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Sorting through Power Bars: Which Are Best?

As we fall kicks in, family schedules get a lot more hectic. And that means a lot more people will be eating on the go.

If you or your family members are among them, power bars could be a good choice as an alternative to a full, well-rounded meal.

There are several different groups: protein, energy, meal replacement, snack bars.

And, with so many on the market, how do you know the difference, and which ones are best?

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On "The Early Show,", Tanya Zuckerbrot of CookingLight magazine described the differences and pointed to what she deems the wisest ones to grab.

According to Zuckerbrot:

Meal replacement bars are going to be high in calories (200 to 300); they're supposed to fill you the way that a real meal would. The purpose of these bars is to keep your energy up in the absence of sitting down for a full meal.

A protein bar is high in protein to build up muscle mass and replenish you after a big workout. These are the bars you most often see in muscle-building and health stores, for people who want to build up their bodies.

Snack bars are going to have a lower calorie count than meal replacements, about 100-200 calories each. They help to give you a boost of energy. Sugary snacks often give you a quick burst of energy that can't be sustained.

Energy bars are your best choice for pre-workout. They're high in carbs, which are going to keep you going no matter what activity you engage in.

While nothing beats real food for the best nutrition, bars are convenient and portable and can certainly have a place in a your life. There are so many choices of energy and protein bars on the market, the array is often hard to navigate.

You want one that offers fiber and protein to help you stay full longer. You need to steer clear of bars with transfats and pick ones whose fats are heart-healthy.

And sugars, even dried fruit, do add up. So you have to watch out for ones that are too sweet. Anything much higher than 20 grams of sugars may be too high for you.


Best for Women
Our top flavor pick: Lemon Zest

Bar Stats:
180 calories, 9g protein, 3g fiber, 13g sugar, 5g fat (2.5g saturated)

• Offers a nice balance of the nutrient "Big 3"-protein, fat, carb-in a sweet, tasty bar.
• With almost 10 grams of protein, the bars can double as appetite quenching snacks or a post workout protein boost.
• Bars are made with 70 percent organic ingredients and are newly fortified with Vitamin D.

Best for Kids: Clif Z Bars

Our top flavor pick: Z Bar Chocolate Brownie

Bar Stats:
120 calories, 3g protein, 3g fat (1g saturated), 3g fiber, 12g sugar

• Downsized to meet pint-size energy and nutrient needs
• Z bars have enough sweetness to appeal to kids, but they offer a bit of protein and fiber to make a better snack.

For teens and older kids

Clif Mojo

• Peanut Butter & Jelly offers a little less fiber than a PBJ on whole grain bread, but a little more protein too.
• At 220 calories and 9 grams of protein, it's not a bad choice when older kids are caught without something to eat.

Best Pre-Workout

ProBar Fruition

Our top flavor pick: Strawberry

Bar Stats
160 calories, 3g protein, 4g fiber, 21g sugar, 2g fat (0g saturated)

• With flavors reminiscent of a slightly sweet Fig Newton, these organic bars deliver a blast of slow-digest carbs from a mix of dried fruits, chia seeds, and rolled oats.
• Sugars are a little higher than our benchmark, but we've made an exception because studies show that carbs (plus a little bit of protein) before a workout give exercisers an energy edge, allowing them to workout longer and do more reps.

Best for Protein: Zing Bars

Our top flavor pick: Chocolate Peanut Butter Zing Bars

Bar Stats:
210 calories, 13g protein, 3g fiber, 14g sugar, 10g fat (3.5g saturated)

• This pairing of peanut butter and dark chocolate offers a delicious 13 grams of quality protein.
• This has the highest protein of any we have here today.
• These are great post-workout because protein will help replenish your muscles.

Best for Mid-afternoon Snack


Our top flavor pick: Berry

Bar Stats
130 calories, 4g protein, 4.5g fat (2g saturated), 4g fiber, 12g sugar

• Half the size of most energy bars, this crunchy cookie-style gluten-free bar tastes like a cross between fruitcake and biscotti.
• With four grams of protein, as much fiber as many of the big bars, and just under five grams of fat, it puts up respectable nutrition numbers for a light snack.
• Use it to take the edge off hunger without ruining your appetite for dinner.

Best Meal Replacement:

Clif Bars

Our top flavor pick: Walnut Oatmeal Raisin

Bar Stats
240 calories, 10g protein, 5g fat (1.5g saturated), 3g fiber, 20g sugar
• Most bars are too skimpy on calories to replace a meal, but this one does the trick.
• This has 240 calories and is a good source of protein and fiber.
• Our editors like to pair this one with real food. Add a low-fat string cheese or a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit to make a nice small meal.
• Plus, it's fortified to replace nutrients missed at meals.
• Nothing beats a real meal, but good in a pinch.

Best Natural Bar

Pure Raw Fruit & Nut Bar

Our top flavor pick: Blueberry

Bar Stats
190 calories, 6g protein, 8g fat (0.5g saturated), 3g fiber, 19g sugars

• Made with nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, raw food bars harvest Mother Nature's finest energy
• These have minimal processing.
• 100 percent organic

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