Granola bars are convenient and easy to grab when you’re in a hurry, but it’s important to know the truth: Many popular options on the market lack substantial protein and good fats and are super high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and even sodium. Plus, the nutrition labels can be misleading, suggesting a two-serving portion for a whole bar that most would want to finish off in one sitting.
Of course, some granola bars are better than others, in which the portion size, sugar content, and calories are better fitting as a snack bar and won’t feel like you’re eating an entire meal.
So what’s the key to finding the right granola bar? Well, you’re going to want to choose one that has the least amount of added sugars and the highest amounts of fiber, which will help keep your blood sugar as stable as possible. What you want to do is avoid any of these granola bars, all picked by dietitians as being some of the worst granola bars you can find on the market. And while you’re making healthier choices, be sure to add The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now to your diet.
Per bar: 130 calories, 3.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 140 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 2 grams protein
These bars have fruit in them—must be a not-so-bad option to munch on, right? Not so fast, as these are rather deceiving.
“This bar should be a no-go as its primary response in the body is to raise glucose rapidly which eventually crashes and leaves the consumer feeling just as hungry as before their meal,” says Trista Best, RD.
Per bar: 250 calories, 5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 180 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (4 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 9 grams protein
While Best does generally approve of Clif Bar as a brand, she thinks this sugar-packed specific flavor is a no-go.
“There really is little in terms of nutritional value with the highest micronutrient provided being calcium at just 20% DV, otherwise it is a calorie-dense snack packed with a long list of ingredient names that are hard to pronounce and will achieve temporary fullness without any added benefits that can be found in bars with more natural ingredients,” she explains.
Per bar: 140 calories, 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 95 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (1 g fiber, 11 g sugar), 2 grams protein
You might’ve enjoyed Chewy bars as a kid, but now you know better.
“Over half the amount of fat in this bar is from saturated fats, which can be damaging to the heart and provide no true benefit to the consumer and the amount of sugar will create a dopamine reaction in the body that will increase their desire for more, which begins a dangerous cycle with high sugar foods,” Best says. Plus, there’s not enough fiber to make much of a difference, so you’ll soon enough be hungry again.
Per bar: 130 calories, 4.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 95 mg sodium, 23 g carbs (3 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 3 grams protein
While Best does like many of Kashi’s products, she doesn’t like this bar, as it has most of its sugar coming from the pesky added sugar variety, rather than natural sugars.
“Since honey is in the name one would assume that the bar’s sweetness comes from this natural sweetener, but this is not the case,” she says.
This bar can serve a purpose in a pinch, but should not be a go-to for regular meal replacements or snacks.
Per bar: 140 calories, 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 125 mg sodium, 16 g carbs (7 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 10 grams protein
While these bars seem innocent, a closer look at the ingredients list says otherwise.
“Their sweetness comes from sucralose (more commonly known as Splenda), which is an artificial sweetener that to your brain tastes 600 times sweeter than table sugar, and I advise clients to shy away from regular use of artificial sweeteners as there is some evidence it can negatively impact appetite,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN.
If you’re looking for ways to cut your sugar intake, try out any of these no-sugar-added recipes you’ll actually look forward to eating.
Per bar: 70 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 105 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (6 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 4 grams protein
Although low carb, these bars tiny (so it’s easy to overeat!) and contain sugar alcohols, which can be hard on the stomach.
“Since chicory root fiber is also the first ingredient (meaning it makes up the highest volume of the product vs. other ingredients), it may cause digestive upset for those prone to GI discomfort,” says Jones.
Per bar: 150 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 200 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 12 grams protein
Though called a protein bar, the texture is granola-like and it is a snack-size bar in terms of calories, too. Though, “while claiming to manage blood sugar, Extend Bars use both sucralose and sugar alcohols, on top of added fiber vs. fiber from whole plant foods,” says Jones. There’s a lack in whole foods on the ingredients list too, which is another red flag.
Per bar: 100 calories, 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 100 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 7 grams protein
Special K markets their products for the “calorie conscious,” but low calorie doesn’t equal nutritious all the time.
“[The] Special K Chewy Bars are low in calories as well as nutrients, including less than 1 gram of fiber and only 1 gram of protein,” says Jones. If you aren’t still hungry immediately after eating this bar, you will be soon.