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Best tasting snack bars

We found big differences in flavor, nutrition, and price among the 24 bars we tested

Consumer Reports magazine: July 2013

Our trained tasters tried 24 snack bars in chocolate, peanut, and strawberry flavors. Four taste very good, two fair, the rest in between. We also rated the nutrition of each bar. Our experts’ conclusions:

Don’t buy by brand. Although the two Nature Valley bars we tried are very good, two Clif bars varied. One is very tasty; the other is bitter, has chemical and vitamin flavors, and is gritty and chalky inside.

Don’t spend too much. The two bars rated just fair cost at least $1.15 per serving, more than twice as much as many others, though they also weigh more.

Read labels. These bars—whether called cereal, granola, or health—may seem healthful, but there are big differences in nutrition. Calories range from 90 to 270 per serving; fat, from 2 to 9 grams; sugars, from 2 to 20 grams; fiber, from less than 1 gram to 9 grams. If you’re looking for fiber, as many people do at breakfast time, pick a bar with “fiber” in its name.

Best tasting

These four bars were tops for flavor. And the Clif Crunch Granola Chocolate Chip bar scored high for nutrition, too.

Price: $3.11 per package; 62 cents per serving

Nutrition: Good

Calories: 190 calories

Fat: 8 grams fat

Sugars: 12 grams

Fiber: 3 grams fiber

Flavor: It’s crispy and crunchy with a nice flavor of toasted grains and honey plus a few chocolate chips. 

Price: $2.10 per package; 35 cents per serving

Nutrition: Fair

Calories: 170

Fat: 8 grams

Sugars: 11 grams

Fiber: 1 gram

Flavor: This sweet storebrand winner has a big roasted-peanut flavor with a nice hint of honey and toasted grains. But the bottom coating was a little waxy.

Price: $2.90 per package; 48 cents per serving

Nutrition: Fair

Calories: 190

Fat: 7 grams

Sugars: 12 grams

Fiber: 3 grams

Flavor: Crunchy and not overly sweet, these bars have a tasty balance of flavors including toasted grains, honey, and cocoa.

Price: $2.93 per package; 49 cents per serving

Nutrtion: Fair

Calories: 170 

Fat: 9 grams

Sugars: 12 grams

Fiber: 2 grams

Flavor:  A very tasty combination of sweet (honey) and salty (roasted peanut) flavors. But like the Target bar, its bottom coating was a tad waxy.

Better for you

These two bars got kudos for nutrition, though they weren’t big winners for taste.

Price: $2.92 per package; 58 cents per serving
Calories: 120
Fat: 4 grams
Sugars: 7 grams
Fiber: 9 grams
Flavor: The big chocolatey flavor reminded testers of sweet, cheap, mass-produced chocolate—think store-bought chocolate cake mix vs. homemade chocolate cake.

Price: $2.86 per package; 36 cents per serving
Calories: 120
Fat: 3 grams
Sugars: 11 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Flavor: Though it wasn’t as candylike as the other strawberry bars we tasted, this cakelike bar’s jam filling was a bit pruney, and the bar had hints of baking-soda flavor.

Not so hot

These peanut butter bars rated fair for flavor. They had a gritty, chalky texture and bitter chemical and vitamin flavors. And they were the most expensive ones we taste-tested.

Flavor: Crispy and nougat layers; bitter, chalky, chemical taste

 

Flavor: Gritty, chalky, pasty, chemical taste

Also tested

These bars lost taste points for things like artificial or stale flavors and gritty or tough textures.

Cascadian Farm Organic Chocolate Chip Chewy Granola Bars

Fiber One 90 Calorie Chewy Bars Chocolate

Kashi Dark Mocha Almond Chewy Granola Bars

Nice Oats & Chocolate Fiber Chewy Bar (Walgreens)

Quaker Chewy 90 Calories Low Fat

365 Everyday Value Strawberry Cereal Bars Low Fat (Whole Foods)

Kashi Ripe Strawberry Soft-Baked Cereal Bars

Kellogg’s Special K Pastry Crisps Strawberry

Market Pantry Strawberry Cereal Bars (Target)

Fiber One Chewy Bars Oats & Peanut Butter

Great Value High Fiber Oats & Peanut Butter Chewy Bars (Walmart)

Kashi Peanut Butter Chewy Granola Bars

Kellogg’s Special K Protein & Fiber Granola Bars Chocolatey Peanut Butter

Luna Nutz Over Chocolate Whole Nutrition Bar

Quaker Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Zone Perfect Nutrition Bars Chocolate Peanut Butter

Black Hole Award

Snack bars may be smaller than their packaging would suggest. No wonder this one has 90 calories per bar.


 


Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the July 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine with the headline "Snack Bar Taste-Off."
   

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