As much as you try to get a balanced breakfast in every day, sometimes it’s just not possible to sit down and have a proper meal. While fast food and granola bars might seem like an easy fix, they can often cause sugar spikes and lethargy–exactly the opposite of what you’re looking for. Instead, it’s best to find a healthy breakfast bar that will energize you and keep you full.
But “health” is in right now, and every package seems to be trying to convince you that what they’re selling is good for you, so it can be hard to sift through the junk. In this guide, we’ll go over exactly what you should look for in a healthy breakfast bar. At the end, if you’re still stuck on all the options, we’ve got a list of our 10 favorites to help you along.
How to Choose a Healthy Breakfast Bar – Buying Guide
Nearly everything in the grocery store claims to be healthy, but we all know that’s far from the truth. Keep the following factors in mind when trying to decipher what’s good for you and what isn’t.
What the Nutrition Facts Label Tells You
The nutrition label on the back of everything can be hard to figure out if you don’t know what’s considered “good” and what isn’t. Here’s what you should look for more and less of.
For a Balanced Breakfast, Pay Attention to Fiber and Protein
The whole point of a breakfast bar is to give you enough sustained energy to last you until lunch, and that’s hard to do if it only has processed carbs and sugar, which, to be honest, is basically every traditional breakfast bar. Instead, you want to look for a bar that has a good balance of fats, protein, and carbs–including fiber.
Having a more balanced nutritional profile will ensure not only that you’re getting all the nutrients you need, but also that you stay fuller longer. A good rule of thumb is to look for a bar that’s around 200 calories and has at least 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.
You Want to Go Light on Sodium and Unhealthy Fats
Sodium and fats are added to foods because, well, they taste good! But too much of a good thing is a bad thing, and a lot of commercial bars tend towards excess. Too much sodium can cause bloating and exasperate high blood pressure in those that may already have underlying issues. As a good benchmark, try to keep your bar under 200 mg.
Fats are a little trickier. There are good fats and bad fats, and it’s becoming increasingly hard to tell the difference between them. A lot of the best breakfast bars are full of healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and that’s actually a good thing! Healthy fats keep you full for longer and are an important part of a balanced breakfast.
But to avoid unhealthy fats, look for 0 g of trans fat, and 1 g or less of saturated fat.
High-Quality Bars Come from Whole Food Ingredients
When it comes to figuring out if a food is healthy, the first thing you should do is look at the ingredients list. What you want to look for is a list filled with only ingredients that you might have in your own pantry or could find easily in a grocery store. Some ingredients that you want to see in breakfast bars are whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
On the other hand, when looking for ingredients to avoid, it’s best to stay away from almost everything else. Unfamiliar chemicals, preservatives, and flavorings are especially prevalent in breakfast bars, so be sure to double check before you buy.
Avoid Added Sugars (as Much as Possible, Anyway)
Traditionally, breakfast bars were more like candy than meal replacements. Obviously, too much sugar isn’t good for you, but it can be hard to outright avoid it. After all, savory breakfast bars don’t seem to be a thing quite yet. You can, however, pick your sugars wisely. Read the ingredients list to see where the sweetness is coming from, and think of it like a hierarchy.
The best kind of sugars come from whole fruits. If a bar only has fruit-based sugars, that’s great! The next best kind of sugars are natural sweeteners like cane sugar, honey, and agave.
Finally, the sugars that you want to avoid are artificial sugars–the ingredients ending in -ose like glucose, sucralose, and fructose–as well as sugar alcohols that end in -tol like xylitol, sorbitol, and mannitol, which can cause uncomfortable bloating for some.
Keep in Mind Your Own Dietary Needs and Preferences
Just because you’re looking for a convenient, pre-prepared bite doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice your dietary preferences. There are bars that are certified gluten-free, kosher, vegan, non-GMO, and so much more. So be on the lookout for official certification stamps if you need or prefer one or the other.
Top 10 Best Healthy Breakfast Bars to Buy Online
Now that you know what to look for, you’ve probably still got dozens of options that seem like they could work. If you’re suffering from choice paralysis, here’s our 10 favorites to help you cut down the decision making a bit.
10. RiseBar Almond Honey High Protein Bar (12 Count)
High Calorie, High Protein Fuel
For those looking to fuel a morning workout, this bar is a great, protein-packed alternative to traditional chemical-filled protein bars. Plus it comes in seven flavors and has a better texture and taste than other protein bars.
However, for those not working out, this bar may be a bit too high in calories, fat, and sugar for just your average morning. There are also better tasting options without protein powder for those who don’t need it.
|Nutrition||Calories: 280, Fat: 16g, Sodium: 25mg, Carbohydrate: 20g, Sugar: 13g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 20g|
|Ingredients||Almonds, honey, whey protein isolate|
9. Heartbar Oatmeal Square (12 Count)
Heart Healthy Bar with Phytosterols
These heart-healthy bars are full of whole grains, fruits, and phytosterols, which are shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re chewy like a soft cookie and come in 9 flavors.
However, this bar does have a rather long ingredients list that includes a few artificial ingredients like maltodextrin, vegetable glycerine, and soy lecithin. So if you’re looking for a more whole foods bar, this probably isn’t the one for you.
|Nutrition||Calories: 190, Fat: 6g, Sodium: 110mg, Carbohydrate: 29g, Sugar: 11g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 6g|
|Ingredients||Whole rolled oats, dried banana, natural sweeteners, expeller pressed sunflower oil, walnuts, maltodextrin, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Brown rice syrup, cane syrup|
8. KIND Breakfast Bars (32 Count)
Whole Grain Bars to Tuck Away for Later
These chewy whole grain bars will fill you up and keep you going for hours. They come in small packs of two, which make them more compact and easier to stash in a pocket.
However, some reviewers note that the texture can be a little off-putting to some–not crunchy but not exactly soft and chewy either, and it requires a bit of jaw work to really break it down. Of course, chewing more can also make you feel fuller more quickly.
|Nutrition||Calories: 230, Fat: 11g, Sodium: 135mg, Carbohydrate: 28g, Sugar: 8g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 5g|
|Ingredients||Oats, dried cane syrup, peanuts, canola oil, brown rice flour, oat flour, peanut butter (peanuts, salt), gum acacia, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Dried cane syrup|
7. Larabar Fruit & Nut Bar, Cashew Cookie (16 Count)
Just Fruits and Nuts
Larabars are made completely from whole food ingredients, and this one has just two: cashews and dates. They’re sweet, chewy and don’t taste “healthy.” They come in over 20 different flavors so you’ll never get bored.
However, they can be quite sweet and have a relatively high-fat content given their all fruit and nut ingredients. Some reviewers also note that boxes sometimes arrive expired.
|Nutrition||Calories: 220, Fat: 12g, Sodium: 5mg, Carbohydrate: 25g, Sugar: 15g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 5g|
|Certified||Gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, soy-free, dairy-free|
6. Health Warrior Chia Bars, Coconut (15 Count)
Tiny, Chia Seed Bars
Thanks to chia seeds, these little bars are packed full of omega-3s, protein, minerals, and fiber. About half the size of your average breakfast bar, these are perfect for light eaters or a mid-morning pick-me-up.
However, given that they’re half the size but about the same price as any other breakfast bar, if you do need to eat more than one, you’re paying twice as much for the calories.
|Nutrition||Calories: 100, Fat: 6g, Sodium: 50mg, Carbohydrate: 13g, Sugar: 3g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 3g|
|Ingredients||White chia seeds, brown rice syrup, cashew butter, unsweetened coconut, organic brown rice crisps, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Brown rice syrup|
|Certified||Kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan|
5. Probar Meal Bar, Superfood Slam (12 Count)
Nutrient-Dense, All Morning Energy
These high-calorie, 90% organic bars are filled with nuts, fruits, and whole grains for a full morning of sustained energy and are perfect for those exercising or doing physical work.
However, at over $30 for a box of 12, they are quite expensive and may not be a worthwhile investment for some people. Additionally, some reviewers have found issues with freshness when ordering online.
|Nutrition||Calories: 370, Fat: 18g, Sodium: 25mg, Carbohydrate: 47g, Sugar: 23g, Fiber: 6g, Protein: 10g|
|Ingredients||Brown rice syrup, oats, peanut butter, peanuts, dates, sunflower seeds, dried cane syrup, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Brown rice syrup, dried cane syrup|
|Certified||Non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free|
4. RxBar Real Food Protein Bar, Peanut Butter & Berries (12 Count)
High Protein without Chalky Protein Powders
These bars are full of whole food ingredients that make for a protein-rich, well-balanced breakfast. They are filling and delightfully chewy thanks to the dates.
This particular bar is peanut butter and jelly-inspired, but RxBar also produces a number of different, equally high-protein flavors, which you’ve probably seen near checkout counters at every cafe and grocery store recently.
|Nutrition||Calories: 200, Fat: 7g, Sodium: 135mg, Carbohydrate: 25g, Sugar: 15g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 12g|
|Ingredients||Dates, peanuts, egg whites, raspberries, natural flavors, sea salt|
|Certified||Kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free|
3. Blake’s Seed Based Snack Bar – Raspberry (12 Count)
Allergy-Friendly Breakfast Bars
These bars are great for those with allergies as they are free from the top eight common allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat.
On top of that, they taste good, and thanks to all of the seeds, the texture makes them really enjoyable to eat as well. These bars also come in three different flavors if raspberry isn’t your thing.
|Nutrition||Calories: 150, Fat: 6g, Sodium: 30mg, Carbohydrate: 20g, Sugar: 7g, Fiber: 5g, Protein: 4g|
|Ingredients||Seeds, chickpeas, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, crisp rice, apple, soluble tapioca fiber, raspberry, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice|
|Certified||Vegan, gluten-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, soy-free, wheat-free|
2. LivBar Organic All Natural Macro Snack Bar, Lemongrass Cherry Matcha (12 Count)
Organic Bars to Take Anywhere
These bars are good for you and the earth. They’re handmade in small batches in Oregon, come in compostable wrappers, and are certified organic.
For the adventurous, these bars are great to take with you anywhere as they don’t freeze or melt and have a shelf life of 9 months. If you’re culinarily adventurous too, they come in a variety of unique flavors that you’re unlikely to find elsewhere.
|Nutrition||Calories: 220, Fat: 14g, Sodium: 43mg, Carbohydrate: 15g, Sugar: 8g, Fiber: 4g, Protein: 7g|
|Ingredients||Coconut nectar, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, dates, hemp seeds, virgin coconut oil, and others|
|Added Sweeteners||Coconut nectar, coconut sugar|
|Certified||Organic, vegan, non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free, corn-free|
1. This Bar Saves Lives Breakfast Bar, Madagascar Vanilla Almond & Honey (12 Count)
Good for You, Good for Humanity
These tasty bars are full of nuts, whole grains, and fruits that you can see in every bite. They’re crisp and chewy without being hard and aren’t too sweet.
On top of being good for you, proceeds from every bar go toward food aid for children in developing nations as well as within the United States, so you can feel extra good about your breakfast.
|Nutrition||Calories: 180, Fat: 6g, Sodium: 70mg, Carbohydrate: 22g, Sugar: 6g, Fiber: 7g, Protein: 4g|
|Ingredients||Nut and seed mix, chicory root fiber, honey, toasted oats, crisp rice, natural flavors, sunflower oil, and others|
|Certified||Kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free|
So there you have it–a quick guide to healthy breakfast bars that’ll keep you full and sustained all morning long. When it comes to choosing a breakfast bar, there’s a lot of options that can actually cause you to be more hungry and more tired, so it’s important to take the time to figure out what’s good and what isn’t.
By Jacqueline Oshiro
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