A client brought to my attention a new bar by Zone, called the Zone Perfect Simply Zone Bar. She wondered if it was really gluten-free and if it was actually good-for-you. I also came across a new bar by Pro Bar, called Fruition and another one by Clif, called Kit’s Organic Fruit and Nut Bar. With all these new bars on the market I thought it was time to do a review.
Hear all about Better Bars by watching my KVOA segment, but the text accompanying the link is wrong, so read on for the best picks.
What Makes A Bar Better?
Here are the criteria I use when assessing the quality of a bar. Read the ingredient list and be sure that your bar is made with:
- Unprocessed, whole foods that are preferably organic
- Fewer than 10 ingredients
- No added sugar (glucose, and others ending in –ose, agave nectar, sugar, juice concentrate, honey, brown rice syrup and other syrups )
- No sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol and others ending in –ol)
- No added fats (oils of any variety, and definitely not hydrogenated oil)
Do Nutrition Facts Matter?
Notice that my criteria are all about the ingredients. I don’t pick a bar based on it’s calories or protein content. When I reviewed the bars at Whole Foods and Sunflower, the Better Bars coincidentally all provided about 200 calories and about 30 grams carbohydrate.
The Better Bars that I found don’t have a lot of protein. This is because when a bar is high in protein, that protein comes in the form of a refined protein powder and is generally accompanied by refined syrups and plenty of other additives. The bars I recommend tend to be lower in protein and make up for the lack of satiating protein with healthy fats from nuts and seeds that will tastily cut your hunger.
And the winners are….
— Go Raw Live Granola Bar: 100% organic and completely whole foods.
—Clif Kit’s Organic Fruit and Nut Bar-these are nice option for those striving for organic foods.
—Lara Bar Fruit and Nut Bar: Nuts and fruit, and that’s it! Some organic ingredients in a few bars and free-trade chocolate is some of the more dessert-like flavors.
If you feel limited by the choices above, expand your options by choosing bars that have only 1-2 added sugars and the added sugar should not be one of the first 2-3 ingredients.
—Skout Trail Bar: Contains organic ingredients and high-fiber oats. It’s in second place because it contains an added sugar in the form of juice concentrate, and an added oil, sunflower oil, both of which are towards the end of the ingredient list. This bar is really quite close to a first place winner, which is why I am so bummed it’s not gluten-free! Let’s write them a letter and ask them to use gluten-free oats!
Third Place: These bars are still quite high-quality bars but the added sugars have snuck up on the ingredient list and are among the first few ingredients. These bars still get a place on the podium because although the added sugar is among the first few ingredients, these bars are still organic and minimally processed, which defiantly makes them options.
—Organic Food Bar, Protein: This bar has 22 g protein! And it is 100% organic!! BUT the second ingredient is organic agave syrup. Despite the added sugar being a second ingredient, if you are in the market for a protein-bar-This Is IT! I am not aware of another protein bar whose quality comes anywhere near this bar. Please NOTE: Other bars in this line do not have added sugar so close to the top of the list. And they would be second place bars!
—Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bar: This bar is made with 100% organic ingredients and it has a really short ingredient list, but the third ingredient is organic agave syrup.
Runners Up: These bars had some favorable properties, but didn’t quite make the cut. Nonetheless, if you need to add variety to our already decent list of Better Bars these are options for occasional use.
—ProBar Fruition: This bar is made with fruit, nuts and oats, but the second ingredient is brown rice syrup, which is an added sugar and it does contain sunflower oil. This bar also uses vegetable glycerin that is a safe food additive according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But because this bar includes glycerine it gets pushed towards the back of the Runner Up list.
Are these bars Gluten-Free?
Yes, these are all gluten free except for the Scout bar.
Lara Bar and Raw Revolution are made in gluten-free facilities.
Fruitrition, Pure and Go Raw are certified gluten-free by the Gluten Intolerance Group, which means that, among other criteria, the bars are tested to ensure that there is less than 10 ppm gluten. Zone is in the process of obtaining this gluten-free certification for the Perfectly Simple bar.
The Organic Food Bar is tested by an outside lab to contain less than 3 ppm gluten, however, their website does not state what lab is doing that testing and I haven’t called them to find out.
Clif does not have a certification. They ensure that Kit’s Organic bars are gluten-free by cleaning equipment and testing the ingredients.
Should You Be Eating “Bars”?
A natural, minimally processed bar is a convenient way to control hunger and tide you over to the next meal. By themselves, a bar doesn’t provide enough nutrition to be a meal-replacement and bars are simply not as filling as real food. Should you need to use a bar as a meal replacement, partner a Better Bar with a piece of fruit and a yogurt or hummus and veggies to create a satisfying meal.