Energy, nutrition and cereal bars cost anywhere from a quarter to more than two dollars. But Americans managed to consume a billion-and-a-half dollars worth of these bars last year. They're not just in health food stores anymore — you'll find them in supermarkets, drugstores, gyms and even gas stations. Consumer Reports tested to see just how healthy they are.
These days it seems like there's a bar for everything and everyone. And people are buying more and more of them.
"They buy them individually. They buy them by the box. They buy them by the case."
Many of these bars are marketed as healthy snacks or meal replacements.
Consumer Reports' Erin Gudeux (PRON: guh-DOH) just took a look to see how healthy they really are — checking out two dozen
top-selling bars including ones from Balance and PowerBar.
Testers also looked at bars designed for specific diets, like the Zone, and at cereal bars like those from Quaker.
"No matter why you're picking up one of these bars — whether it's because you're too busy to stop for a meal, or you're trying to get a little energy boost before you work out, or whether it's part of some special diet, they may not be as healthy as you think."
For example, the Kashi (PRON: KAH-shee) Go Lean Bar has almost 8 teaspoons worth of sugars — that's more than you'd get from a pack of Peanut M&Ms.
And the Atkins Advantage bar has 7 grams of saturated fat — more than a Snickers bar.
Other bars were nutritional lightweights.
"The cereal and granola bars tended to be lighter on protein, and they had very little fiber."
The bars were also taste-tested, with varying results.
"The testers found that some of the bars — particularly the high protein bars — tended to have bitter and chemical flavors. Some of the bars were pretty tasty, almost like a candy bar."
But Consumer Reports says when it comes to these bars, you're better off with real food — like half a turkey sandwich and an apple.
Consumer Reports says it's not a good idea to make these bars a regular part of your diet. But they're a better option than skipping a meal altogether. If you're in a pinch, testers did find some decent tasting bars that are lower in saturated fat and a good source of fiber, such as the Clif Bar Chocolate Brownie and Power Bar Harvest Double Chocolate.