Consumers connote vegetables and granola bars with health. But, it’s really all about the packaging. After all, a baked potato high in fiber and vitamin C is healthy, but the deep fried version of this healthful tuber is far from a power food. Likewise, a granola bar with rolled oats, unsweetened dried fruit, and roasted nuts is healthy, but its chocolate coating, high fructose corn syrup and refined flour substitute is not. Street decided to lessen some of the confusion that the granola and cereal bar shelf poses. We sampled many of the most popular brands’ bars, compared them on a few basic criteria: taste, texture, on-the-go factor, and nutrition and declared the winners in each category.
These soft and sweet bars recall elementary school lunch boxes and after school snacks. Calling these candy bars granola bars made them “mom approved.”
Kudos Chocolate Chip
Taste: This caramel-y milk chocolate-drizzled bar tasted like a crispy chocolate bar. While some tasters declared the bar “too sweet,” most enjoyed the sugary notes.
Texture: A smooth homogeneous texture creates a chewy, not crispy, bite.
On-the-go factor: The small portion and non-sticky exterior made this bar easy to carry on the go. Although in warm months, the chocolate drizzle and base are known to stick to fingers.
Price: $3.55 for 10 bars
Chewy Chocolate Chip
Taste: Less chocolatey (dotted with chocolate chips as opposed to enrobed in chocolate) than its Kudos counterpart, this bar had milder, less sweet flavors. In particular, the use of dark chocolate cut out some of the sweetness, highlighting the brown sugar corn syrup mix that binds the bar.
Texture: Some tasters said the too-dry bar is reminiscent of “puffy plastic.”
On-the-go factor: Like Kudos, this bar is easy to carry on the go even in warm temperatures.
Price: $3.69 for 10 bars
Nutritional Winner: When candy is healthy, these bars will be too.
The classic nut and dried fruit mix serves as a great base for many trail mix bars. Once destined for the hill, these granola bars have a chewy nutty flavor great for non-hikers as well.
KIND Cranberry Almond
Taste: Imagine a berry fruit leather melted down with nuts and puffed rice into a thin bar.
Texture: While the scattered puffed rice adds a nice contrast the overwhelmingly sticky consistency, the ultra chewy bar had a bit too much stick for our liking.
On-the-go factor: The bar proved very hard to bite and break apart, and it sticks to teeth. Bottom line, not great for an on-the-go snack.
Price: $1.99 per bar
Kashi TLC Chewy
Taste: The subtle honey notes complemented the cranberries and whole almonds, allowing the individual ingredients to standout.
Texture: Pleasantly chewy with intermittent crunch.
On the go factor: Bite or break it — this bar is perfect for a dash to class.
Price: $3.99 for 6 bars
Nature Valley-Fruit and Nut
Taste: All the tasters agreed this bar tasted like Cracker Jack popcorn with cranberries.
Texture: Very difficult to chew due to its hardness. One taster claimed she “dislodged her jaw.”
On-the-go factor: While chewing might cause a problem, the mess free bar will travel well.
Price: $3.79 for 6 bars
Nutritional Winner: Highest in protein and dietary fiber while simultaneously low in refined sugars, the TLC Kashi bar proves food that tastes good can be healthy as well.
GRANOLA-LESS GRANOLA BAR
We are always told not to judge a book by its cover or yuck another’s yum, but these bars instantly turned off the tasters by their mere looks. However, like the old adages teach, judging the bars by their appearances was not necessarily an accurate representation of taste.
SoyJoy Apple Walnut
Taste: This soybean-based bar, which contains many cookie ingredients, tasted like apple pot-pourri, not an apple cookie.
Texture: Airy and stale (must we say more?)
On-the-go factor: The Soy Joy is quite easy to eat, just not a joy to eat.
Price: $1.39 per bar
Lärabar Apple pie
Taste: Reminiscent of apple pie filling (hence its name) this well spiced date-based bar surprised the taster with its pleasant and distinct taste.
Texture: The high dry fruit content yields a moist but not sticky quality, and the pieces of nuts break up the otherwise consistent bar.
On-the-go factor: These dense bars are great for on the go, leaving no crumbs behind (although maybe a sticky finger or two).
Price: $1.89 per bar
Nutritional Winner: With equivalent protein content, the Larabar exceeds the Soy Joy in potassium and fiber while foregoing the unnecessary presence of butter in a health bar.