We thrive on living healthy, and while a smart diet and regular workouts are the best way to increase metabolisms, this regimen also leaves us open to hunger pains throughout the day.
With all of the junk food littering American grocery-store shelves, it’s no surprise that many companies have been eager to jump on the protein-bar bandwagon. Sadly, there far too many of those posing as “health bars” that are really no different than the common candy bar. True, many of the unhealthy products (that shall remain nameless) taste great, but we’re all smart enough to know that they’re full of fat, sugar, (bad) carbs, plus artificial flavors and colors. So even in a pinch, these bad bars are not the way to go.
Fortunately, there are a handful of independent brands that were wise enough to offer healthy options for those of us hell bent on keeping our rock hard abs rock hard. Here are four brands we reviewed:
Top Power Bars
Mojo is one of the newest versions of the original Clif bars. They offer different tastes and textures, and loaded with unique ingredients like pretzel pieces and creamy cocoa. The protein kick comes from ingredients like nuts and raisins, and the company tells us that all of its Mojo bars are “free of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives and ingredients sourced from GMOs.” They’re also certified Kosher.
One of our office reviewers noted, “[Mojo] tastes fresh — like real food. I love that they’re sweat and salty. Oftentimes I find bars too sweet, especially when they are packed with artificial sweeteners.”
It’s also nice to know that Clif Bar is not some corrupt company forcing children to forage for the chocolate that’s drizzled on your bar. Working with organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, the collaboration is conscious of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior.
The original Peanut Butter LÄRABAR contains just three ingredients: peanuts, dates and salt, and provides 7 grams of protein. Some of the bars throw in a little lemon juice or a few chocolate chips, but you really don’t need much more than that. Oh, and some of the original bars are Kosher, too. Shalom.
Established by Lara Merriken in 2000, General Mills bought the company and has been branching out as of late. They’ve added ALT, über, and Jŏcalat versions which also taste good. The ALT Cinnamon Apple Crisp bar tastes like those now-forbidden chewy granola bars you enjoyed as a kid, making it a fun treat. The Peanut Butter Cookie is more crunchy than the original, and it notches up the protein a bit. That said, we’re not wild about the added sunflower oil. We just don’t need it.
Let’s start with the basics for these protein bars: Each one has approximately 240 calories, 9 grams of fat, 22 carbs and 20 grams of protein. They’re also gluten free, if that happens to be something you care about. For someone who works out regularly, this is a fantastic high-protein, high-energy snack that is actually delicious. Favorites include the Brownie Crunch and Creamy Peanut Butter, which tastes like a real brownie and a peanut butter cup, respectively, and don’t have that chalky protein powder flavor you find in many bars.
To be clear, the ladies in the office weren’t in love with these two flavors. One reviewer remarked, “I tasted the peanut butter flavor and frankly thought it tasted like bland, wet cardboard.” But the boys thought they were great. To be even more specific, the guys all work out regularly and have tasted a number of different bars over the years, and one sample of the thinkThin batch had them converted to this company.
We also sampled two other thinkThin varieties: thinkThin Divine and thinkThin Crunch. Divine is a candy substitute, and if you have a sweet tooth it does the trick. The Dark Chocolate Coconut tasted like a dense Mounds bar, but with 170 calories, 10 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein. (A traditional Mounds tallies 230 calories, 13 fat and 2 protein.) The Crunch with Coconut, Chocolate and Mixed nuts is like a very sophisticated snack bar, with layers of flavor that taste good and seem healthy. It only has 180 calories, 10 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein, and was by far the favorite for the bars-as-snacks crowd.
These bars come in spectacular combinations: Cranberry Almond + Antioxidents, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein and Pomegranate Blueberry Pistachio + Antioxidants. The protein factor is great for a snack, and the ingredients look very legit, though we do worry when we see listings for “natural maple flavor.”
One of our office taste-testers thought these particular bars are, “flavorful and filling.” He added, “I like the consistency and read all the ingredients and was very impressed by the lack of junk and sugar.”
We also checked out KIND’s bags of healthy grains, including Dark Chocolate & Cranberry Clusters as well as Maple Quinoa Clusters with Chia Seeds. After tossing a half-cup of this into a bowl with some Greek yogurt, and we were good to go for the morning. The only problem? How quickly it disappeared after coworkers tried a sampling of this magic combination.
Like the name suggests, the idea behind this company is to do good things. Each month, KIND supports one project with $10,000.