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Energy Bar Lineup: Which Is Best?

With the start of school and the fall sports season comes the usual scramble by parents to find a nutritious snack to throw in their child's backpack or sports bag before they go off to school. . Lots of parents throw an energy bar into their child's backpack or sports bag before they go off to school so they have a nutritious alternative to the empty calories of a candy bar from the vending machine in the cafeteria.

But all energy bars are not created equal. Here at MomsTeam we have tried out many bars and have chosen 9 high protein options that will help ensure that your young athlete is eating healthy and has the energy for after-school sports.

What to look for

In undertaking our review we considered three main factors: the nutrition facts and ingredients listed on the label, how the bars tasted and how long the bars kept us full after eating one on an empty stomach.

Clif Builder's Bar - Chocolate Mint

Clif's high protein offering was already one our favorites. The crunchy-layered bottom and the chewy, chocolate-coated top tasted great, much like a thin mint Girl Scout cookie. The bar contains 20 grams of soy protein, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, 8 grams of fat, 230 mg of sodium and 200 mg of potassium. The ingredients list is loaded with organic items, none of which are hard to pronounce. On an empty stomach, the 270-calorie bar kept me full over two hours, perfect for after lunch/before practice or after practice/before dinner.

Grade: A

thinkThin - Brownie Crunch

We were not familiar with the think brand, but their bar advertised 20 grams of soy and whey protein, and no sugar or gluten and that caught our eye. It contains 27 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fat, 150 mg of sodium and 150 mg of potassium. The bar's ingredient list checked out as well; no red flags (artificial ingregients, corn syrup etc.). After eating one an empty stomach, the bar only kept me satisfied for a little over an hour. The flavor was light, like carob, but the texture was a bit too mealy for my taste, and we felt that children, who are often picky eaters, might not like it as much as some of the other bars.

Grade: B

Power Crunch - Triple Chocolate High Protein Crème Filled Wafer

Another bar we hadn't seen before was BNRG's Power Crunch. Our initial reaction was that it tasted exactly like a Kit Kat bar! We loved the taste, but surprisingly, the sugar content was lower than many of the other bars, clocking in at 4 grams per serving. The fat content, however, was slightly higher at 13 grams. The bar advertises a blend of proteins that is easily absorbed and used by the body. Still, given the fact that it contains lower amounts of carbohydrate and protein than the other protein bars, I would classify the Power Crunch bar as more of a treat than a energy bar that will keep a kid going.

Grade: B+

Promax - Double Fudge Brownie

The Promax bar was larger than most of the other bars, and it's packaging suggested that, yes!, I was about to eat a large molten chocolate covered brownie! Although the taste and texture of the bar beneath the wrapper wasn't at all like a real brownie, it still tasted chocolately and smooth, not as grainy as some bars. The nutritional content of the Promax bar is pretty good (lots of protein, vitamins and minerals), but on the downside, it also is high in sugar. One look at the ingredients reveals the culprit: corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup; both typically frowned upon, especially so high up the list. We felt that other bars were able to achieve better taste without so much sugar, but that the Promax bar was still a good choice, if it is going to be a long time between meals. We recommend eating half before practice and saving the other half for afterwards.

Grade: C+

Muscle Milk - Chocolate Peanut Caramel

Covered in chocolate, oozing with caramel; any kid would eat this bar ... but should they? The Muscle Milk bar has the most protein of any of the bars we tested. It also has the most calories and saturated fat. Corn syrup and artificial flavors made their way onto the ingredient list, nestled in between numerous natural ingredients. The bar is huge, and kept us full for hours. This is a bar that I would choose in a blind taste test, however, I would not recommend it after reading the nutrition facts.

Grade: C

Kashi GOLEAN Chewy Protein & Fiber Bar - Cookies and Cream

We thought that the Kashi's GOLEAN bar was on par with Builder's bar for excellent taste and filling ability, and surprise, we could actually recognize some of the ingredients just by looking at the bar! The nutrition facts calmed our nerves, rather than sending us to Google the chemical sounding ingredients. Kashi produces an outstanding line of products, and Youth Sports Parents recommends the CRUNCH! line of bars as well. GOLEAN bars are delicious, all natural, and slightly smaller, for smaller stomachs.

Grade: A

Odwalla - Super Protein

Although the ingredients list of Odwalla's Super Protein bar reads like it was written by a health food guru, the indiscernible, slightly odd taste of the bar immediately turned us off. Despite having some of the best credentials of all the bars we tested, the taste and texture of the bar was off-putting. For those who can look past the taste aspect (hard to when you are trying to get kids to eat one), the bar is quite nutritious and would be a great snack.

Grade: C+

Kind Fruit+Nut - Macadamia and Apricot

Although not exactly a protein bar, Kind's Fruit and Nut bars are wonderfully simple, and good tasting. The Macadamia and Apricot bar is made up of all natural ingredients (most are whole foods), and it is sweetened with honey, rather than sugar or corn syrup. Though at first glance, the bar seems to have a lot of fat, the fat is from nuts, which are great for a growing body and for strengthening the heart.

Grade: A+

Clif Bar - Carrot Cake

The original Clif Bar line is like an old friend, indispensable for soccer games or hiking packs alike. Although not especially high in protein, (10g), it still impresses us with it's low fat/sodium, high fiber and carbohydrates, and 23 vitamins and minerals. The bar is made out of 70% organic ingredients, is sweetened with organic brown rice syrup for long-lasting energy, rather than a sugar rush/crash, and some how manages to still taste great. On an empty stomach the bar kept me full for roughly two hours. Though not a new product, the original Clif Bar still impresses us.

Grade: A

PureFit-Chocolate Brownie

PureFit caught our attention with it's vegan, kosher, no wheat/no gluten/no dairy, high protein (18 grams), low glycemic index chocolate brownie bar.  The bar, which is made out of all natural ingredients tastes good, possibly a bit dry, but chocolaty and satisfying, and claims it won't melt, making it good for a long trip in a sports bag. Bottom line, kids will definitely like it and so will nutritionists.

Grade: A

What is your favorite bar? Please send us a quick e-mail so we may include it in our update. Send to delench@momsteam.com

Current as of September 19, 2013