Healthier alternatives to PowerBars?
January 25, 2010 8:25 AM   Subscribe

Healthier alternatives to PowerBars?

I used to keep PowerBars in my bag and office until a friend pointed out how much sugar is in them. Most of the competing products sold at my local grocery store seem to have the same issue. So I'll probably just have to order a box of something online.

Suggestions? Basically, I'm looking for something relatively healthy and nonperishable that I can keep in my purse, backpack, or office and eat as a quick meal substitute when I don't have time to prepare or go out for real food. It would be nice if it didn't taste nasty.

posted by Jacqueline to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe make your own?
posted by the dief at 8:26 AM on January 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Kashi TLC granola bars or Luna Bars.
posted by umbĂș at 8:28 AM on January 25, 2010

Response by poster: No time to make my own anything.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:31 AM on January 25, 2010

A handful of nuts or a dried fruit and nuts mixture would taste great, have lots of protein and fiber, some carbs to keep you going, and would be cheap compared to some packaged bar that needs a lot of syrup and/or oil to stay pressed in a bar shape.
posted by maudlin at 8:32 AM on January 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ack! "For "cheap" above, read "healthy".
posted by maudlin at 8:33 AM on January 25, 2010

Think Thin has no sugar and 20g of protein. I read about them from Madonna's old trainer. You can order them at
posted by shaarog at 8:34 AM on January 25, 2010

I like larabars for this purpose.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:36 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Kashi TLC bars. I keep them everywhere. They're tasty, and pretty healthy to boot. I personally like the Trail Mix the best, which contains only six grams of sugar.
posted by General Malaise at 8:43 AM on January 25, 2010

I really like Kind bars. I like that you can see the fruit and nuts. I don't think it could be a meal replacement though, but that alone or with a yogurt or piece of fruit can be enough to tide you over to your next meal.

If you need another idea for keep in your office drawers snack, I suggest cinnamon rice cakes and almond butter.
posted by spec80 at 8:46 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also eat Lara Bars. I particularly like the Cashew, Peanut Butter, and Chocolate.
posted by hazyspring at 8:48 AM on January 25, 2010

Bumblebars are amazing and energy-packed. They use rice syrup to bind them together. My favourite is the hazelnut flavour, which has 19g of carbs, 11g of which are sugars. I also like the apricot and many others. They're made by a smallish company in Washington State.

Yum, now I am wishing that I had a source close to me. Maybe I should order a box for myself...
posted by urbanlenny at 8:51 AM on January 25, 2010

Go to a store where they sell protein powder and the like, and pick up some meal replacement bars (Myoplex, Met-Rx, generic GNC brand, etc). Some taste better than others, so pick up a variety of flavors and brands the first time around. Read the labels - seems all of them contain more fat than what you might expect, but some have less than others. They usually clock in at about 300 calories, with around 20g of carbs and 20+g of protein, which is a pretty reasonable "meal".
posted by jclovebrew at 8:52 AM on January 25, 2010

Odwalla bars are pretty daggum tasty, and are fairly widely available. If I remember right, they have a whole lot less sugar than Powerbars.
posted by piedmont at 8:55 AM on January 25, 2010

If it's just a matter of sugar content, PowerBar has a line of bars with reduced sugar. You can get them from Amazon.
posted by amarynth at 9:05 AM on January 25, 2010

The big deal with Powerbars is, in addition to the sweetness, the fact that they're sort of heavy on things you need for exercise but not so much for sitting at a desk. I have a dented can store near me and I look for the food bars that are for Atkins folks so they have decent protein but not so much sugar. I'll also eat half of one if I'm just looking to stay alive and finish work and am planning to go out and eat healthy real soon.

Other options are non-fat yogurt [i like the greek stuff] with protein powder if you have a fridge. Protein powder sprinkled over nuts is good [but bulky, make sure you eat fiber too like an apple or carrot otherwise you'll get all constipated], soy nuts, or sliced apple and some cheese.
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Totally from another direction - I used to keep small cans of tuna/chicken/seafood, in those packs that come with 3 crackers and a tiny little knife for spreading. I found some that used fat-free mayo, which made it seem more healthy to me.

That webpage also shows cans of beef stew, soup, beefaroni, and shelf-stable packs of pot roast, which are all good non-perishable options. When our kitchen was being remodeled we discovered a whole aisle of non-perishable ready-to-eat foods. Maybe some of those would work for you.
posted by CathyG at 9:20 AM on January 25, 2010

Seconding jessamyn - my emergency desk-drawer stash contains Atkins peanut butter bars. Half of one will get me through to dinner when I'm starving. Also, little single-serving size bags of roasted, unsalted almonds, which don't have as long of a shelf life as bars.

Unlike the Think Thins, the Atkins ones are sweetened with Splenda. The sugar alcohols used in the Think Thins can cause, er, gastric distress for sensitive folks like myself.
posted by chez shoes at 9:34 AM on January 25, 2010

Larabars. Absolutely delicious.
posted by csimpkins at 9:41 AM on January 25, 2010

Seconding Jessamyn on Atkins. Also check out Weight Watchers' bars. These won't likely be in the same area of the store as Power Bars. Usually they are with snacks and cookies. Also hit the medical areas. There are several brands of food made for diabetics. You can find some fairly healthy stuff there and you certainly don't need to be a diabetic to eat them.
posted by caddis at 9:50 AM on January 25, 2010

Can you prep sandwiches at the office? E.g. with hummus, peanut butter, almond spread, or vegemite. Even nutella, which I find is a nice treat.

Seriously though. I myself went through a few weeks of substituting lunch or dinner with processed and packaged food such as Kashi nut bars. The intersection of actually healthy food and nonperishable food is a very small set. I think maybe canned beans are in it. So, *perhaps* it would be useful to revisit the idea of planning ahead to obtain fresh, albeit perishable, meals, which would be better for human health (and maybe sanity) in the long run.
posted by polymodus at 10:15 AM on January 25, 2010

Larabars taste great, but having made them myself I can assure you they're mostly dates, which are super sugary. One of the Larabar Cherry Pie bars has 21g of sugar for 190cal., and I always find I want to eat two since they're pretty small.

If you're avoiding sugar and want something truly healthy and filling, I would go with one of the other snack suggestions - like a protein (nuts, tuna, whatever.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:44 AM on January 25, 2010

So I'm actually wondering this too, and it would be great if any of the answers in the thread provided an answer to the above question, which is a quest for healthier alternatives to PowerBars.

20% of your DV of saturated fat [see also] isn't healthier than some extra sugar.

Not to hijack the thread, but does anyone know of a good-tasting protein bar under 200 calories where P > S+SA+F ?
posted by jock@law at 11:01 AM on January 25, 2010

Another version of homemade healthier power bars. This website has great healthy whole grain recipes.
posted by kms at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2010

Sorry didn't see the no time comment. My apologies!
posted by kms at 11:06 AM on January 25, 2010

I had some Atkins-oriented bars once, and I had terrible wind all day afterwards. Apparently, it's due to all the maltitol. that might be something to bear in mind.
posted by Solomon at 11:23 AM on January 25, 2010

Veggie jerquee. It's a bit of an acquired taste I think but I love 'em. Comes in handy single serving packets and you can buy 'em by the box right from Lumen Foods. You can usually find the single serving packs in health food stores if you want to try before you buy.
posted by chairface at 11:32 AM on January 25, 2010

Yes, beware the sugar alcohols such as maltitol. The amount in one bar is probably fine for most people but it has laxative properties in high doses.
posted by caddis at 12:34 PM on January 25, 2010

Fiber One bars are pretty good, I find; maybe not as proteiny as you want, but they'll tide you over.
posted by lakeroon at 12:49 PM on January 25, 2010

I used to throw together bags of beef/bison/turkey jerky (get the kind with no sugar or little sugar), assorted nuts (from bulk), and dried fruit. Make sure that fruit is not coated in sugar and is not fried, but only freeze dried or air-dried. Like This.

If even that amount of effort is out of the question - I would choose SuperProtein odwalla bars. Cans of tuna are also awesome.
posted by jopreacher at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2010

Here is a good mix and match trail mix recipe that takes five minutes to prep. 1/4 cup serving is about 100 calories and one batch should last all week.

1) Cereal (1/2 cup)

Any dry cereal. I use puffed rice or puffed millet, or sometimes granola. Those without my allergy restrictions can feel free to use any small, bite-sized cereal

2) Protein (1/2 cup)

Any nut or seed, or any combination. I use peanuts, soy nuts or sunflower seeds, again due to allergies. Those without nut issues can go crazy.

3) Extra (1/2 cup)

I use raisins, craisins or a combination. You could also use chocolate chips, M&Ms or any other small candy-type thing.

4) Optional (1/2 cup)

For those without wheat issues (I have wheat issues) feel free to add an extra 1/2 cup of corn nuts, pretzel twigs, fish crackers or other bite-sized carby thing.

Toss it all into a large, sealable container (mason jars work well) and measure out 1/4 cup at a time when the munchies hit. Seriously, this takes about 5 minutes to make and you can change it up so easily by just buying a different cereal or extra.
posted by JoannaC at 3:50 PM on January 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tinned sardines on crackers are a lot tastier than you'd think they'd be! King Oscar Mediterranean style is the bomb. Nuts and hardboiled eggs are very filling, too.
posted by aquafortis at 11:08 PM on January 25, 2010

Sugar alcohol gives me gas.

And if I have to much, it gives me the runs.

That's what sugar alcohol does.

That said, I enjoy a Pure Protein bar from time to time. 200 calories, 6 fat/3 sat fat, 3 sugar, 6 sugar alcohol, 20 protein for a smaller bar.

The larger bars have the same ratios, but bigger numbers.

That squeeks by the P > S + SA + F requirement, and has low sugar alcohols, which means less gastro-intestinal distress.

They're not as tasty as the others, but that's because the have less sugar & fat. The peanut butter ones are the best, one or two other flavors I like, the rest are just sort of tolerable.

Fiber One bars also give me gas. Must be a lot of sugar alcohol in them to make them taste so damn sweet.
posted by MesoFilter at 12:54 AM on January 27, 2010

I just ate an Atkins Apple Crisp Day Break bar. Delicious, and 130 calories, 5g fat (although 2g saturated, probably from the palm kernel oil, wtf), 2g sugar, 7g fiber, 10g protein and 3g sugar alcohols. Not bad.
posted by caddis at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2010

My absolute favorite meal replacement bar is Power Crunch. They are fairly low carb (10g) and have a decent amount of protein (15g). They also have a fairly high amount of fat (11g). However, the fat is a big part of the reason that they are so satisfying. I can eat one of those bars at 4pm and I'm not hungry until dinner at 7 or 7:30. The have Splenda, but no sugar alcohols (which give many people tummy rumbles).

And the vanilla and chocolate flavors are truly yummy.
posted by 26.2 at 9:29 AM on February 1, 2010

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