Nutrition Articles

Choosing the Best Energy Bar

Edible Energy: Find the Right Bar for Your Needs

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You walk into your local grocery or convenience store and inevitably stumble upon a sea of energy bars. Feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the plethora of health claims, you quickly buy an eye-catching bar with an appealing flavor. But did you really get the best bar to suit your needs?

Before making a purchase, think about why you are eating that bar—additional protein, a handy snack or a mini-meal replacement following a workout? Do you feel that because you are dieting, exercising or focusing on your health that energy bars are simply a must? Whatever your reasoning, know that energy bars are not a necessary part of a healthy, balanced diet. Before you buy, remember these pros and cons:

There are a lot of reasons why energy bars are so popular. In general, energy bars:
  • Can help meet your energy (calorie) needs
  • May help meet your nutritional needs protein, carbohydrates and fat
  • May help to meet other nutritional needs depending on the added vitamins and minerals. Some nutrients that are often added include calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, folic acid, protein and fiber
  • Are portable, convenient and pre-packaged
  • May keep you out of dangerous areas such as the vending machine or fast food drive-thru
  • Can help ward off binge eating if you become excessively hungry
  • Have a long shelf life and don't require refrigeration.
Consider these downsides.
  • Excessive nutrients. Energy bars can contribute to an excessive intake of nutrients, especially if you are eating more than one bar daily, are already taking a multivitamin supplement or are eating other fortified (enriched) foods and beverages. The dangers of over-supplementation vary from minor intestinal discomfort (diarrhea and constipation) to liver disease, nerve damage or even death.
  • Excessive calories. If using too many, too often, energy bars may contribute to a high calorie intake, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Cost.  At $1 to $2 a bar, this convenience food can quickly become a major expense on your grocery bill.
  • Abdominal discomfort. Some energy bars (especially low-sugar, low-carb and high-fiber varieties) contain sugar alcohols and alternative fiber sources (inulin, chicory root); which can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea in some individuals. While these ingredients are safe to consume, monitor your individual tolerance.
  • Lack of data. There is very little research to support the actual need for energy bars. While many provide claims regarding weight loss, antioxidants and muscle building, they are not a magical food and should not be used as a constant replacement for whole foods in your diet.
  • Processing. Energy bars are a highly processed food, whereas whole, unprocessed foods should be the staples of a healthy diet.
  • Additives. Some energy bars contain additional herbal ingredients or weight-loss aids. There is no data to show that any of these are effective or beneficial to health. There are no standards regarding potency or safety or effectiveness in these supplemental ingredients—and many can result in medication interaction and possible dangerous side effects. Continued ›
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

    Agreed. Cannot even believe Quest isn't on the list. Not sure who did this article but I don't think they did a lot of research. Quest has the most protein highest fiber and lowest sugars. Do some research. - 12/15/2015 2:52:10 PM
  • I have been using Quest bars to stop wanting sweets. However I notice some one mentioned Victory bars. Will check it out as Quest has gotten so expensive. I have stopped using them unless I have a coupon from GNC. Good article!! - 12/15/2015 8:32:38 AM
  • I agree with those who can't believe Quest Bars weren't mentioned. They are my go to on the run meal replacement bar! And Quest Bar statistics fit right in with the guidelines. Cookie Dough and Cookies and Cream are my favs!!!!!
    Other than that, good information! - 6/4/2015 11:48:20 AM
  • Add me to the list of Sparkers who are shocked that Quest bars were ignored. They have the best nutrition and the safest ingredients. - 9/28/2014 7:13:06 PM
  • I love and am a big fan of Quest bars, and I'm surprised that they didn't even make the list! :-( - 8/29/2014 12:20:12 PM
    I first heard about Quest bars on the Dr. Oz show. Stats vary but they are all high in protein (21) and fiber (17) low in carbs (22, but 3 net) calories (180) fat (7) and sugar (1) - made with stevia and gluten free. And just yummy! I order them online by the case as it's a little cheaper. Surprised they weren't mentioned in this article.
    - 6/23/2014 1:40:12 PM
  • I love the strawberry slim bars from GNC -- I usually have one about an hour before I go to yoga. Keeps me from being hungry til lunch. Delicious and low calorie. - 6/23/2014 6:46:51 AM
  • I love energy bars. I am surprised Quest Bars were not mentioned. They put every single one of these bars to shame! Chocked full of protein, fiber, healthy fat, and very little sugar. Oh Yeah Victory Bars are also just as good a choice (and in my opinion taste better). They also cost less. I recently started purchasing VitaFiber and started making my own. By far, some of the best bars I've ever had, made with protein powder, a little homemade nut butter, and VitaFiber. Simple, filling, and delicious!! - 6/23/2014 6:07:48 AM
  • great info - 6/23/2014 5:56:43 AM
  • I used to be an energy bar junkie. I would eat at least one a day, sometimes up to three! Then I realized how processed and artificial most of these bars are and how much added sugar they contain. Many of them are really no better than glorified candy bars. Plus, they are expensive.

    Smartest thing is to eat more unprocessed food. Replace the bars with trail mix (a mix of nuts, dried fruit, seeds) or yogurt topped with mueslix. There are so many nearly as quick and convenient things you can eat that are really much better for you.

    If you do want to splurge and eat a bar (I consider them desserts now), Kind bars and Lara bars are really minimally processed and contain very little added sugar. I still eat those from time to time. I also love Oh Yeah! bars. Those are pretty artificial. But they taste just like a candy bar, are low sugar, and have lots of protein. - 3/4/2014 12:44:18 PM
  • Lately have been eating Kind bars for a healthy snack. Ingredients I can recognize, not much sugar, plenty of fiber. Delicious. - 9/15/2013 6:22:24 AM
  • I love the zone bars its very filling but under 200 calories - 8/27/2013 10:51:14 AM
  • "The dangers of over-supplementat
    ion vary from minor intestinal discomforts (diarrhea and constipation) to liver disease, nerve damage or even death." Sources please. Because having worked in the ER, you see *SO* many people come in after ODing on vitamin C :P - 7/25/2013 8:53:46 AM
  • what about the original Clif bars (not the Builders variety)? they're a little pricy, but when I'm running late they go great with a cup of almond milk. - 7/24/2013 5:52:28 PM
  • Wow I'm shocked while these bars are more nutritious than a Fiber One bar, they are not the best by a long shot. How about mentioning KIND bars. A bunch of bars in the KIND bars line while at around 200-250 calories (which isn't much if you eat healthy for the day) ONLY have 4-5 grams of sugar, 3-6 grams of fiber, and 4-7 grams of protein! Also what about Health Warrior Chia Bars.. another low sugar and even low calorie (one bar is only 100 calories) and they are chocked full of chia seeds which keep me full for hours!!! No lie! - 7/24/2013 1:22:33 PM

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