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What is a healthy purchased "bar" snack?

Our Whole Foods has about 4,000 bar snacks (Cliff, Lara, KIND) so I get this is a a popular snack category. Why? And are they healthy? Do they actually make a reasonable snack for a five year old?

We ate granola bars on occasion and I occasionally buy these: http://www.amazon.com/Kashi-Granola-C... but Kashi has lost my business over stinky behavior over GMOs and California ballot proposal to force GMO labeling.

So, are they healthy and as what and if so what kind?

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  1. I eat peanut larabars on the days when work feeds me pizza or subway or other white cheesy goo, because they have a decent amount of fibre, are easier to eat than those revolting fibre cubes and are easier to store than avocados! They have more sugar than I'd like but they serve a purpose. I would say it would be quite a hefty snack for a 5 year old.

    1. i eat KIND bars, which i really like. in general, i'd think a 5 year old is just as well off with a granola bar (nature valley?) or something, which is typically cheaper, and i'd check the ingredient list on any snack/protein/meal replacement/etc bar of the more health-foodish bent. keep an eye out especially for brown rice syrup, which has been found to be high in arsenic (even before the latest rice and arsenic kerfuffle) and might not be so great for a wee one.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chartreauxx

        I like the Kind bars as well. Not a lot of filler, mostly fruit and nuts.

      2. "Are they healthy?"

        Everyone defines what they view as healthy differently and every ingredient has the potential to be healthy or unhealthy, depending on context of the consumer and the situation. Define your personal "healthy" and it'd be easier to make recommendations.

        Again, "Why [are they popular]?" No one answer. Convenient, tasty, health halo, portability, indulgent taste yet more nutrients than a candy bar, etc. Obviously all of these don't apply to each and every item in the category. There are as many views/reasons as there are consumers basically. I'd say the connotations with healthfulness have been a big reason for the growth of the category in recent years, but certainly not the only one.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Tovflu

          To be more clear, do you consider them to be healthy and why? Most brands seem to have a reasonable, easy to understand natural ingredient list but don't seem to have a lot of fiber and have a lot of sugar.

          1. re: JudiAU

            Why is lots of sugar a problem?

            An apple has lots of sugar, does that make it somehow not healthy, or less healthy?

            I don't mean to pick a fight, am just curious why people equate sugar (added or natural) with somehow as being "not healthy".

            1. re: ipsedixit

              there is a big difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. in a bar, it would most likely be added.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  google it for complete information, but essentially, naturally occurring sugars are balanced by the other components of a food. In apples, for example, there is fiber, vitamins, etc...whereas added sugar is not balanced by more healthy elements. Usually just more sugar.

                  1. re: noya

                    That makes no sense. If we are comparing sucrose from refined sugar to sucrose in sweet potatoes or nuts, then it's the same molecule or molecules.

                    And some of those supposed "added sugars" are from fruit juice or cane or beets.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      We're not comparing sucrose to sucrose. We're comparing dried fruit to sucrose

                2. re: noya

                  Just chiming in to agree with ipsedixit. Yes, the sugar in an apple is balance by the other components, but that is no different than the sugar many of the bars being balanced by it's other components. Your concerns are overblown. It's the same kind of thinking that leads to conversations like: "Don't eat fruit!" "Why?" "Because it's full of sugar!" Newsflash: Sugar is not inherently evil or bad for you.

                  Your view of "whereas added sugar is not balanced by more healthy elements. Usually just more sugar" is only really applicable to things composed entirely of simple sugars, ex: soda or sugar candies.

                  1. re: Tovflu

                    It is absolutely different when nature puts it together (apple) and a machine puts it together (bar)

                    Agree that sugar is not inherently bad.

                    I challenge you to read the ingredient of most bars. You will find sugar in many forms, listed as different ingredients that most people aren't able to identify.

                    I'm not sure you properly understood my concerns, and therefore have misunderstood them to be overblown. Not clear where your idea came from. Doesn't really matter.

                    Ultimately, an apple is a much better snack than most any bar.

                    1. re: noya

                      I'm very well aware of what each ingredient is (and by the names "most people aren't able to identify").

                      Lets just agree to disagree (or agree to misunderstand one another, whichever it may be) on many points.

                      I will certainly agree that an apple is generally a better snack than most bars on the market, for many reasons.

                  2. re: noya

                    Lara Bars are high in naturally occurring sugar-- most are made with dates.

                    1. re: noya

                      There's no difference, except that fructose is more likely to promote insulin resistance. Sugar is sugar to your pancreas and other cells. The fact that it's attached to other naturally occurring nutrients doesn't offset the impact of the sugar on health.

              1. I don't think any of the bars are good--they're all processed, most have added sugar, and they've been sitting on a shelf for an unknown amount of time. That said, if your child insists, the KIND bars may be the best. They have the most whole ingredients, and some varieties are less sugary than most bars. Nuts, dried fruit, fresh fruit, etc...would be a much better choice

                2 Replies
                1. re: noya

                  sorry, but since when can't a 5-year-old be told "no" about a treat?

                  other than a bit of fiber from the crap gmo grains,few offer any more of a healthy option than a candy bar.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    I'm not sure that's the case--there are some made with whole nuts, and some have no GMOs.

                2. I don't know if it's healthy, but I love wasabi peas or salted edamame when i'm noshing at the bar.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ahuva

                    Glad I'm not the only one to misunderstand the title of this post......:)

                  2. Some can be good quick portable snacks. I think whole foods are a better way to go, the less processing the better so would prefer to pack apples w/ pb or veggies and hummus to a bar. But, sometimes when we'd get busy, the clif bar for kids were a good alternative (Z bars). They're kid sized, too. Those and Lara bars are really no different from mushed up trail mix. You can't beat the convenience, no refrigeration, no planning ahead, just grab and go.

                    1. I keep a couple flavors of Fiber One 90 calorie bars in the house. I usually have one on the train ride home from the office to keep me going until dinner.

                      Are they healthy??? meh... They are tasty, high in fiber and fit my need.

                      1. I figure since I replied earlier I might as well get back in and give my 0.02 on bars for a five year old.

                        I'm not going to go into a ton of detail on my stance on GMOs, various ingredients, etc., because people are incredibly militant about their stances on these things and I'm not looking for an argument. Also, none of what I say below is necessary what bars I prefer best, I’m just trying to provide info for the question asked.

                        My opinion on the "healthiest" for your purposes: Look for ones composed primarily of nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dried fruit. There is usually going to be -some- kind of syrup or sugar, but that's just part of the deal when you look for a bar, they need a binding agent (and obviously it makes it tastier, so it'll sell better). Try to make sure it’s got at least some protein, fat, and fiber.

                        However, with that said (and without regard to my above statement), I'd stick to 150 calories or less if you're aiming for something for a 5 year old. Clif Z bars and any brand with a "mini" (luna, bumblebar, KIND, etc…) should fall into that range. There are plenty of other bars that meet that range. I like the taste of Plum Organics like of Jammy sammy's and I think they’d go over really well with kids (~110 calories but certainly not as balanced in macronutrients as other things).

                        My general stance on bars for kids in general is: Don't. Bars are generally expensive for what you get and kids can easily be satisfied with much cheaper, healthier (ie. no added sugars) and easier options. I wouldn’t get them into a particular snacking habit that'll end up costing you more than need be.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Tovflu

                          if the op is looking for something primarily made with nuts, just give the kid some nuts then. no sugar. no dried fruit, which is just a little bullet of concentrated sugar.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Which falls under my suggestion of getting something cheaper than bars in general. Nuts and seeds (and other things) from a bulk bin selection would be a decent snack selection for kids and much more economical.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Actually, I am not. My daughter loves to snack on nuts and does but my son won't snack on them. He will however eat them incorporated into another form.

                              And thanks for all the parenting advice guys but I am both able to say "no" and already aware of my budget and don't need input on either.

                              1. re: JudiAU

                                No offense intended with the budgeting talk. I am mostly projecting my own penny-pinching there.

                                I know it's technically not a bar, but along similar lines, I notice that Plum Organics has these that may fit your desires: http://www.plumorganics.com/products/...

                                I've seen them carried at Target in my area.

                                I have also taken a linking to the ThinkThin Crunch line of bars (I have a health condition and they don't aggravate it like some other bars) but they don't currently come in minis. http://shop.thinkproducts.com/Mixed-N...

                                1. re: Tovflu

                                  Some of the Kind nut bars like this one have similar qualities and none of the soy and sugar alcohol crap or isolated soy proteins junk: http://www.kindsnacks.com/kind-nut-de...

                          2. I do Larabars - I have a lot of allergies, but at least a few kinds of these are safe for me, and they are pretty 'natural' - there's usually only 3-5 ingredients on the ingredient lists.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: jw615

                              The problem with Larabars for me is the very high sugar content. I'm not sure I'd label that healthy.

                            2. I think it's hard to lump these all into one category, since some are meant more for athletes (like PowerBar), some are meant to be meal replacements, and some are meant to be snacks. Larabar and Kind bar are the only ones I know of that are basically fruit and nuts. I also like the Nature Valley Fruit & Nut Trail Mix Bars (like a chunky granola bar). But of course, what you really should do is grow your own organic produce in your backyard and rip the swiss chard right out of the ground and shove it directly into the kid's mouth. :)

                              My view on "reasonable snack for a 5 year old" is that it really depends on the kid -- some kids can handle sugar better than others, and while I try to increase the calorie count on my skinny kid's snacks, other parents are looking to do the opposite. I think if it's something they will happily eat, it's a good portable snack because most of these bars have plenty of protein.

                              1. The fiber contained in these bars is complex but for me they are high in sugar. As well if you are sending them off to school with it, the option might not fly as some schools have banned nuts. I would not give them to a young child, opting for a homemade muffin, and a fruit to go with it.

                                16 Replies
                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                  Muffin and fruit have much more sugar than any of those bars.

                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                      Were chocolate bars under discussion?

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        To me the giving of one of those granula bars is on par with giving a glass of fruit juice to a child. The sugar content is high in both. I don't think a small sweet sticky granola bar has staying power necessary to keep hunger under control. A granola bar for me for the same serving portion is equitable to a chocolate bar. As well the bars have to be peanut free in Quebec schools here otherwise they are confiscated by the school luncheon patrol.

                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                          I agree about granola bars, juice, muffins and fruit; sugar bombs. The ones I recommended are made from nuts.

                                          1. re: mcf

                                            I make a banana bread using only 1/2 cup of sugar, they don't always have to be bolted up with white sugar and as well I use whole wheat flour. At least a muffin is filling and fruit in its natural state is a complex carb with fibre. As said previously in many schools here you would not be allowed to bring nuts into the classroom anything with peanut butter is also an absolute no-no, that was my concern for the snack being brought to school. It can be very difficult to make the right choices for that lunch box. Some lunches are actually confiscated if deemed unhealthy, and for me it is a personal choice on what to feed my child, and too much intervention crosses the line. I hope that I have not done so in this thread.

                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                              White sugar, wheat flour, both have the same ill effects on health and metabolism. Complex vs. simple carbs has no bearing on metabolism or health. There are much less sugary ways to get vitamins and fiber than a handful of fruit. in fact any non protein meal or glycemic snack, whether a muffin, pancake, granola bar is going to lead to choosing higher calories and more carby/sugary stuff at later meals, studies show. I don't think you've intervened so much as gotten some wrong ideas about what is sugar, what is glycemic and the same harm as sugar. Forget about whole wheat as significantly more healthy, or muffins or fruit without protein to prevent the inevitable sugar rush, for starters. Or continue sending them but know what they actually do nutritionally and metabolically or don't do. There was no food more highly glycemic in this thread that banana bread with sugar and wheat. I sent cheese sticks, jerky snacks, bags of nuts when they were allowed in the olden days. If I sent any fruit, it was a very small serving and accompanied by a protein at all times.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                I agree that protein is important but not sure if I understand or agree with your stance on sugar in the diet. Fruit is not something that I view as bad or that should be limited especially in a child's diet. I think this discussion should be for another post.

                                                1. re: Ruthie789

                                                  I like Youbars myself. They're expensive so I don't get to order them very often but when I do I stock up and freeze them so I can ration them out. Without sounding like a shill for the company the concept is that the customer picks pretty much all of the ingredients for their bar which is then custom made for them. Mine typically went something like - almond butter, dates, almonds, 2 kinds of dried fruit, cinnamon, some granola, vanilla, agave or honey for sweetener (more options then that available), possibly some dark chocolate. You can add extra fiber, protein powder or various vitamin combos. As you're building the bar you can see the nutrition stats for the bar change with each addition so you really do know if x is better for you then y. You can also specify less, normal or more of most ingredients.

                                                  When frozen, the almond/date base bars last quite well and I've even had some that were up to a year old that got lost in the freezer that tasted just fine. You can eat them frozen (gnaw a bit as they defrost) or let them sit on the counter for awhile.

                                                  1. re: Ariadanz

                                                    They're loaded with sugars, though, unless you order them without the date base. Unfortunately, while you can get a good flavor from a higher protein/lowe sugar composition, it's all crumbly and falls apart.

                                                  2. re: Ruthie789

                                                    Since this was about bar snacks, and "healthy" snacks, I thought the highly glycemic nature of those foods was on topic, but since they're not "bars" you may be right about discussing elsewhere.

                                                  3. re: mcf

                                                    Yes, the olden days when nuts weren't banned. Gosh. When my youngest nephew visits, we do celery sticks and peanut or almond butter, which he loves. This is a carryover from my aunt, who at holiday parties fed the eight zillion little kid cousins (we're now in our 30's and 40's) celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese concoctions to keep us from inhaling all the more expensive stuff she put out for the grown ups (like shrimp, which we would not have eaten daintily).

                                                    Anyway, back to OP....you asked if the bars were a "reasonable" snack. It depends on how you define reasonable. For me, 99% of the nutrition bars out there are way way way way way overpriced. They're a convenience food and are touted as health foods, and many of them simply aren't. If you are simply sating hunger with the snack, I'd do mozz sticks or cheddar sticks, too. I can get them in bulk quite affordably. Just my 2 cents.

                                                    1. re: pinehurst

                                                      And they keep really well all day without refrigeration. Our favorites are sharp cheddar sticks, Cabot or Kraft Cracker Barrel.

                                                      1. re: pinehurst

                                                        We do cheese as well but frankly, a kids cliff bar or even a lara bar is the same price as the organic cheese the kids eat.

                                                    2. re: Ruthie789

                                                      Well I win because my banana muffins only have a 1/3 cup of honey in them but I digress.

                                                      Surprisingly, nuts are fine at our school and lunch is family style and provided from the local farmer's market kitchen. Shoving kale into his mouth works pretty well most nights but is less effective at school.

                                                      So to sum up, it seems that something higher in protein, perhaps sourced from nuts is going to be more balanced than some of the others. I think I'll stick with the Cliff Kids/KINDS bars and rethink the use of the higher protein Kashi bars and watch both sugar and calorie content.

                                                      1. re: JudiAU

                                                        Banana, honey and flour are all, concentrated sources.of sugars once you eat them.

                                        2. Tanka Bars (from prairie-fed dried buffalo and dried cranberries).

                                          Made by Oglala Lakota peoples, respectful to the 4-leggeds (Buffalo), the 2 leggeds (humans) and the Earth upon which both live.

                                          It's an acquired taste to be sure (especially for non-Native children), but it's really good. Sweet cranberries offset the savory dried meat. Minimally processed. No fillers or msg.

                                          Available at Whole Foods and Trader Joes, I believe, but also online:

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: silence9

                                            Hum. That is an interesting idea. We'll give them a try.

                                            1. re: silence9

                                              I didn't think to include those! I only get to have them rarely, because they're sold at a health food shop quite a distance away and at a pretty high price, but I love them. Really tasty (to me).