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My Favorite Meal Replacement Bars

On really hectic days, when I don’t have time to stop for a proper meal, I rely on my “emergency back-ups” - meal replacement bars I can pack in my bag and enjoy on the go.


It seems like every time I go to Whole Foods, the energy bar aisle has expanded! When you’re facing a wall of them, it can be a little intimidating – which one should you choose? Well, I have a 3 step process for sorting through the options:


1)    Read the ingredient list first. I’ll only buy or recommend bars made from “whole food” ingredients. If it sounds like a science experiment rather than a recipe, it’s a no go. I think of it this way: if I was going to make a bar in my own kitchen, what would I put in it? Most of my favorites are packed with nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, and whole grains, like oats. I avoid brands that use sugar alcohols, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, and added stimulants.

2)    Next, check out the Nutrition Facts. To best control blood sugar, fill me up, help me feel energized, and delay the return of hunger, a bar should provide a balance of carbs (including some dietary fiber), protein, and healthy fat. I generally look for bars with about 25 grams of carbs, including at least 3 grams of fiber, and 5-10 grams each of protein and heart healthy fat.

3)    Finally, look at the calories. A balanced meal should provide somewhere between 350 and 500 calories (more when you’ll be more active in the hours after the meal, less when you’ll be less active). If a bar falls short, I try to pair it with something it doesn’t contain to round out my meal. For example, a 200 calorie bar made from fruit and nuts combined with a tall soy late brings my calorie total to 330 and ups my protein intake. And since most bars don’t contain veggies, my staples at lunch, I try to plan ahead and bring along a finger food version, like a container filled with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, or Bell peppers sliced into strips. 


Bars come in all kinds of flavors and textures, but right now my three favorites include (please note: I have no affiliation with these brands):



I haven’t tried a flavor I didn’t like, but the ones I look forward to most are Peanut Butter & Jelly (the only ingredients are: dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries and salt but each bar only contains 60 mg of sodium, 2% of the Daily Value) and Pistachio (the only ingredients are dates, pistachios and cashews!)


Nutrition Facts for Pistachio:

Calories – 220

Fat – 10 g

Saturated Fat – 1.5 g

Total Carbs – 32 g

Fiber – 5 g

Protein – 5 g


Clif Nectar
This bar has a much different texture than a Larabar, but they share a “clean” ingredient list. The only ingredients in the Dark Chocolate Walnut (yum!) are: organic dates, organic walnuts, organic unsweetened chocolate, organic cocoa, organic vanilla.


Nutrition Facts for Dark Chocolate Walnut:

Calories – 160

Fat – 10 g

Saturated Fat – 2 g

Total Carbs – 27 g

Fiber – 4 g

Protein – 6 g


Perfect 10

Of the five fruit flavors, I think I like the apricot best. The only ingredients include: dried unsulphered apricots, dates, figs, raw almonds, raw hazelnuts,
raw pecans, ground flax seeds, ground poppy seeds, raw
pumpkin seeds, raw sunflower seeds.


Nutrition Facts for Apricot:

Calories – 205

Fat – 10 g

Saturated Fat – 1 g

Total Carbs – 27 g

Fiber – 4 g

Protein – 5 g


Do you use bars as meal stand-ins or snacks? What do you look for and why? Please share your thoughts!


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