Taste Tests

We taste the leading brands to find the distinct differences and rate them with tasting scores.

Taste Test: Granola Bars (and Friends)

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: Taste Test: Granola Bars (and Friends)

[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Sometimes, you just have to eat a granola bar. Maybe you want a rib-eye steak, but you're stuck on a wildernessy trail or just at your cubicle, and the rectangular snack is all you got.

There was a day when the Quaker Chewys were the leader of the pack. But the granola bar aisle has come a long way, expanding into bars with flax seed, exotic dried fruits (exotic as in, beyond just raisins), and pumpkin seeds (when it's not even October!).

We decided to open up the tasting to snack bars too—the kind that float somewhere in between granola bars and energy bars (but don't contain maltodextrin and other polysyllabic, scary-sounding protein supplements). We tried about 20 bars, in search of the most satisfying ones that didn't just taste like candy. No offense, candy, but this isn't your taste test. Our favorite bars, after the jump.

The Winners

Chewy
Kashi TLC Trail Mix
Nature Valley Trail Mix
18 Rabbits

Crunchy
Kashi's Crunchy Pumpkin Spice Flax
Cascadian Farm Crunchy Harvest Spice

The Oat-Less Fruit and Nut Bars*
KIND Bars
Glenny's Fruit & Nut Energy Bars

*Now, you may not consider these real granola bars. There's no granola in there (or at least, oats, the granola building block), but they do contain other things that appear in granola, like whole nuts and dried fruit. We included them in this tasting since they're not exactly "energy bars" either.

And the Winner: KIND Bars

20100422-kindbar.jpg

This KIND Bar story is more inspiring than your average granola bar genesis story. They were first conceived in 2003 by Daniel Lubetzky, a social entrepreneur who started PeaceWorks, a "not-only-for-profit" company that fosters economic cooperation among neighbors trying to co-exist in conflict regions. He was craving a wholesome snack, and out came the KIND. (The company is now independent from PeaceWorks.)

It's exciting to be able to pronounce (and see!) all the ingredients listed on the back wrapper: nuts, dried fruit, honey, and in some cases coconut flakes. Disclaimer: they will stay wedged in your teeth for hours. Because of all those nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts, and peanuts, depending on the flavor) each bar is higher in fat than the Kashis and Nature Valleys of the world, but hey, it's happy fat! The unsaturated kind.

All the sweetness comes from the dried fruit: the dates (in the Date and Walnut) and the apricots (in the Almond and Apricot). They're tasty and—oftentimes just as important when it comes to bars—filling. Even if you're not a "bar person" you might like these.

The facts: An Almond & Apricot bar has 11 grams of fat, 170 calories, 5 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

Price: $1.99 per bar. They're available at many stores, and now even Starbucks, as part of a new healthy snack initiative.

Check out what our tasters thought of each bar in the slideshow above »

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