categories: crunchy and chewy. If you’re not sure which one you are, think about cookies; if you like your cookies crisp, then consider yourself a “crunchy” person. If you like chewy cookies, well, you get the picture. For us, the Crunchy Granola & Seed Bar was a clear winner. Pumpkin Spice Flax evoked memories of Thanksgiving pies. Another favorite was the Chocolate Chip Chia, flecked with mini chocolate chips to satisfy our cocoa craving along with whole grains and seeds (oats, barley, wheat, rye, quinoa and chia) that made this crispy bar taste like a biscotti. We didn’t dunk it, but we’re guessing it would hold up to an afternoon tea or coffee.
Per serving (1 bar): Calories 130; Fat 3 g (Saturated .5 g); Sodium 105 mg; Sugars 9 g
If you’ve pulled a sock out of your handbag this week, you’re likely also carrying snack bars for your little one. Plum’s Go Bars are not exclusively for children, but they are touted as offering five types of vegetables and fruits — ingredients you may struggle to add to your kid's diet. They also have about 25 percent less sugar than most bars out there. The cakey appearance and promise of a Chocolate Brownie didn’t fool our adult palates, and the flavor of apples, dates, carrots, sweet potatoes and kale wasn’t our favorite.
Per serving (1 bar, depending on the flavor): Calories 140-150; Fat 4-4.5 g (Saturated .5-1 g); Sodium 75-95 mg; Sugars 7g
You’ve probably seen Kind’s shiny bars* on supermarket shelves; they’re stocked with jewel-like whole almonds, fiber and protein. Now the brand has introduced a line of bars featuring popular grains like oats, sorghum, millet, buckwheat and quinoa. We tried four varieties: Popped Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Berry, Caramel Macchiato and Dark Chocolate Mocha (the latter two are made with coffee). The bars were visibly pleasing and the texture was a bit like Rice Krispies Treats — chewy and crunchy at the same time. Coffee lovers, you may want to skip your afternoon cup o' joe in favor of these bars.
*You’ve probably heard the news that Kind has been issued a warning from the Food and Drug Administration that four of the brand's snack bars (Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot, Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut, Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein, and Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants) carry inaccurate nutrient content claims. The bars we tested were not part of the inquiry.
Per serving (1 bar, depending on the flavor): Calories 190-240 g; Fat 7-13 g (Saturated .5-2.5g); Sodium 0-60 g; Sugars 20 g (approximately)
With such a range of flavors — from Cherry Pie and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake to Coconut Chocolate Chip — you are likely to find one that matches your personal preference. It was a little difficult to wrap our heads around the Apple Pie as a substitute for the real deal, but the bar was quite fruit-forward. We were happy with the inclusion of fair trade chocolate and appreciative of non-GMO ingredients and no additives, but we were split down the middle on palatability. Larabar makes a variety of bars (Uber, Alt and Renola, to name a few), but we stuck to the original for testing purposes.
Kiri Tannenbaum is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris and holds an M.A. in food studies from New York University where she is currently an adjunct professor. When her schedule allows, she leads culinary walking tours in New York City and is currently at work on her first book.