Which Kids’ Granola Bars Get Top Marks?

Granola bars are the ultimate convenience food and a best friend to many busy mothers.  I never leave home without a stash tucked in my bag and I pack one every day in my kid’s backpack before they head to school.  But with so many brands and flavors to choose from it’s hard to know which ones provide good nutrition and which are simply candy bars disguised as something healthier.  I decided to take a closer look at popular kids’ brands and see how they compare in terms of nutrition (see criteria below) and taste.

Calories: 150 kcals or less

Saturated fat: 1 g or less

Sugar: 8 g or less

Fiber: 3 g or more

Sodium: 140 mg or less

Protein: extra points for added protein

Size: not all granola bars are the same size (average weight is 34 grams), so don’t be fooled by a bar that seems low in calories and fat if it’s much smaller than the others.

I compared taste by asking the experts, a group of kids aged 4 to 8, to select their favorites from a selection of 14 bars with different textures (crunchy and chewy) and flavors.  The results were interesting.  In terms of flavor, anything with chocolate was the immediate winner, but buyer beware, as these bars tended to be higher in fat, sugar and calories proportionate to how much chocolate was added.  Caramel ranked second in popularity followed by peanut butter which contained more protein and fiber, but also more calories, sodium and total fat.  I also found that healthier sounding flavors like fruit or yogurt were not necessarily better for you if you look at their sugar content.  The least popular flavor was oatmeal raisin and chewy was the preferred texture over crunchy.

What was interesting is that I mixed in to the group some “adult” high fiber bars which ended up being the kids favorite picks in terms of flavor and which seemed to rank well in terms of overall nutrition until I read the ingredient label and found that some contained trans fats (although not enough to be listed on the food label).  So be sure to read the fine print and look out for any “partially hydrogenated” oils.  Don’t be sold by the health claims on the front of the box and use common sense.  Watch out for added ingredients that normally contain fat and sugar like M&M’s, marshmallows, candy, chocolate, sweet cereals or “yogurt”.  Just because they’re called “granola bars” doesn’t mean they’re healthy.

Granola bars are still one of my favorite snacks, but they’re not all created equal.

Ratings:

Each Bar got a point of 0 – 1 for both nutrition and taste.  0 = poor, ½ = good, 1 = great.

Add up nutrition + taste for a total score =
2 = Great nutritional profile and taste.
1 ½ = Runner-up.  Good nutritional profile although did not fulfill all criteria and good taste.
1 = Not a good pick, either nutrition or taste, or a little of both, is lacking.

Name and Brand Flavor Kcals per Bar Weight 

of bar

Total Fat Sat 

Fat

Sugar Fiber Sodium Protein Comments
Kashi TLC
Chewy Granola Bars
Peanut Peanut Butter 140 1.2oz
35g
5g 0.5g 5g 4g 85mg 7g 1 Nutrition – ½ Taste Great nutritional profile but not great taste. More hard and dry then chewy.
Clif Kids
Organic
Honey Graham 130 1.27oz
36g
2g 0.5g 10g 6g 95mg 3g 1 Nutrition – ½ Taste Low in fat and good amount of fiber, but tastes “wheaty”. Not a winner in the taste test.
Kashi TLC
Fruit and Grain Bars
Cranberry Walnut 120 1.1oz
32g
3g 0g 8g 4g 50mg 4g 1 Nutrition – ½ Taste Love the nutritional profile but the bars do not taste great.
Cascadian Farm Organic Chewy Granola Bars Chocolate Chip 140 1.2oz
35g
3.5g 1g 12g 1g 95mg 2g ½ Nutrition – 1 Taste Tastes good, but too high in sugar and low in fiber for top marks.
Fiber One Chewy Bars Oats & Caramel 140 1.4oz
40g
3.5g 1.5g 9g 9g 105mg 2g ½ Nutrition – 1 Taste Big, chewy bar that the kids loved and high in fiber, but it contains “fractionated palm kernel oil” so it loses ½ point.
Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars Oats & Honey 

 

190 1.5oz
42g
6g 0.5g 

 

 

12g 2g 

 

160mg 

 

 

4g ½Nutrition – 1 Taste 2 bars per pack so a good size, but higher in calories and sugar. Kids liked it but preferred peanut butter flavor which is higher in fat and sodium but lower in sugar and with extra protein due to the nuts.
Peanut Butter 190 7 g 1g 11g 2g 180 mg 5g
Kashi TLC Crunchy Granola Bar Roasted Almond Crunch 170 1.4oz
40g
6g 0.5g 8g 4g 150mg 6g ½Nutrition – 1 Taste The cashews give it more protein and fiber, but it’s high in calories and sodium. Crumbly texturebut tasty.
Quaker Chewy Oatmeal Raisin 

 

90 .84oz 1.5g 

 

 

0g 7g 1g 80mg 1g ½Nutrition – 1 Taste No saturated fat and low in sugar and calories, but it’s a small bar and didn’t pass the kid’s taste test. Chocolate chip was more popular but has 10 more calories and 1 g of sat fat.
Chocolate Chip 100 24g 3g 1g 7g 1g 75mg 1g
Nature Valley Chewy Yogurt Granola Bars Vanilla Yogurt 140 1.2oz
35g
4g 2g 14g 1g 95mg 2g ½Nutrition – 1 Taste Yogurt makes it tastes good, but also adds sugar and fat without the fiber.
Nature valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bars Cashew 160 1.2oz
35g
7g 2.5g 12g 1g 125mg 2g ½Nutrition – 1 Taste Tastes good but high in calories, fat and sugar, low in fiber.
Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Cereal Bars Apple Cinnamon 120 1.3oz
37g
3g 0.5g 12g 3g 110mg 2g ½Nutrition – ½ Taste Super soft (mushes too easily), high in sugar and not a winner with the kids, but 1st ingredient is “whole” grain oats.
Quaker Fiber & Omega-3Bars Dark Chocolate Chunk 120 1.23oz 

35g

4g 2g 8g 9g 55mg 2g 0Nutrition – 1 Taste The bar looks great nutritionally and the kids loved it, but it contains trans fats. Too bad!
Kellogg’s Special K Bar Chocolate Drizzle 90 0.81oz
23g
1.5g 1g 6g 3g 95mg <1g 0Nutrition – 1 Taste Small bar but kids seem to like it, pretty good nutritional profile, but contains trans fats.
Quaker Chewy Dipps Chocolate Covered Bars Chocolate Chip 140 1.10oz
31 g
6g 4g 12g 1g 85mg 2g 0Nutrition – 1 Taste Kids like it because it’s dipped in chocolate, but it’s low in fiber and high in sugar and fat and contains trans fats.

Comments

  1. Alyssa says:

    There’s one more that’s a huge hit at our house – Cliff Bars kid version, Z-Bars. They’re made with oats & whole grains, have a bit of chocolate and are low in fat/calories. They’re filling with only the good stuff in them. Even I eat them for a snack!

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