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How to Choose a Filling and Healthy Snack Bar

choosing a filling and healthy snack bar

If you don’t know what to look for, it can be difficult to find a filling and healthy snack bar. The rise in snack bar popularity as an easy portable snack has also given rise to unending choices that all market themselves as healthy. But buyer beware, some of these snack bars look more like candy bars when you take a peek at the nutrition facts label (I will list some of these bars later in this post).

Many snack bars can also leave you feeling hungry just minutes after eating it. What’s the point of it? You need something that will keep you full until your next meal!

I will solve both of these problems for you in this post. Below are the exact things to look for on a nutrition label to choose both a filling and healthy snack bar.

How to Choose A Filling and Healthy Snack Bars

Note: This article contains affiliate links, which are at no cost to you but help me make a small profit on this blog. I only recommend products I use and/or believe would be beneficial to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

What Makes a Snack Bar Healthy?

To find a healthy snack bar, look at these four items on the nutrition label: ingredients list, sugar, fiber and fat.

1. Ingredients

Healthy snack bars tend to have simple ingredients. The ingredients list should be relatively short and include foods you recognize such as fruit, grains, seeds and nuts.

2. Sugar

The snack bar should have less than 10g of added sugar. Keep in mind there is a difference between sugar that has been added, and naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit and milk.

By 2021, all food labels will be required to have an added sugar line, but until then, check the ingredients list to see what kinds of sugar are in the bar.

Added sugar ingredients include sugar, syrups, nectars, honey, molasses, caramel, fructose, sucrose, dextrose, and maltose.

The majority of snack bars will contain at least one of these added sugars, but you can ensure it does not have too much by finding one that has less than 10g of sugar.

3. Fiber

Fiber is an important nutrient in a healthy diet. It has many health benefits including helping with digestion, weight loss, lowering cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

A healthy snack bar will have 3 or more grams of fiber. If the snack bar has ingredients like fruit, whole grains, seeds, or nuts, it should have no problem reaching this benchmark.

4. Fat

The last item to inspect on a snack bar’s nutrition label is fat. A healthy snack bar should have 0g of trans fat and less than 3g of saturated fat.

Unsaturated fat is a healthy fat that you want to find in a filling and healthy snack bar. It may be listed in the more specific forms of monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat.

If it is not specifically listed, you can do simple math to figure how much is in the bar. Look at the total grams of fat and subtract the grams of saturated and trans fat. For example, a bar that has 10g total fat, 2g saturated fat and 0g trans fat, has 8g of unsaturated fat.

Unsaturated fat comes from plant foods like nuts and seeds. A bar made with these natural foods will likely have upwards of 10g of unsaturated fat.

What Makes a Snack Bar Filling?

Nutrients that help keep you fuller longer are fiber, protein and healthy fat (unsaturated). These nutrients should already be present in a healthy snack bar, but the more the better when it comes to keeping you full. A good standard is to find a bar that contains 5g of at least two out of the three nutrients.

Keep in mind snack bars are not supposed to fill you up completely, they are supposed to satisfy you long enough until you can eat your next meal. They are different than a protein bar or a meal replacement bar.

A good protein bar will have at least 20g of protein. While the protein will help you stay fuller longer, these bars tend to also be higher in calories and sugar. They can also sometimes be meal replacement bars. If a bar has over 300 calories, it is a meal replacement and it is too much for snack.

Dietitian-Approved Filling & Healthy Snack Bars

KIND Bar

KIND Bars, Nuts and Spices Variety Pack, Gluten Free, 1.4 Ounce Bars, 12 Count

KIND Bar Caramel Almond & Sea Salt

  • Ingredients: Almonds, Chicory Root Fiber, Honey, Palm Kernel Oil, Sugar, Glucose Syrup, Rice Flour, Milk Powder, Sea Salt, Carob Powder, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Annatto.
  • Calories: 200
  • Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 12.5g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Total Sugar: 5g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 6g

Buy on Amazon: Caramel Almond & Sea Salt (12 Count), Variety Pack (12 Count)

RXBAR

RXBAR Whole Food Protein Bar, Variety Pack, All Flavors (12 Bars)

RXBAR Chocolate Sea Salt

  • Ingredients: Dates, Egg Whites, Almonds, Cashews, Chocolate, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt
  • Calories: 210
  • Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 7g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Total Sugar: 13g Added Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 12g

Buy on Amazon: Chocolate Sea Salt (12 Count), Variety Pack (12 Count)

thinkThin Protein & Fiber Bars

thinkThin Chocolate Almond Brownie

  • Ingredients: Protein Blend (Soy Protein Isolate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate), Brown Rice Syrup, Chicory Fiber, Dark Chocolate Coating (Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Vanilla), Glycerin, Almonds, Alkalized Cocoa, Sunflower Oil, Soy Crisps (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch), Natural Flavors, Lecithin, Sea Salt, Vitamin And Mineral Blend [Magnesium Oxide, Dicalcium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Niacinamide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin A (As Palmitate), Folic Acid, Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)].
  • Calories: 150
  • Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 4g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • Total Sugar: 5g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 10g

Buy on Amazon: Chocolate Almond Brownie (10 Count)

This Bar Saves Lives

Gluten Free Granola Breakfast Bar, 8 Bar Variety Pack by This Bar Saves Lives, 1.4 oz

This Bar Saves Lives Wild Blueberry & Pistachio

  • Ingredients: Nut, Seed and Dried Fruit Mix (Almonds, Pistachios, Blueberries, Cranberries, Flax Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds), Chicory Root Fiber, Honey, Crisp Rice, Toasted Oats, Cane Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Sea Salt, Non-GMO Sunflower Lecithin, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Vegetable Glycerine, Natural Blueberry Flavor, Citric Acid
  • Calories: 160
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6.5g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Total Sugar: 8g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 4g

Buy on Amazon: Wild Blueberry & Pistachio (12 Count), Variety Pack (8 Count)

CORE Bar

CORE Bar (Cinna'ma Raisin)

CORE Bar Cinna’ma Raisin

  • Ingredients: Oats, Almonds, Raisins, Whey Protein, Cashews, Water, Cinnamon, Ginger, Allspice
  • Calories: 230
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9.5g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Total Sugar: 9g Added Sugar: 0g
  • Protein: 11g

Buy on Amazon: Cinna’ma Raisin (8 Count)

Cascadian Farm

Cascadian Farm Organic non-GMO Protein Chewy Bar Honey Roasted Nut Bars 5-1.77 oz

Cascadian Farm Organic Honey Roasted Nut Bars

  • Ingredients: Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Honey, Tapioca Syrup, Pea Protein, Almonds, Rice Flour, Sunflower, Sea Salt
  • Calories: 250
  • Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 14g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Total Sugar: 10g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 9g

Buy on Amazon: Honey Roasted Nut Bars (5 Count)

Don’t Let These Bars Trick You

Nature Valley

With a short list of ingredients, this may seem like a natural product. But look closer and you will see there are three added sugars: sugar, honey and brown sugar syrup. The 11g of total sugar is made up of all added sugars. The combination of high added sugar with low fiber and protein means this bar is not very filling, and it will cause a quick rise and fall in your blood sugar.

Nature Valley Oats ‘N Honey

  • Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Rice Flour, Honey, Salt, Brown Sugar Syrup, Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor.
  • Calories: 190
  • Saturated Fat: 1g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 6g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Total Sugar: 11g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 3g

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain

This bar does not have simple ingredients. It contains many additives including six added sugars! But you don’t have to be a detective in the ingredients list with this bar. The label includes the added sugars line, reporting 12g of added sugars. This bar also contains low unsaturated fat, fiber and protein.

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars Strawberry

  • Ingredients: Whole Grain Oats, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Vitamin B1 [Thiamin Mononitrate], Vitamin B2 [Riboflavin], Folic Acid), Whole Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil (High Oleic Soybean, Soybean And/Or Canola Oil), Soluble Corn Fiber, Sugar, Dextrose, Fructose, Calcium Carbonate, Whey, Wheat Bran, Salt, Cellulose, Potassium Bicarbonate, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Mono- And Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Gluten, Niacinamide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Carrageenan, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Guar Gum, Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Vitamin B1 (Thiamin Hydrochloride), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Filling: Invert Sugar, Corn Syrup, Strawberry Puree Concentrate, Glycerin, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Sodium Alginate, Citric Acid, Dicalcium Phosphate, Methylcellulose, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Caramel Color, Malic Acid, Red 40.
  • Calories: 130
  • Saturated Fat: 0.5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Total Sugar: 12g Added Sugar: 12g
  • Protein: 2g

Balance

Do not be mislead by the high protein and words “nutrition bar” on its label. This bar is high in saturated fat and added sugars, with <1g of fiber.

Caramel Nut Blast Balance Bar

  • Ingredients: Protein Blend (Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Whey Protein Isolate, Casein, Partially Hydrolyzed Milk Protein Isolate), Fructose, Glucose Syrup, Sugar, Water, Whey Protein Concentrate, Peanut Butter (Peanuts), Fractionated Palm Kernel And Palm Oil, Partially Defatted Peanut Flour, Inulin, Natural Flavor (Includes Caramel Added For Color). Contains Less Than 2% Of Cocoa, Soy Lecithin, Glycerine, Nonfat Milk, Salt, Maltodextrin, Heavy Cream (Cream, Milk, Cellulose Gel, Milk Solids, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum), Butter (Cream, Salt, Annatto Added For Color), Butterfat, Sodium Citrate, Tocopherols Added To Protect Flavor, Soybean Oil, Carrageenan, Dextrose.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: See Nutrition Facts Label
  • Calories: 210
  • Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g
  • Fiber: <1g
  • Total Sugar: 14g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 15g

Clif Bar

Just because its organic doesn’t mean its not added sugar. The first ingredient in this bar is sugar under the name organic brown rice syrup, followed by four other sources of sugar within the list. It’s no surprise this bar contains 22g of sugar. At 250 calories, these bars are also close to being meal replacements.

Clif Bar Chocolate Chunk with Sea Salt

  • Ingredients: Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Roasted Soybeans, Rice Flour, Cane Sugar, Organic Oat Fiber, Unsweetened Chocolate, Organic Soy Flour, Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Organic Unsweetened Chocolate, Sea Salt, Cocoa Butter, Salt, Barley Malt Extract, Organic Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin.
  • Calories: 250
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 3g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Total Sugar: 22g Added Sugar: Not Listed
  • Protein: 9g

How to Choose a Filling and Healthy Snack Bar

Summary for Finding a Filling and Healthy Snack Bar

  • Simple Ingredients

  • Low Sugar (<10g Added Sugar)

  • High Fiber (>3g considered healthy, >5g for increased fullness)

  • Low Saturated Fat (<3g) & No Trans Fat (0g)

  • High Unsaturated Fat (>5g for increased fullness)

  • High Protein (>5g for increased fullness)

For more helpful tips on healthy eating on-the-go read 7 Must-Have Kitchen Tools for Making Easy Grab & Go Meals.

 

Samantha Shuflin, MS, RDN, LDN is a Chicago-based registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) with a master’s degree in nutrition. She helps busy professionals thrive through nutrition & wellness.

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