Need to Know
  1. The options for healthier snack bars available vary widely
  2. An RD's top choices for granola fans, workout lovers & more

The spectrum of snack bars available on the market continues to widen — now it even includes cricket protein powder bars! Consumers can find anything from bars packed with whey protein for the weight room warriors to candy bars in disguise to bars catered to the mid-day vegan snacker. Companies have recognized that we’re a society on the go, conscious of recovering from workouts and/or avoiding that “hangry” feeling that comes with going just a little too long without food.

These bars have become a dietary staple for many, as they’re one of the easiest foods to grab and pack for traveling, pre- or post-workout fueling, or just snacking on a normal day. But when you’re starved and in need of something to satisfy that hunger right away, it’s harder to engage your brain to make the healthiest choice. Instead of scanning the (many) shelves of bar options while your body is screaming “FOOD NOW,” go to the store — or buy in bulk — with a plan using our top picks for all of your needs.

All of the bars below have my stamp of approval because they use high-quality ingredients without a lot of (or, in some cases, any) added sugars or preservatives.

Workout recovery bars
What’s good here: While whey usually holds the top spot for sought-after protein powder, food scientists have gotten creative, and there are now plenty of other options for muscle recovery. Here we’ve listed proteins to suit any dietary preference: vegan, lactose-intolerant, gluten-free, etc. We also included some bars with a higher sugar (from dried fruit) content, for the endurance athletes looking to replace both glycogen and protein.

Vegan protein pick: LARABAR-ALT
Paleo/alternative protein pick: Exo bar
Balanced* (good ratio of carbs to protein) pick: Picky Bar
Variety pick: Perfect Bar
Whey pick: Rise Carob Chip Bar

*also vegan friendly


Granola and oat bars
What’s good here:
Gone are the days of Quaker Chewy bars as the only option! Now we see plenty of granola bar options with a wide variety of flavors and higher-quality ingredients.

Variety pick: 18 Rabbits
Gluten-free pick: LARABAR Renola

Traditional pick: Cascadian Farm Crunchy Peanut Butter
Bar with a mission: Kutoa Bars


Almost candy (but not quite) bars
What’s good here:
These do have added sugars, which is why they’ve landed in this category. So, they’re not the healthiest options, but they’re better than grabbing a Snickers!

Higher protein pick: Honey Stinger Dark Chocolate Cherry Almond Bar
Gluten-free pick: Chocolate Mint Bumble Bar
Vegan pick: Vega Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar


Fruit and nut bars
What’s good here: Look for bars with minimal ingredients listed — for example, LARABAR goes with only dried fruits, nuts, and spices — and few (or no) added sugars. You can get plenty of natural fiber from these dried-fruit-based bars.

Best overall picks: LARABAR, Pure Bar

Best picks for kids: EnviroKidz Crispy Bars, Cascadian Farm Kids Bars 


In general, when you’re shopping for a snack bar to satisfy any particular need, always look at the ingredient list to see what’s really in there! Be mindful of additives if you have any food allergies or sensitivities (e.g. soy, dairy, nuts, peanuts, etc.) and choose what’s best for you.