Our guide to the best protein bars, granola bars, nut bars, and more

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“Protein from real food,” “20+ superfoods,” “No B.S.,“ promise some bars. Fact: No bar can replace real superfoods like crunchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fresh or frozen fruit. But sometimes you’re short on time or options.

To reach for a bar that beats a dressed-up cookie, read on. For some of our favorites, check the photos. And to jump to our chart of Better Bites vs. other bars, click here.

What to look for in the best bars

Kind Breakfast Honey Oat Bar
Intact whole grains you can see.

Since bars are processed—and typically sugar-sweetened—snacks that are high in calories per bite, our picks are Better Bites, not Best Bites. How we chose them:

More than a trivial amount of real food

The best bars have more than a trivial amount of whole food—that means nuts, seeds, fruit, and/or intact whole-grain kernels as the first ingredient—and more whole grains than refined grains.

Less than 250 calories

If a bar is your between-meal snack, that’s more than enough for most of us.

No more than 7 grams of added sugar

That's 1½ teaspoons. “Added” includes sugar in ingredients like honey, agave, cane sugar, tapioca syrup, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and sweetened cranberries, but not unsweetened dried fruit (like dates or raisins).

No sucralose

Sucralose is the only low-calorie sweetener with an “Avoid” rating that we found in bars (see CSPI’s Chemical Cuisine additive ratings). Heads up: Allulose and sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol are safe, but a high dose can cause GI distress if you’re sensitive to them. They often show up in protein, keto, and low-sugar bars.

No more than 2 grams of saturated fat

That limit helps separate the bars with mostly healthy fat (in nuts and seeds) from those with more chocolate, coconut oil, or palm or palm kernel oil. (Palm oils keep candy-like coatings solid.)

At least 8 grams of protein in protein bars

We didn’t set a minimum for “minis” or other bars.

How to find the best protein bars

chocolate chip RXBAR Plant bar
Plant protein plus fruit, nuts, and oats. Nice!
Lindsay Moyer - CSPI.

Most of us get more than enough protein from our food, so protein bars are nothing special. But when a bar is a mini-meal or most of your meal—maybe with a piece of fruit for breakfast—it makes sense to look for one with a nice dose of protein...and some real food. Try these:


Dates, nuts, salt, natural flavor, sometimes unsweetened chocolate chips or more dried fruit, plus 12 grams of protein from powdered egg whites. A dozen Better Bite flavors to choose from.


You get 10 grams of plant protein from peas and almonds along with RX’s usual dates and nuts in these Better Bites. Bonus: The oats help soften RX’s chewy texture.

The same goes for the oats in A.M. RXBARs, though their 12 grams (3 teaspoons) of added sugar surpass our limit.

Perfect Bar

We can’t help but point out that the bar is, um, imperfect. Its “20+ superfoods”—mostly a smattering of dried powders—aren’t exactly whole foods. And its hefty size boosts the added sugar (to 2½ to 3 tsp.) and calories (to as much as 350). To slash those numbers, pick a snack-size Perfect bar or just eat half of an original.

That said, you could do a lot worse. Perfect’s first ingredient is nut butter...and you can really taste it. Plus, it’s sold refrigerated, so the cold—no need for palm oil—helps keep it solid and fudgy-textured.

Perfect trounces typical protein bars like Quest, ONE, Think! High Protein, and Protein One, which are low-sugar, high-protein junk food with more processed fiber and/or processed protein than nuts or fruit. You won’t find many in our chart (scroll down).

How to find the best nut bars

Kind Fruit and Nut bar
The healthiest KIND nut bars have no candy-like coatings.
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Nuts pack good fats, vitamins, and minerals into one yummy package. And bars made largely of stuck-together whole nuts take time to crunch and chew, so they might be more satisfying than granola bars. Our picks:


Almost all of KIND’s nut bars have 1½ teaspoons of added sugar or less. So why does roughly two-thirds of the line miss a Better Bite? Palm kernel oil. The ingredient in KIND’s chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter flavored coatings bumps up their saturated fat.


Most KIND nut bars—though not the classic Fruit & Nut—add chicory root fiber (aka inulin), a processed fiber that can cause gas. But Fody’s “low FODMAP” bars are chicory-free—albeit pricey—and are mostly in Better Bite territory. Buy them at fodyfoods.com.

Ratio Crunchy Bars

The new “keto friendly” bars from General Mills taste like a less-sweet spin on the company’s classic Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars. The difference: Ratio Crunchys are made of mostly almonds and pumpkin seeds (plus soy and whey protein isolates) instead of toasted oats (plus sugar). Too bad the coconut oil bumps the saturated fat up to 5 grams—a quarter of a day’s max. That means no Better Bites.

Prefer a nut-rich bar with far less sat fat and a softer bite? Try Lärabar.

How to find the best fruit bars

Banana Bread Lärabar
Real (dried) bananas and dates, plus almonds. Mmm.

Buyer, beware. Many bars that tout fruit (or veggies) add very little, and it’s usually processed powders or concentrates. Others deliver real (dried) fruit. An example of each:

Nutri-Grain Made with Real Fruit & Veggie

The Apple & Carrot has more invert sugar, glycerin, corn syrup, and sugar than apple purée concentrate or carrot purée. The Strawberry & Squash is no better. And it’s not just that Nutri-Grain adds more sugar than fruit. Processed purées and purée concentrates don’t fill you up like munching on whole (fresh, frozen, or dried) fruit.


The real deal. The Apple Pie has dried dates, apples, and raisins, the Cherry Pie has dates and cherries, the Banana Bread has dates and bananas, and so on. They’ve also all got nuts. Another plus: Most Laras are Better Bites. Some with coconut or chocolate chips miss.

Of course, if portable handheld fruit is what you want, you’re better off with an apple, banana, or couple of clementines than any bar. Real fruit, anyone?

Should you go for mini bars?

Snack Size Perfect Bar box
A perfectly sized sweet treat.
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Minis. Thins. Snack size. Most major brands now offer downsized 100-ish-calorie mini bars.

Should you bite?

The upside: Since the bars weigh 20 to 30 grams instead of 40-or-so grams, most meet our Better Bite criteria.

The downside: Many are gone in three bites, max. Not exactly a filling snack to tide you over to your next meal. Our advice: Think of itty-bitty bars—like Snack Size Perfect Bars or KIND Thins—as mini cookie or candy bar stand-ins with some real ingredients.

Some of the best granola bars

box of Kodiak crunch granola peanut butter bars
Misses a Better Bite by just 1 tsp. of added sugar.
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

KIND doesn’t only lead the nut-bar pack, but the grain-bar pack as well. Some whole-grain (oat) winners:

KIND Healthy Grains and Drizzled Bars

Chocolate lovers, listen up: Mouthwatering chewy bars like Double Dark Chocolate, Drizzled Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Almond Butter Dark Chocolate are among our Better Bites.

KIND Breakfast Bars

These soft bars with a satisfying chew are slightly larger than KIND’s Healthy Grains bars. Need more than 200-or-so calories for your morning meal? Add a yogurt or latte.

Crunchy bars

Prefer crunchy toasted oats in your bars? None met our added-sugar limit for a Better Bite, but most weren’t too far off. Kodiak and Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars hover around 200 calories and 2 ½ tsp. of added sugar. Kodiak adds wheat and pea proteins, which bumps its protein up to 10 grams (vs. Nature Valley’s 3 or 4 grams). KIND Simple Crunch bars have just 2 tsp. of added sugar, in part because they’re smaller.

Our chart of protein bars, granola bars, nut bars, and more

Better Bites have no more than 250 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 1½ teaspoons (7 grams) of added sugar. Protein bars have at least 8 grams of protein. All Better Bites also have more than just a token amount of “real food,” including more whole grains than refined grains. And they’re free of sucralose.

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