A snack bar for kids, partially unwrapped.

Small stomachs and high energy needs mean that kids are often hungry, so keeping snack bars on hand seems like a good idea. There’s no doubt they’re convenient, and many snack bar companies have recently come out with kid versions of their "adult" snack bars. But are these bars really a nutritious choice for kids?

Our nutrition experts evaluated the ingredients and nutritional information for 12 different childrens’ snack bars and found that some can make for a healthy snack. “When it comes to kids, calories aren’t the main concern,” says Amy Keating, R.D., a CR nutritionist. Instead, our testing and scoring weighed factors such as natural vs. added sugars and whole vs. refined grains.

More on Healthy Eating for Kids

We noted three additional ingredients to look out for:

Rice. We determined whether any of the bars contained rice products, such as brown rice flour or brown rice syrup, because CR research has shown that rice may contain worrying amounts of arsenic. Nine out of 12 bars we evaluated contained some kind of rice products. 

Chicory root fiber. Also known as inulin, chicory root fiber is a processed ingredient. It’s best when filling, heart-healthy fiber in a bar comes from minimally processed whole foods such as oats or other grains, rather than from processed sources. Three of the 12 bars contained this ingredient. 

Soy/whey/pea protein isolates. These processed substances help manufacturers inflate the protein level on the label, but it’s better for kids to get protein from whole food ingredients such as nuts or seeds. Only two of the 12 bars contained at least one of these protein ingredients.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, children and teens need to eat every three to four hours to fuel their growth and provide energy for study and play. A bar can be a reasonable choice, but it doesn’t have to be one marketed specifically for kids. For example, our top-rated regular snack bar—Pure Organic Wild Blueberry Fruit & Nut—got the same nutrition score as the top-scoring kids bar, and could also be appealing to youngsters. (See our energy bar ratings here.) But think outside the bar, too, and serve whole foods for your child’s other snacks. Easy options include whole fruit, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, carrot sticks, and bell pepper slices. (For additional ideas, see here.)

When you’re buying snack bars, choose the healthiest ones you can by looking at the ingredients and nutrition information. Our two top-rated bars contained no rice, no (or fewer) added sugars, and no processed protein or fiber. Several others aren’t as healthful as the wrapper vibe might suggest. Below, our results for all 12 bars.

RXBar Kids Chocolate Chip Protein Bars $1.34
  • Sugars   8 g
  • Saturated fat    1.5 g
  • Sodium   70 mg
Quaker Kids Organic Whole Grain Bars Chocolate $1.00
  • Sugars   6 g
  • Saturated fat    1.5 g
  • Sodium   85 mg
MadeGood Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $1.13
  • Sugars   6 g
  • Saturated fat    1 g
  • Sodium   10 mg
Kashi by Kids Organic Super Food Bites Chocolate $0.80
  • Sugars   8 g
  • Saturated fat    1 g
  • Sodium   70 mg
This Bar Saves Lives Kids Chocolate Chip “Dino”mite Bars $2.00
  • Sugars   5 g
  • Saturated fat    1 g
  • Sodium   30 mg
Kind Kids Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $0.96
  • Sugars   5 g
  • Saturated fat    0.5 g
  • Sodium   65 mg
Annie’s Organic Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $0.42
  • Sugars   8 g
  • Saturated fat    1 g
  • Sodium   75 mg
Nature’s Path Organic Envirokidz Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $1.62
  • Sugars   7 g
  • Saturated fat    1 g
  • Sodium   50 mg
Lärabar Kid Chocolate Chip Cookie Bar $0.67
  • Sugars   10 g
  • Saturated fat    4 g
  • Sodium   55 mg
Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars $0.48
  • Sugars   7 g
  • Saturated fat    1.5 g
  • Sodium   70 mg
Clif Kid Zbar Protein Chocolate Chip Bars $0.78
  • Sugars   9 g
  • Saturated fat    1.5 g
  • Sodium   80 mg
ThinkKids Chocolate Chip Protein Bars $0.70
  • Sugars   4 g
  • Saturated fat    4 g
  • Sodium   55 mg

Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the October 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.