Bars are an easy snack to keep us going. We look at how to make the best choices.
We were astounded to find so many different types and flavours of snack bars on the market. In fact, we found more than 140 different products. That’s a lot of choice and they vary greatly in the nutrition they provide us.
Fruit may be a great snack if we need something to tide us over, but bars have a place when we need a larger snack or if our next meal is going to be later than usual. So, we looked for products that would be filling.
In this case, choosing snack bars packed with nuts, seeds and wholegrains, therefore higher in fibre and protein, are the best choices.
Protein and fibre fill us up, and the more we chew our food, the less hungry we feel, so choosing a snack bar, with lots of nuts, seeds and wholegrains, that needs more chewing than a muffin or biscuitlike bar, will help us feel fuller.
Our snack bars varied from a petite 19g to a whopping 75g. Bigger bars, obviously, give us more nutrition, but that can also mean we’re getting less of a snack and more of a meal. The average weight of the bars we found was 37g. We recommend choosing a snack bar that weighs between 30g and 40g.
We found snack bars that contained from 260kJ to 1500kJ per bar. Bars that were labelled ‘paleo’, larger bars or those with lots of nuts often had more energy than other bars. If you’re watching your weight, we recommend choosing a snack bar with 600kJ or less per bar. Otherwise, look for a bar with up to around 750kJ.
Choosing a snack bar that’s high in protein will help fill us up and reduce our hunger more effectively than one low in protein. Bars that are high in nuts, seeds and oats are higher in protein than the rest. We recommend choosing a snack bar that contains 4g or more protein per bar.
Along with protein, it’s fibre that can help fill us up. Some snack bars had added inulin or polydextrose (types of fibre), but the best source of fibre is naturally found in nuts, seeds and wholegrains packed into some of the snack bars. We recommend choosing a snack bar that contains 3g or more fibre per bar, or 1.5g per bar if that’s too restrictive.
Some bars we found contained a massive amount of saturated fat, often courtesy of coconut oil or coconut. Too much saturated fat, even from plant sources, increases our risk of heart disease in the long term. We recommend choosing a snack bar that contains 2.5g or less saturated fat per bar.
It’s worth taking a look at the sources of sugar in your snack bar. For snack bars with fruit, we recommend choosing ones with whole fruit chunks rather than fruit purées. And think about choosing snack bars that have no added refined sugar or aren’t flavoured with honey or syrup.
How to choose
Use these criteria to compare bars
Some snack bars we found:
Any product examples given here were correct at time of publication. However, remember to check the ingredients and nutrition information every so often, as these can change over time
Protein Nut Bars with 3 Superseeds Cranberry, Goji berry & Quinoa
$3.99 per five pack
Per 33g bar: 690kJ, 8.2g protein, 1.3g saturated fat, 3.5g fibre $0.80
Really chewy. The berry flavour really comes through.
Nuts About Almond (Gluten free)
$4.00 per five pack
Per 32g bar: 700kJ, 5.9g protein, 1.3g saturated fat, 3g fibre $0.80
A nice flavour combo of peanuts and almonds. Chunky and not too sweet.
Super Grains Almond, Cranberry & Linseed
$4.19 per five pack
Per 30g bar: 488kJ, 5.1g protein, 0.4g saturated fat, 2.7g fibre $0.84
Crunchy and packed with seeds. We really liked the texture.
Nuts About Cranberry (Gluten free)
$4.00 per five pack
Per 32g bar: 670kJ 5.1g protein, 1.2g saturated fat, 2.9g fibre $0.80
Unexpected cinnamon hit makes these snack bars really stand out.
$3.50 per six pack
Per 40g bar: 768kJ, 5.9g protein, 2g saturated fat, 2.6g fibre $0.58
Nice texture. Chewy and filling for an oat bar.
Roasted Nut Bar Peanut
$2.99 per six pack
Per 32g bar: 710kJ, 6.8g protein, 1.3g saturated fat, 2.5g fibre $0.50
Great crunch and delicious peanut flavour.
Nut Bar Choc Almond
$2.89 per six pack
Per 35g bar: 755kJ, 5.0g protein, 2.4g saturated fat, 1.9g fibre $0.48
Delicious. Chunky nuts and really chewy.
Nut Bar Choc Apricot
$2.40 per six pack
Per 32g bar: 662kJ, 4.8g protein, 2g saturated fat, 2.3g fibre $0.40
Great taste. The apricot really comes through.
Article sources and references
- Miquel-Kergoat S et al. 2015. Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & Behavior 151:88-96https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26188140