Initially Posted: 08/26/2019 | Last Updated: 09/12/2020
Nutrition Bars Reviewed by ConsumerLab.com (Energy, Fiber, Meal Replacement, Protein, and Whole Food Bars)

Alphabetical list of nutrition bar brands compared in this review

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Built Bar - Double Chocolate Mousse

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Clif Bar Dark Chocolate Almond With Sea Salt

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Fiber One Chewy Bars -Oats & Chocolate

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GNC Total Lean Lean Bar - Salted Toffee

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Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

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Kirkland Signature Protein Bar Chocolate Brownie

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Larabar Cherry Pie

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Lenny & Larry's The Complete Cookie - Chocolate Chip

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NuGo Fiber d'Lish Chocolate Brownie

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One Birthday Cake

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PowerBar Perfomance Energy Bar Peanut Butter

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Pro Bar Meal Superfood Slam

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Pure Protein Bar Chewy Chocolate Chip

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Pure Protein Bar - Chocolate Peanut Butter

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Quest Protein Cookie Oatmeal Raisin

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RxBar - Mixed Berry

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Vega Plant-Based Protein Bar - Chocolate Peanut Butter

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Summary

  • What are they? Nutrition bars and cookies are distinguished from candy bars and regular cookies by their higher content of protein — about 10 to 20 grams -- and/or fiber — about 9 to 12 grams. Even "energy bars" which pack 20+ grams of sugar for a quick boost, typically include a good amount of protein (See Background).
  • Do they help? Extra protein (typically about 30 grams to 50 grams per day) can help athletes build muscle and older people prevent or reverse age-related loss of muscle and strength when used in conjunction with resistance-type exercise. The easiest way to get this much protein is from a protein powder added to a drink, but protein bars and cookies offer added convenience, although it's hard to pack 20 grams or more of protein into a bar and have it taste good. Nutrition bars can also be a convenient way to get a range of nutrients (protein, fats, carbs, vitamins, and minerals) when you're on-the-go and don't have time for a meal.
  • What did CL find? Our laboratory tests showed that each nutrition bar or cookie contained its listed amount of protein and those that claimed to be gluten-free, were. But several products failed to live up to claims regarding carbohydrates (too much), fats and cholesterol (too much), or fiber (too little). (See What CL Found).
  • Top Picks? Among the products that passed our tests and were Approved, we selected Top Picks that represented the best combination of quality, value, and taste. Top Picks were chosen for Energy Bars, Fiber Bars, High Protein Bars & Cookies, Meal Replacement Bars, and Fruit & Nut Bars. You can also compare all of the products in the Results Table.
  • Tips! Just by looking at a label, you may be able to spot a problem if you add up the calories and the total doesn't closely match what's on the label. Also, watch out for bars claiming to get their fiber from "tapioca starch" (as it is mostly starch with little, if any, fiber) as well as those listing "Net Carbs" — which is not an FDA-defined term. Also, be aware that low-calorie bars typically achieve this with sugar alcohols and other sugar substitutes that can cause gas, and individuals with lactose intolerance may want to avoid certain milk-based proteins. Keto bars may contain significanlty more fat, and in particular, saturated fat (often from coconut oil), than other types of bars. Other ingredients that you may not expect are caffeine and added vitamins and minerals, and be aware of allergens, such as nuts, and saturated ("bad") fats from some milk proteins.
You must be a member to get the full test results along with ConsumerLab.com's recommendations and quality ratings. You will get results for 14 nutrition bars and cookies selected by ConsumerLab.com and 3 others which passed testing in its voluntary Quality Certification Program. In this comprehensive review, you'll discover:
  • Which bars passed, and which failed, our tests of their ingredients
  • ConsumerLab's Top Picks in each category, including Energy Bars, Fiber bars, High-protein Bars & Cookies, Meal-replacement and Food bars, and Fruit & Nut Bars
  • Key differences among the bars
  • Which bars provide the most energy and the most protein
  • Which bars are loaded with sugar alcohols, and which are not
  • How many carbs and "bad" (saturated) fats are really in bars
  • Which bars provide the most fiber
  • How each bar tastes -- some tasted great, others tasted artificial or had an aftertaste
  • What to look for on labels and how to choose the best bar to suit your needs (such as energy, meal-replacement, protein and "keto" bars)

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