Tag Archive | snacks

The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Lärabar

Time to look into Lärabar.  I’ve been putting this off since I know it’s not one of my favorites, but as I look at their website, I see that they have some other lines that I’ve never tried.  Let me see if they’re worth picking up.

As a reminder, when looking at snack bars, for now, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.

Lärabar Original

This line of Lärabars has over 20 varieties!  My son has sampled quite a few of them, and I think he liked all but the cherry one.  Here’s a few that interest me the most.

Chocolate Chip Brownie

I’ve had quite a few of these.  Of any I’ve tasted, this is my preferred one.  My husband doesn’t care for it, though, because he’s not a big fan of bars or cookies containing dates (though he likes dates on their own).

chocolate-chip-brownie.jpg

One of the first things you should notice is the short list of ingredients, all ingredients that you can pronounce and picture quite clearly in your head.  That’s really an amazing achievement.  I’d say these are the closest bars to what you would make at home.   I could easily throw all these ingredients into a food processor and end up with something similar, so obviously this passes the whole grains, nuts, and seeds, test.

The fat is reasonable, too, so not a problem.

The sugars, though.  There’s no added sweetener listed, but the problem is that the ingredients of the chocolate chips aren’t listed.  Most likely, there is sugar from those, but until “added sugars” is added to labels, it’s hard to tell what is sugar from the dates and what might be added from the chocolate.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

chocolate-chip-cookie-dough.jpg

Only 4 ingredients here, and because of the cashews, this has slightly higher saturated fat but still within reason.

Yet again, though, we don’t know what’s in the those chocolate chips.  Sugars is still pretty high at 16 g, but we still don’t know how much of it is added sugar.  And that bugs me.

I had to find out what was up with the chocolate chips.  Usually, if an ingredient is made up of separate other ingredients, they need to be listed.  I wonder how Lärabar gets around this, but I thought maybe their website talked about the chocolate chips somewhere.  And they do…in their FAQ:

chocolate-chips-faq.jpg

So, as suspected, the chocolate chips contain sugar.  This might technically put added sugar in the top 3 ingredients for any bars with chocolate chips.

So let’s check out a bar without chocolate chips.

Cashew Cookie

cashew-cookie.jpg

Holy crap.  Two ingredients.  Now that’s impressive.  So obviously, at 18g of sugar from the dates, it’s possible that in the chocolate chip bars, the chocolate chips are actually making up a very tiny part of the sugars since this one has 18g.

In the end, I think this line of Lärabars fits all the criteria…and then some!  (I just wish I enjoyed them more.)

Lärabar Bites

These aren’t really bars but more like balls.  I’ve been tempted to pick up a bag, though, especially because of this flavor:

Mint Chocolate Truffle

mint-chocolate-truffle-bites.jpg

Dates and almonds are the first two ingredients.  Saturated fat is good.  Chocolate chips would add a little sugar, but they’re the third ingredient and sugar is not likely the first ingredient in them).  Dates are the first and are most likely the cause of most of the 13g of sugar.

Might be keeping an eye out for these on my next shopping trip!

Lärabar Fruit + Greensstrawberry_3840px

What you see in this picture is pretty much what you get with this line.

Strawberry Spinach Cashew

strawberry-spinach-cashew

Nothing out of line here at all.  Whole foods.  No added sugar (though adding “unsweetened” to the apples makes me wonder if they added anything to the strawberries or apricots).  Hardly any fat, and this combination actually sounds pretty good to me. And there isn’t even any chocolate in it!

Lärabar Nut & Seed Crunchy Bar

Dark Chocolate Almond

This is the most ingredients we’ve seen so far in Lärabars:

dark-chocolate-almond.jpg

However, everything looks pretty good on it.  Honey is technically an added sweetener but one I find acceptable.  Maple sugar is in there, too.  Also, acceptable, especially since there are only 7g of sugar in the bar total.  Really, it sounds delicious.

I have yet to see these in stores, but I might pick up one to try (along with my bag of Mint Chocolate Truffle Bites!).

Lärabar Organic with Superfoods

Wow.  This sounds like a mighty line, doesn’t it?

Hazelnut, Hemp, & Cacao

hazelnut-hemp-cacao

And really it doesn’t look a whole lot different than the other bars we’ve looked at except for the hazelnuts and hemp, which aren’t prominent ingredients in their other lines.   Anyone else expecting this to take like healthy Nutella?

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So, though I don’t care for their Original line much, Lärabar seems to have some varieties in other lines that I think might be worth trying.  And I think, generally, they appear to be the most natural and whole-food-oriented brand of snack bars so far.  I’m really quite impressed with that.

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Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley, KIND bars, Kashi bars, and LUNA bars and keep watching for when I look for other brands of snack bars that I have yet to discover.

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The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Kashi

Yesterday, I stopped at Kroger to pick up a few necessities for the weekend:  fruit, vegetables, bread, milk.  I was getting ready to pass the isle with the snack bars and thought for a second of getting another box of Chocolate Peppermint Stick LUNA bars.  (Turns out I DID have to worry about them disappearing.  I went to pack one to take to work earlier this week, and they were all gone.  I was so disappointed.)  However, I thought it was probably better to use one of the Kroger coupons I talked about last time and try a different brand.  Kashi’s turn!

As a reminder, when looking at snack bars, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.

No kids this time meant that I could be a little more particular and not just grab one and hope for the best.  I’ll start with the two lines of bars that I opted for, though they weren’t necessarily the first boxes I reached for.

Kashi Layered Granola Bars

554_nakedshot

Peanutty Dark Chocolate

There aren’t many in this layered bar line.  One with coconut and one without.  Not a fan of coconut, so when in doubt, peanuts and chocolate.

First set of ingredients:  whole grains.  Score.

Second ingredient: peanuts.  Double score.

Third ingredient: date paste.  Sold.

Really, the fact that date paste is being used to sweeten this bar thrilled me.  When I make “cookies” at home, they are often just nuts, nut butter, and dates food processed together.  …speaking of these, I might need to make them this weekend.  Anyway…

Beyond the third ingredient, we start to see some other added sweeteners, but these bars meet my current guidelines, including the one about saturated fat.  Only 1g.

7g of sugar is a bit high, but I know some of it comes from dates.  The kids and I literally just sampled one of these.  Tasty, but not a super favorite.

Kashi Chewy Granola Bars

Honey Almond Flax

This is the other box I settled on.

Again, the first three ingredients do not contain sugar.  We’ve got whole grains, soy protein crisps, and almonds.  There isn’t even enough saturated fat for them to have to include it on the nutrition label.  Good protein, a little less sugar.  I expected deliciousness, but we tried these immediately after the chocolate layered bars.  Ada refused to even try it.  “I don’t like plain” (i.e. without a layer of chocolate).  Even I thought they had a strange taste to them, but I don’t know how much of that is because we had just sampled the others.  At this point, it’s not one I would buy again but will serve us in a pinch.

Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt with Chia

This was actually one of the first boxes I grabbed, but right away, I saw a problem:

Brown rice syrup is the third ingredient.  With nearly all the boxes that I picked up and put back down, this was the problem.  The third ingredient was often added sweetener.

Looking at this particular bar more carefully, though, it actually has less sugars, more protein, and more fiber than the layered granola bar that I opted for, plus with the added benefit of Omega 3.  These might be worth trying and breaking the rule for.

Kashi Crunchy Granola & Seed

Chocolate Chip Chia

They had me at chocolate and chia.

chocolate-chip-chiachocolate-chip-chia-nutrition

Look at the whole grains!  23g!  That’s the goal of any whole grain food.  Get up into the twenties with whole grain, and you know that the product is most likely entirely whole grain.  Love it.

This one, of course, also boasts Omega 3 due to the chia seeds, though, it’s not listed here like it was in the previous chia bar.  (That tells you how proud they are of that whole grain total!).

The problem is obvious, though, when you look two places:  the third ingredient is cane syrup and the amount of sugars is 9g.

And that’s exactly why I put this box back on the shelf.

Other bars in this line were very similar.  The third ingredient was almost always a syrup of some sort.

GOLEAN, Plant-Powered Bar

This is one line that I actually didn’t pick up or notice.  Let’s see if it’s worth hunting down.

Dark Chocolate Cashew Chia

Don’t these sound amazing?  Oh, but how disappointed I am:

Two out of the first four ingredients: syrup.  Darn.

So much to love about it, though–the protein, the good fats, all those nuts, the Omega 3.  See how I’m trying to rationalize having one of these?

Salted Dark Chocolate and Nuts

I had to give another one a chance.  Maybe it will be better.  I mean…look at it.

2114_nakedshot

Here’s how it stacks up:

Booo.  Right away, syrup and syrup.  It’s very similar to the other bar in this line as far as nutrition goes, but it appears, for what I’m looking for, that this is not the best line for us right now.

Chewy Nut Butter

Salted Chocolate Chunk

Labeled “New” on Kashi’s website, I’m not sure I saw this line of bars either, but they do look like something I wouldn’t mind having.

2511_nakedshot

Syrup.  Bah.

Cereal Bars

Ripe Strawberry

When at the store, I didn’t even bother looking at these.  I’ve look at the Nutrigrain version of these, and I was sure that the sugar content would be out of this world.

I do really enjoy the Kashi ones, though.  I have them before, and I would buy them again if it weren’t for…

strawberry

The first ingredient is full of juice and sugar, so the 9g of sugar is not surprising.  It does give you a good comparison of the whole grains, though.  11g is okay, but remember that 23g from the other bar?  That’s why that other bar’s whole grain count is so amazing.

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So, one thing is sure–Kashi certainly has a wide variety of bar lines.  I didn’t even look at the savory line here!  Happy that we at least found one to add to our snack bar possibilities!

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Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley, KIND bars, and LUNA bars and keep watching for when I examine Larabar and other snack bar brands I have yet to discover!

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The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – LUNA

I’m always waiting and watching for a deal, and today, I had coupons for 3 different brands of bars:  LUNA, Larabar, or Kashi.   Not too long ago, we bought a bunch of different types of Larabars, and CJ liked most of them.  I thought they were okay and were good in a pinch, so I figured we would try something different and go for LUNA.  Since the whole family was with me, I couldn’t really do a thorough analysis of the nutritional information, so time to write a post so that I’m prepared for next time (if they pass the test!).

As a reminder, my three rules are that

  1. they should contain whole grains, nuts, and seeds,
  2. they should be low in saturated fat (preferably less than 3g), and
  3. added sugars should not be listed in the top 3 ingredients.

LUNA

fl_hero_lunacps_r33_625x510_v4

Chocolate Peppermint Stick

Yep.  I’m a sucker for mint and chocolate, so I went for this flavor.  An added bonus is that my husband is not crazy about mint and chocolate, so I didn’t think I would have to worry about them all disappearing during the week while I was at work.  He tried one, though, and actually enjoyed it.  I absolutely loved it.  Could’ve eaten a couple.   Again, I believe that’s always a good clue that it’s probably got a little too much sugar in it, but let’s see.

chocolate-peppermint-stick-ingredientschocolate-peppermint-stick-nutrition

Saturated fat is decent, but as suspected, the sugar is a little high.   Looking at the ingredients, technically, the second and third ingredients after the protein grain blend are sweeteners.   There is also no mention of whole grains, nuts, or seeds, so in the end, this is 1 for 3.

Other flavors are similar.

Nutz Over Chocolate

nutz-over-chocolate-ingredientsnutz-over-chocolate-nutrition

A little less sugar.  Same saturated fat.  Some actual peanuts.  More protein, too.  A slightly better choice.

LUNA Protein

Chocolate Peanut Butter

I picked one of these up, but put it down because the saturated fat was 3.5g.

chocolate-peanut-butter-ingredientschocolate-peanut-butter-nutrition

Ouch.  The sugars, too.  Yes, there’s more protein, but all of the bars in the protein line are right around 13g of sugar.

Moving on.

LUNA 5G Sugar

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk

So since sugar is an issue with their other lines, I thought this looked promising.

peanut-butter-dark-chocolate-chunk-ingredientspeanut-butter-dark-chocolate-chunk-nutrition

The ingredients start like most of the others–with that protein grain blend.  The second ingredient is a sweetener, so strike one.  Fat is good, and there are some peanuts.  However, the majority of the ingredients are not whole grains, nuts, and seeds.  Turns out, though, that for LUNA bars, this line appears to be the best.  So, in the future, if I need to choose a LUNA bar it will be the LUNA 5G Sugar Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate Chunk bar.  Wow.  That’s a mouth full.

Sadly, though, it appears LUNA bars will mostly need to be avoided (unless I need a quick mint chocolate fix, of course ;).

Missed my other healthy snack bar posts?  Check out Nature Valley and KIND bars, and keep watching for when I examine other snack bars like Larabar and Kashi.

The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – KIND

I love the combination of chocolate and nuts (In fact, I’m secretly snacking on chocolate-covered almonds while I write this.), and since I’ve had the dark chocolate and almond KIND bar before, I figured it would be a good idea to examine them more closely, especially since I had a large amount waiting to be shipped through Amazon’s Subscribe and Save.  I wanted to be sure that they fit into my new rules:

  1. whole grains, nuts, seeds
  2. low in saturated fat
  3. added sugars/sweeteners not listed as one of the first 3 ingredients

I actually found it a little difficult to find nutrition and ingredient information on their site.  When I clicked on ingredients, here’s what I got:

drkchoconutssaltv3

With labels pointing to the bar, saying “dark chocolate” and “whole nuts.”

However, I know there’s a sticky sweet something holding it together.

KIND – Nuts & Spices

Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt

I went into the store for the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt pictured above, and still, I was surprised that the information wasn’t prominently displayed.  However, when I scrolled down far enough, I found both the ingredients and the nutritional information.

Technically, the sweet stuff is not within the first 3 listed ingredients, but the second ingredient, the chocolate flavored (?!?) coating, contains sugar.  Maybe we could get away with it on a technicality.  However, when I look at the rest of the list, there’s honey and glucose syrup (the sticky combination holding it together, no doubt) and even more sugar.  Add all of that up, and I’m sure it puts the sugar content in the top 3.

I truly appreciate that they added a note that 4g out of the 5g of sugars in the bar are from added sugars.  I can’t wait until all labels require this (coming soon!).

However, I believe that this disqualifies this particular KIND bar from being added to the snack rotation.  Bummer.  They have now been removed from Amazon cart and replaced with deodorant (so that I still have five items and can get my 15% subscribe and save discount!).  Definitely not as exciting.

Anyway, the Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bar comes from their “Nuts & Spices” line.  I thought I’d check one of each of their other.

 

KIND – Fruit & Nut

Raspberry Cashew & Chia

Keep in mind that I’ve never tried this, but if I were to try any, this would likely be a flavor I’d enjoy.

Glucose syrup = ingredient number 2 = out

It has even more added sugar at 6g!

KIND – Healthy Grains Bars

Dark Chocolate Chunk

Okay…I have had these, and I once again blame Amazon Subscribe & Save.  There’s always coupons and deals on different types of bars, so I use the opportunity to give them a try.  These were awesome…and I have a pretty good suspicion I know why…

Okay, so I’m totally rethinking what I said about knowing how much added sugar is in something.    I can’t ignore that every single gram of sugar is added.  😦  I mean…look at it all.  There are all kinds of syrups, as well as honey, molasses, and sugar.  Geesh.

If you have nothing against sugar, though, these really are excellent, as are the Maple Pumpkin Seeds with Sea Salt and the Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate.  I got to sample all three of them in a variety pack from Amazon.

KIND – Plus

Almond Cashew with Flax + Omega 3

Again, these are ones I haven’t tried, but I figured I’d look at one more line…and it may have been worth it.

Look at that.  The first 3 ingredients are fruits and nuts, only 2 forms of sweetener, though they take the 4th and 5th spots.  After looking at some of the other bars, I am beginning to think that for now 4g of added sugar is fairly reasonable when it comes to snack bars.  Saturated fat is low, and there are no processed grains.  It looks like we have another possible transition bar as we wean ourselves from sweetened foods.  If I ever get around to trying them, I’ll let you know.  …maybe next month’s subscribe and save 🙂

Do you have a favorite KIND bar or snack?  Let me know!

**Note that the links (above) in this post are affiliate links.

Don’t forget to check out what I wrote about Nature Valley bars.

The Hunt for Healthy Snack Bars – Nature Valley

So my son was recently diagnosed with high-cholesterol.  This has motivated the whole family to eat healthier, hoping that he can control this mostly inherited problem at least enough to avoid needing medicine.

Of course, we’ve cut out saturated fat by being careful about what meats and oils we cook with, but we’re also trying to exclusively eat whole grains instead of processed grains.  This has been challenging but not impossible.  Lots of healthy whole grain options are out there if you know where to look.  We’ve been relying a lot on Nature Valley crunch bars, with Larabars and KIND bars thrown in there when there are sales.  However, I would like to take our snacks in the next healthy direction, which is making sure that sugar and various forms of sweetener are not one of the main ingredients, which for now will mean they’re not listed as one of the top 3 ingredients.  Perhaps once we master that, we’ll be able to move sugar back beyond the 5th ingredient spots, but baby steps…

What I want to do is compare different brands and different bars within brands to see both the nutritional information, especially calories and saturated fat, and ingredients, focusing not only on the sugar content but also on whether or not the ingredients are mainly whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fruits.

Today, I’ll start with Nature Valley since their Crunchy Oats and Honey bars have been staples around here for awhile (even before we found out about the cholesterol issue).

Nature Valley – Crunchy

The crunchy bars below are by far our favorite, so I looked up their nutritional information from the Nature Valley website:

Oats ‘n Dark Chocolate

nature-valley-crunchy-oats-dark-chocolate

Oats ‘n Honey

nature-valley-crunchy-oats-honey

Pecan Crunch

nature-valley-crunchy-pecan

Love that whole grains are the first ingredient and that the pecan ones have actual nuts in them.  As you can see, though, sugar is the second ingredient.  Bummer.  Plus, there’s brown sugar syrup later in the list.  No wonder we love them so much!

Nature Valley – Protein

We’ve only ever had these two varieties, but based on the nutritional information, we might be switching over to these from the crunchy variety.

Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate

nature-valley-protein-peanut-chocolate

Peanut, Almond, & Dark Chocolate

nature-valley-protein-peanut-almond-chocolate

Although these have more saturated fat, likely from the peanuts and almonds, they are full of healthy fats and have more protein and fiber than the crunchy versions.  Sugar is the 5th ingredient, so this bar would only be a temporary solution.  However, it should serve as a good transition.

Nature Valley – Sweet and Salty

Dark Chocolate, Peanut, and Almond

We’ve never tried these that I can remember, but they looked similar to the protein bars above, so I thought I’d check out their information to see if they would be an alternative.

nature-valley-sweet-salty-peanut-almond-chocolate

Second ingredient is corn syrup.  Third ingredient is sugar.  I bet they’re delicious 🙂

Sadly, though, they don’t meet the criteria, so not an option.

Conclusion

Protein Bars are the way to go for now, as far as Nature Valley is concerned.  I like Nature Valley because I can find them in the regular granola bar isle and not the health food section, which makes them much more affordable!

I hope to have similar posts in the future feature different brands like Larabars, Luna Bars, KIND, Quaker, Clif, etc.

What’s your favorite healthy nut, seed, fruit, and whole grain bar?

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