Product Review: Bars

Bars.  Let’s talk about bars.  No, not like bars where you go and drink – although, we should totally talk about that at some point – but rather protein bars.  Everyone is always wondering which bars they should eat, which ones they should avoid, what to look for when choosing a bar, and if they are even a quality option at all.

Well, let’s break it down.  When given the option, I am always a fan of real food and real meals.  However, life is busy and sometimes you need to grab something quick, portably, and convenient.  Enter, bars.  If you can find a good quality bar with something of substance to offer, then they can be a good option in a pinch.  A few of the things to look for when choosing your bar- real, quality ingredients, amount of protein (try to get at least 7g), and the amount and type of sugar (always check the ingredient list for that one).  Look at bars like a quick, grab n’ go option or a pre, during, or post workout snack rather than a meal.  Many seemingly healthy bars are hiding A LOT of sugar, artificial sweeteners, artificial ingredients, and little in the way of protein and nutrients, so be careful!

I decided to taste test a few popular bars out there to let you know how they stack up against one another and against the eye of a seasoned label reader and judger-of-food like me.  I went to Trader Joe’s, perused their bar section, and selected a few options.  Then, I came up with the following criteria by which to measure the bars.  And, I had my trusty assistant, who fancies himself something of a world-class consumer, by my side with feedback of his own (that would be my husband).  So here’s what we looked at:

Scale: 1-5, 1=not good, 5=excellent.

Visual appeal: Does it look appetizing and would I want to pick it up and eat it?

Taste: Was it good and would I eat it again?

Texture: We took into account how it felt to the touch and in the mouth.

Ingredients: How many ingredients, are they all real food, anything artificial, etc.

Protein: How much protein does it offer?

Sugar:  How many grams of sugar, what is the source, and where does sugar appear in the ingredient list?

Price:  How much was it and was it worth the price?

Would I buy it again:  Would it satisfy me?  Was it worth eating?  Did I like it enough to eat it again?

Overall grade:  How did it do overall?

 

Bar #1: Lara Bar- Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter

  • Visual appeal: 2
    • Looks greasy and not very appetizing. All one brown color with little flecks of chocolate chips.
  • Taste: 3
    • Sweet and fruity taste, but not overly sweet. Some peanut butter and chocolate flavor by not much, could use more.
  • Texture: 2
    • A little too soft and greasy. It fell apart easily and was not very dense
  • Ingredients: 4
    • There are exactly 4 ingredients in this bar (just like the score it received). Dates, peanuts, chocolate chips, and sea salt.  And added sugar is no where to be found- that’s pretty great.
  • Protein: 3
    • This bar offers 6 grams of protein which is good, but not great.
  • Sugar: 3
    • Yes, there are 19 grams of sugar in this bar. However, there is no added sugar, it comes strictly from dates.
  • Price: $1.29
    • I think it’s worth the price.
  • Would I buy it again
    • Probably not. Although the sugar is from a better source, there is still a little too much sugar and not enough protein for me to make it worth eating. Also, it didn’t feel like it would hold me over for very long.
  • Overall: 2.75
    • It was good, but not great. And, I probably would not go out of my way to buy it again.

Bar #2: Luna Bar- S’mores

  • Visual appeal: 4
    • Looking at the bar, you can see the chocolate and the crunchy rice, making it look like a chocolate dipped rice krispy treat – yum.
  • Taste: 3
    • Sweet, but pleasant and not artificial at first, however left an artificial aftertaste. It somewhat lived up to it’s visual appeal and tasted slightly like a healthy rice krispy treat.
  • Texture: 3.5
    • Crunchy and soft, but holds together well. It’s not necessarily the texture I want in a bar, as it does not feel hearty enough to be a substantial snack.
  • Ingredients: 2
    • With a whopping 24 ingredients, plus 13 added vitamins and minerals, the ingredient list alone turned me off from the bar. Why do you need so many ingredients?!  They ingredients were generally ok, but there are other options out there with fewer ingredients.
  • Protein: 3
    • 8 grams of protein, mostly from soy. Meh, that’s kind of how I feel about that.
  • Sugar: 3
    • 9 grams of sugar, which shows up in 3 different forms in the ingredients listed at numbers 7, 8, and 21 (if you count all the ingredients in the Protein Grain Blend individually). Not great.
  • Price: $0.99
    • Definitely worth the price.
  • Would I buy it again?
    • Probably not. The taste was OK, the ingredients were OK, and the overall experience was just OK. It did not feel hearty enough to keep me very full for very long.
  • Overall: 3

Bar #3: Clif Bar– Oatmeal Raisin Walnut

  • Visual appeal: 4.5
    • Looks hearty, like it would really hold me over, and it looks like a cookie – added bonus.
  • Taste: 5
    • Tastes like a delicious, under baked oatmeal raisin cookie. Tastes almost too good to actually be that good for you.  Very sweet, bordering on too sweet.
  • Texture: 4
    • Soft, but crunchy and dense. Feels very hearty,  like it would hold me over for a long time.
  • Ingredients: 3
    • 19 ingredients and 4 of them are some form of sugar- not great, but now I know why it was so sweet. Overall, the ingredients are OK, nothing crazy or artificial, so that’s good.
  • Protein: 3
    • 10 grams of protein is pretty good, but mainly coming from soy. Again, meh.
  • Sugar: 2
    • Sugar (in the form of brown rice syrup) is the first ingredient. And the 5th, and the 13th, and the 17th.  Not good.
  • Price: $0.99
    • Great price, definitely worth it.
  • Would I buy it again:
    • Probably- but only if I was participating in some serious exercise and needed the fuel.
  • Overall: 3.5 (very close to a 4, but just too much sugar!)
    • I would definitely consider this bar if I was gearing up for a tough workout, or while working out, or right after. Other than that, I would stay away from them as a grab n go snack, mainly because of all the sugar.

Bar #4: Kind Bar – Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond

  • Visual appeal: 5
    • Looks very appealing – kind of like a candy bar – you can see all of the ingredients, and I want to eat it!
  • Taste: 5
    • Yum! How can this actually be good for you? No artificial taste to be found, it tastes real and like the name advertised
  • Texture: 4.5
    • Great crunch. I liked that I had to do a lot of chewing, it made me feel like I was really eating something. feel like I’m eating something
  • Ingredients: 4
    • 16 ingredients, but I know what each and every one is.
  • Protein: 3
    • Only 5 grams of protein in this bar, not great, but still something.
  • Sugar: 4
    • Only 5 grams of sugar, that’s pretty excellent.
  • Price: $1.49
    • A little pricey, but I think it’s still fair.
  • Would I buy it again
    • Yes, definitely. I know from experience that they do not hold me over all that long, but based on the ingredients, taste, and variety of flavors I would definitely buy it again.
  • Overall: 4
    • Great overall, just not super filling.

Bar #5: Think Thin– Chunky Peanut Butter

  • Visual appeal: 4
    • It looks like a chocolate covered candy bar
  • Taste: 2
    • All I could taste were the sugar alcohols they use in the bar, and I am not a fan of that flavor (tastes artificial to me). Tastes like a watered down candy bar with a fake, sweet aftertaste.
  • Texture: 3
    • A little bit crunchy, which is appealing, but soft and dissolves quickly.
  • Ingredients: 2
    • Again, not a fan of sugar alcohols in my food.
  • Protein: 4
    • 20 grams of protein in this little bar is pretty impressive.
  • Sugar: 2
    • Something that has 0g of sugar in it always sends up an immediate red flag to me. There are 0g of added sugar, but there are 21g of sugar alcohols, which can have a laxative effect, aftertaste, and can be highly refined.
  • Price: $1.79
    • Too much for a little bar
  • Would I buy it again
    • I would not. This was actually my least favorite of the bars we tried.
  • Overall: 2
    • I did not love this one.

Bar #6: Rx Bar – Peanut Butter

  • Visual appeal: 3.5
    • It looks like what I expect a bar to look like, and also kind of like an old school power bar, which I weirdly like. It looks compressed and slightly boring.
  • Taste: 5
    • Sweet, but not too sweet. Tastes very real and very peanut buttery. I do know that some of the fruity flavors taste very, very fruity.
  • Texture: 4
    • Very dense and chewy. Felt substantial like it will hold me over. Much more pleasing than it looks.
  • Ingredients: 5
    • Only 5 ingredients: egg whites, dates, peanuts, sea salt, and natural flavor. I’d say that’s pretty great.
  • Protein: 5
    • 12g of protein is the perfect amount for a grab n go snack.
  • Sugar: 4
    • There are 15g of sugar in this bar, but they are all coming from dates, so for that, I give it a 4. And, there are 6g of fiber, added bonus!
  • Price: $1.99
    • A little pricey, but worth it.
  • Would I buy it again
    • I would definitely buy this bar again. This is actually my go-to bar and the one I recommend most often.
  • Overall: 5
    • Great ingredients and flavor, and it actually feels like it fills you up.

 

Overall Winner: Rx Bar

Runner Up: Kind Bar