How to Choose a Healthy Cereal Bar

One of the most common question I get is: What brand of cereal bars do you recommend? Ideally, I always prefer for my patients to choose whole foods instead of packaged food. However, there are occasions that due to convenience, a cereal bar can be a good option. Therefore, I navigated the grocery stores and to found best options for you. I must say, it was very challenging to find a bar that would fit these ideal characteristics:

  • Sugar: no more than 5g of sugar per serving.
  • Fiber: at least 3g of fiber, it will keep you feeling fuller longer.
  • List of ingredients: look for those you recognize; a good rule of thumb is to hold the ingredient list to fewer than 10 items—but less is always more.
  • Protein: even though it may be high in protein (more than 7g per serving), they are usually not a complete/good quality protein, so don’t solely rely on this as your source of protein.
  • Fat: avoid/limit saturated fats.
  • Calories: as a snack, look for those around 100-150 kcals and for a meal replacement bar stick around 250-300 kcals.

The biggest challenge was to find a cereal bar with less than 5 g of sugar, most of them had at least 10 grams! According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are: Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons). Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons). And don’t forget that “natural” sugars (brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, honey, maple syrup) can still contribute to sugar crashes and lead to weight gain and a host of other health issues. So, by just consuming ONE cereal bar, you are almost at your 50% cap for sugar per day! You can also look for those sweetened with sugar alcohols (mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, etc.) or other artificial sweeteners but be mindful that they may cause some gas, bloating and diarrhea since they usually pass through undigested.

These are my top choices (and taste great):

RxBAR®

Rxbar

  • Sugar: 15g
  • Fiber: 6g
  • List of ingredients: only 8 (very natural and recognizable) ingredients.
  • Protein: 12g
  • Fat: 9g (2g saturated)
  • Calories: 210
  • PROS: gluten-free, it’s high sugar content is due to dried dates, but it does not have any added sugar. Contains good-quality protein given it comes from egg whites and its fat originates from almonds and cashews, all healthy fats.
  • CONS: contains eggs, cashews and almonds which are common allergens.

LARABAR™

Crunchy Nut & Seed bar, Dark Chocolate Almond

Larabar

  • Sugar: 7g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • List of ingredients: 8 ingredients
  • Protein: 5g
  • Fat: 15g (4.5 g saturated)
  • Calories: 200
  • PROS: gluten free, lower in sugar compared to other chocolate flavored bars, chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 (healthy) fats.
  • CONS: higher saturated fat content due to coconut oil.

GoRaw, Pumpkin Spice Sprouted Bar

Rawbar

  • Sugar: 5g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • List of ingredients: 5 ingredients
  • Protein: 9g
  • Fat: 16g (saturated 3g)
  • Calories: 240
  • PROS: gluten-free, sprouted seeds (sprouting grains & seeds reduces the amount of starch they contain and boosts their nutritional value), lower total carbs.
  • CONS: high total fat content, however mostly unsaturated (healthy) fats.

Mediterra®, Kale & Pumpkin Seeds

Mediterra

  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 5g
  • List of ingredients: 15 ingredients
  • Protein: 6g
  • Fat: 8g (1.5 g)
  • Calories: 140
  • PROS: gluten-free, lowest in sugar and lower calories which makes it ideal for a mid-day snack, vegan protein (pea).
  • CONS: contains cashews which can be a common allergen, has added fiber in the form of inulin (chicory root) which is good to improve regularity, but can be troublesome for those with irritable bowel syndrome.

Kind Minis, Dar Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

Kind mini

  • Sugar: 3g (including 2g of added sugar)
  • Fiber: 3g
  • List of ingredients: 14 ingredients
  • Protein: 3g
  • Fat: 7g (1.5 g)
  • Calories: 100
  • PROS: gluten-free, ideal snack-size in terms of total calories, low sodium and low glycemic idex.
  • CONS: contains peanuts which is one of the most common allergen, has added fiber in the form of inulin (chicory root) which is good to improve regularity, but can be troublesome for those with irritable bowel syndrome. It also has added sugar and glucose syrup.

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