RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
Photo: Karen Shinbaum/Consumer Reports

Breakfast, post-workout snack, afternoon pick-me-up—when you need something quick and portable, a snack bar is an easy solution. But before you grab just any bar to fuel up, take a closer look at the label: It could be a sugar bomb. To help you choose wisely, CR nutritionist Amy Keating, RD, shares two things to look for on that snack bar wrapper.

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Which Ingredients Come First?
The ingredients list can tell you a lot about a bar’s nutritional content. Choose a bar that contains mostly “real” foods, such as fruits, nuts, oats, or eggs. It’s even better when those ingredients are near the top of the list—for example, RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt lists dates first. And look for a bar with about 3 to 5 grams of protein and fiber. Bars that have much more than that tend to have highly processed ingredients, such as chicory root fiber or soy protein isolate.

Are There a Lot of Added Sugars?
Ideally, you want a bar with zero added sugars (those sugars, such as syrups, that are added during processing), but up to 6 grams is reasonable. Some snack bars con­tain as much as a typical candy bar. For instance, a Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar has 21 grams of added sugars, the same amount as the Clif Bar below.

Here’s how three chocolate snack bars compare.

RXBar Chocolate Sea Salt
$2.20 for a 1.83-oz. bar
  • Calories     210
  • Saturated fat     2 g
  • Added sugars     0 g
  • Fiber     5 g
  • Protein     12 g
  • Sodium     260 mg

CR’s take: This RXBar is mostly made with “real” whole foods—the only processed ingredient is “natural flavors.” There’s plenty of protein from natural sources: egg whites and nuts.

Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
$1.20 for a 1.4-oz. bar
  • Calories     170
  • Saturated fat     3 g
  • Added sugars     4 g
  • Fiber     7 g
  • Protein     5 g
  • Sodium     140 mg

CR’s take: The Kind bar is pretty good fuel but loses points because it has chicory root fiber and palm kernel oil, which is high in saturated fat. Still, nuts and a low amount of added sugars redeem it.

Clif Bar Sweet N Salty Chocolate Chunk with Sea Salt
$1.45 for a 2.4-oz. Bar
  • Calories     250
  • Saturated fat     1.5 g
  • Added sugars     21 g
  • Fiber     4 g
  • Protein     9 g
  • Sodium     300 mg

CR’s take: Brown rice syrup, a type of added sugar, is the very first ingredient. Though it has rolled oats and soybeans, the Clif Bar also has oat fiber and soy protein isolate, which are processed.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the September 2021 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.