Is Your Snack Bar Just Candy in Camouflage? Here's Exactly How to Tell

According to a Registered Dietitian, these are the three ingredients to avoid.

When it comes to convenience, nothing beats a snack bar. Their pre-packaged, lightweight nature makes them perfectly portable, and they’re often packed with delicious, nutritious ingredients that’ll help stave off hunger until the next real meal.

That being said, some popular protein and granola bars aren’t much better than eating a Snickers, nutritionally speaking. They’re often filled with sugar and artificial ingredients; others are so filling they can outweigh your entire lunch. (Unless you’re hiking up a mountain, you can probably skip the meal replacement bars.)

But in a crowded marketplace with endless imposters posing as nutritious, picking a real-deal healthy snack bar—particularly one that doesn’t taste like cardboard—is daunting at best. Where to start?

“Look for a snack bar that has a nice balance of fiber, fat, and protein to increase the chances it will keep you satiated,” says Molly Kimball, RD. “It should have an appropriate amount of calories for your needs. For most, this ranges from 150 to 300 with at least 10 grams of protein.” We’re big fans of KIND, RX Bar, and Kashi in this department—they taste great, too.

Red flags? Kimball advises avoiding snack bars that contain the following three ingredients.

01 of 03

Organic Cane Juice

This is just a sneaky source of sugar (others to avoid are dextrose and maltose). Obviously, sugar is a hot topic in snack bars. To tell if yours goes overboard, check the nutrition label: If there are more than 10 grams of sugar in your bar, scan the ingredients. If the sugar isn’t coming from fruit, skip it.

02 of 03


This is a type of sugar alcohol commonly found in protein bars and candy. According to Kimball, it can cause gas, bloating, and have a laxative effect—talk about no fun. Other types of sugar alcohols to avoid are mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol.

03 of 03

Brown Rice Syrup

This is another form of sugar—and a very common ingredient in some of the most popular protein bars on the market. “In addition to the fact that it lacks any nutrients whatsoever, brown rice syrup acts like 100 percent glucose inside your body,” explains Kimball.

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  1. Saraiva A, Carrascosa C, Raheem D, Ramos F, Raposo A. Maltitol: analytical determination methods, applications in the food industry, metabolism and health impacts.  Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(14):5227. doi:10.3390/ijerph17145227

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