But despite what their clever marketing would have you believe, not all snack bars are healthy. With so many options out there, ranging from Clif bars to Larabars, Kind bars, RX bars, and Kashi bars, how can you know what’s best for your health?
So, what ingredients should you look for or avoid? Which brands are trustworthy? Keep reading for the full breakdown on healthy snack bar brands, including some gluten-free, dairy-free, keto, and vegan options!
10 Healthiest Snack Bar and Snack Packet Brands
When it comes to healthy snack bars, you’ll want to look for whole food ingredients and relatively simple ingredients. Here are our top 10 snack bar brands—plus, we’ve also included some snack options that aren’t technically bars, but are just as accessible, convenient, and healthy.
You may already be familiar with RXBARs, which are protein bars made of whole foods. Many of these bars are made from things such as egg whites, cashews, almonds, and dates, making them a good source of protein and healthy fats.
While the nutritional content varies by the flavor, RXBARs contain no added sugars, around five grams of fiber, and around 12 grams of protein per bar.
Their bars are available in flavors like strawberry, chocolate, and honey cinnamon peanut butter, as well as seasonal flavors like pecan, pumpkin spice, and gingerbread. Many are gluten-free and dairy-free as well.
They also sell nut butters in flavors like vanilla almond butter, chocolate peanut butter, and coconut almond butter. These can be a great option if you’re in need of a quick boost of protein, healthy fat, and fiber throughout the day.
2. Epic Provisions
Epic Provisions sells meat bars that include flavors like Bison Bacon Cranberry, Sea Salt and Pepper Venison, Beef Apple Bacon, and Chicken Sriracha. Their website conveniently lists which options are keto, paleo, and whole 30-friendly.
This brand also has snack strips that are more like jerky, like wagyu beef and smoked salmon snack strips, as well as bite-sized snacks, like beef liver and salmon bites.
The nutritional content of their bars varies, but most contain seven to 12 grams of protein and zero to three grams of fiber. Many options contain zero grams of sugar and are gluten-free and dairy-free.
3. Wild Zora
Some of their blends fall a little lower in protein at just six grams, but two packs would make a great snack at 12 grams of protein and 16 grams of carbs.
Skout Organic makes high-protein snack bars that are organic, non-GMO, and plant-based. They are gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and have less than seven ingredients.
These bars come in flavors like matcha almond, salted chocolate, cinnamon raisin, and coconut vanilla. They’re also a great option if you prefer plant-based protein— they contain 10 grams of protein per bar!
5. Brami Lupini Beans
Brami’s packets of lupini beans aren’t bars per se, but they are just as portable, easy, and nutritious. Lupini beans are legumes that are common in Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisine.
They are highly nutritious and full of protein and fiber. Brami’s versions are pickled, vegan, and don’t contain gluten. They come in flavors like garlic and rosemary, chili and lime, and sea salt and vinegar.
One pack contains around seven grams of protein, making it a better option for protein than some other vegan-friendly brands.
6. Mini Fish
This option is also not a bar, but just as easy and nutritional. Mini Fish sells “gourmet superfood protein snacks” that come in packets.
Their only offering currently available is spring water steelhead trout, which is flavored with turmeric, bell pepper, citrus, pumpkin seeds and fennel. The packets are gluten-free, dairy-free, and contain zero grams of added sugar and 12 grams of protein.
Safe Catch is another similar company that offers seafood “packets” with different flavored varieties of salmon and tuna for on the go.
7. Sahale Bean and Nut Snack Mix
Sahale Snacks bean and nut snack mix is gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and contains no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors. One pack has three grams of fiber, and is a little lower than ideal in protein (with just six grams) but still makes a healthy snack!
8. Mountain America Jerky
Mountain America Jerky sells a wide selection of gourmet jerkies, including trout, salmon, tuna, and elk jerky, gluten-free jerky; and many other kinds. Their jerky contains natural ingredients, with no nitrates or nitrites.
Yupik sells dry roasted edamame snacks that only contain edamame and salt. They have 11 grams of protein and three grams of fiber. They also sell dry roasted chickpeas, which contain eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber.
The mix is a little lower in protein, at six grams, but it contains a whopping nine grams of fiber!
10. Perfect Bar
Perfect Snack’s protein bars aren’t made from 100 percent whole foods, but they are comparably low in processed foods than many other options out there! Their bars contain mostly organic and fair trade ingredients and are gluten-free.
Their protein content ranges from 12 to 17 grams. You’ll want to keep in mind, however, that these bars can be a little higher in added sugars. The chocolate mint flavor, for example, has 12 grams of added sugar.
What Makes a Healthy Snack Bar?
No single ingredient makes a snack “healthy.” A snack’s healthiness depends on the quality of its ingredients, its nutritional content, and how well it fits into your specific diet preferences and health needs.
But, if you want to know how good something may be for your health, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
How Processed Is It?
Processed foods in moderation may not be harmful, but over-reliance on them may have negative health effects over time. Highly-processed foods tend to contain more ingredients like refined sugar, high salt content, and trans fats.
Ingredients with names you don’t recognize or wouldn’t find in an average kitchen are a dead giveaway for highly processed foods. These may include:
- Hydrolysed proteins
- Isolates, such as protein isolate powder or soy protein isolate
- Enriched flour
- Modified food starch
- Certain oils, like hydrogenated oil and oils from seeds, like canola oil
- Artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, or high-fructose corn syrup
Some of the negative effects associated with highly processed foods include inflammation, high blood sugar, obesity, hypertension, coronary disease, metabolic syndrome, digestive issues, and an increased risk of cancer.
Just because a snack bar is advertised as a “whole food,” does not necessarily mean it’s truly made up of whole food ingredients. The best way to see if your snack bar is actually a highly processed food is by checking its list of ingredients.
Does It Contain Whole Foods?
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been processed, like whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, in-tact protein, and whole grains. Whole foods are naturally more nutritious and balanced.
Check your snack bar’s ingredients list for whole food ingredients like:
- Seeds and nuts
- Whole grains, like rolled oats, buckwheat, or quinoa
- Protein from whole animal sources, like jerky or fish
- Sugars from whole fruits
What’s the Nutritional Value?
The nutritional value of your snack bar is an important consideration. Search the ingredients list and nutritional label for the bar’s macronutrient content: protein, carbs, and fats.
You’ll also want to be aware of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). More on this below!
Protein content is the first thing to check, especially if the snack bar is labeled as a “protein bar.” Some actually have very little protein! Nutrisense nutritionists recommend aiming for a bar with no less than eight to 10 grams of protein if you can.
Your carb needs may vary depending on your diet. If you’re following a low-carb diet, you’ll want fewer carbs.
Depending on your unique needs, you may look for something containing anywhere from five to 30 grams of carbs, preferably from mostly whole grain, starchy veggie, or whole fruit content rather than added sugars.
Fat content will vary as well, but most snack bars will contain five to 10 grams of fat. If you’re unsure of how many carbohydrates are optimal for your overall wellness, consider consulting a registered dietitian or nutritionist for guidance.
Whole foods are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. However, some snack bars are so processed that they’ve lost much of their inherent micronutrient value.
Many companies may add additional nutrient supplements to the mix, making the snack bar more of a supplement than a food. To make sure you’re consuming adequate amounts of your micronutrients, it’s good to keep tabs on which foods you’re eating may contain added supplements.
Fiber is a crucial nutrient and an important component of many snack bars. Look for fiber from whole foods, like oats, seeds, nuts, and fruits.
At the same time, you may want to keep an eye on fiber additives or “refined dietary fibers” (RDFs) like inulin and bran extract. Research suggests that higher consumption of RDFs may negatively impact gastrointestinal and liver health.
Some people may have different digestive responses to different fiber types and additives.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar consumption to no more than six percent of your daily calorie intake. If you eat more, your risk of these negative effects may increase.
Many snack bars have a surprising amount of added sugars, especially granola bars. For example, let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown of two of the most popular granola bars that didn’t make our list.
As you can see, each of these bars contains a very low amount of protein and a significant amount of added sugar, so you may want to consume these less healthy options in moderation.Snack bars can come in handy when you’re on-the-go or in a hurry. Whether you’re on a hike, traveling, enjoying a bike ride, running errands, or just want to have an emergency snack to keep with you, these bars are a convenient treat.
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Heather has worked in healthcare and nutrition for over 15 years, with bachelor's degrees in Microbiology and Philosophy and a master's degree in Nutrition Science. Her professional background includes nutrition and diabetes research, nutrition education, medical writing, and extensive clinical work in a functional neuroendocrine specialty practice.