Remember when granola bars were the height of healthy snacking? I always think that’s funny; the majority of granola bars out there—and protein bars, and other ostensibly nutritious snack bars—are little more than some dried oats tossed in sugar and preservatives. They may pack only 90 calories, but that’s 90 calories of essentially nothing—no wonder they don’t fill you up for more than five minutes!
Quaker, Special K and Nature Valley have given snack bars a bad name—but there are so so so so so many better options out there these days. Options that are minimally processed, made with real food and made without added sugars. Options that leave you feeling satisfied for a few hours afterward, like a good snack should.
Most of my favorites are raw foods bars, because these are the least processed and the most filling. I consider myself something of a raw foods bar connoisseur, in fact. And it’s high time I shared that expertise with y’all. For today’s health hack, I present you (in no particular order) with my four favorite raw snack / breakfast bars, plus one I highly recommend you avoid.
Larabar fruit and nut bars: The gold standard for raw foods snack bars, as far as I’m concerned. I discovered Larabars about three years ago, right when I was switching from a standard American diet to something a little healthier. And I was hooked. There was at least a year when I was almost never without a Larabar in my purse (it’s important to pack snacks in life), and at one point I had Amazon Subscribe-and-Save subscriptions to three different Larabar varieties at once. That’s what makes them kind of amazing—there are dozens of flavors, from carrot cake to pecan pie to chocolate peanut-butter chip. All are made from totally raw, unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices and fall in the 180-250 calorie range.
Raw Revolution live food bars: Another of my erstwhile snack staples, Raw Revolution bars are more dessert than breakfast or afternoon snack. Rich, gooey and a little bit oily, they come in flavors like “chocolate coconut bliss” and “cherry chocolate chunk.” The bite-size, 100-calorie bars make a perfect solution when you just want a little something sweet post-meal. And despite the decadent names and flavors, you can feel good about eating these, since they’re made from 100% raw, organic ingredients and things like cacao powder and spirulina. The spirulina and cashew is my favorite type, but that’s only because I’m a weirdo who doesn’t really like chocolate; most folks I know go for the chocolate varieties.
CORE Foods bars: I recently had the opportunity to sample some of the new raw foods bars from CORE Foods. Designed as ”meal replacement bars,” they fall on the opposite end of the raw snack spectrum from Raw Revolution; each bar packs 400 calories of raw oats, flax, nuts and fruits. All bars are gluten-free, though vegans take note—the ”warrior meal” variety is fortified with whey protein—and you’ll find no added sweeteners; these bars are sweetened solely with fruit and raisins. The company itself is pretty sweet, though—a non-profit, it uses only locally grown ingredients and recyclable packaging materials.
PURE bars: These aren’t a newcomer to the raw foods snack scene, but they’re new to me—and they’ve been known to replace Larabars in my purse these days. Like Larabar, they’re chewy and substantial and come in a good variety of flavors (cherry cashew, cranberry orange, blueberry, chocolate brownie). All are 100% gluten-free, vegan and organic, and ingredients are never heated above 118 degrees.
And one not to try ….
Go Raw bars: There are a lot of marginally bad or just okay (raw) snack bars out there, and if either of those descriptors fit Go Raw’s live food bars, I wouldn’t bother to mention them in this review. But the two times I’ve tried Go Raw bars, they have tasted like vomit. Seriously, one of the worst things I’ve ever tasted. Steer clear.