Some tasted pretty good, with notes of honey or caramel or cinnamon. Some edged toward weird, like the bar that was green inside.
ENERGY BARS are mainly a convenience. They pack in protein, carbs and whatever else you might need for a long run, an arduous hike, a quick snack. Some taste halfway decent. They also last a suspiciously long time.
I don’t know anyone who argues they are delicious. They are certainly popular. Just check out the energy-bar wall at Whole Foods. Whoa.
In the name of your health, nutrition and taste buds, my editor and I took on the challenge of finding the best-tasting energy bars among a sampling of a dozen familiar brands. We did a blind tasting, rating each bar 1 to 5 (the highest rating) based on flavor and texture, then added nutritional value and unique qualities into consideration. Some bars are organic, some are fair-trade, some are out to save the children, or at least feed them. Hello, Two Degrees bar.
It soon became apparent that my editor and I both like a good, crunchy texture and varied flavor, and dislike bars that veer toward overly chewy or squishy. My editor dubbed those bars “gooey chewy.” Some tasted pretty good, with notes of honey or caramel or cinnamon. Some edged toward weird, like the bar that was green inside.
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After tasting a few we wished we could forget we put in our mouths, we also had some winners.
We had a tie for first.
Caveman Cinnamon Pecan: This locally produced bar tastes like a bowl of oatmeal squished into a bar. With a great cinnamon and oat flavor, it is chewy in a good way. More than most of the bars, it resembled real food. The cinnamon pecan scored low on protein at 4 grams, but got extra kudos from us for featuring just four ingredients.
ThinkThin Crunch Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts: This mix of peanuts, almonds, cashews, chocolate and caramel scored high on caramel flavor balanced by just enough salt. The texture is crunchy and great. For such a sweet bar, it scored relatively low on sugar at 6 grams. But the ingredient list also had a few suspicious items, like soy lecithin.
Our runner-up was:
Clif Mojo Mountain Mix: The Mojo has the perfect blend of texture, salt and sweetness, though it could be argued that it looks rather like a candy bar dressed up as an energy bar. There are a few unrecognizable ingredients, but it sure does taste good; it’s 70 percent organic, too.
We had a few other contenders:
Green Superfood Chocolate Peanut Butter: The interior of this bar is — unfortunately and unappealingly — green. But despite being a little on the gooey chewy side, it was the best of the gluten-free bars.
Health Warrior Chia Bar Coconut: This tiny bar boasts the superseed of the moment: chia. It had a surprisingly decent texture from the chia seeds, and featured hints of vanilla and honey.
Larabar über Cherry Cobbler: Larabars have a lot of devotees due to their minimal ingredient list and generally tasty flavors. Our über bar had nuts that tasted past their prime, so you might be taking a gamble on this one. But it was still fruity and flavorful, and the bar also is non-GMO and gluten-free.
Conclusion: Chocolate doesn’t make energy bars better. Also, if one flavor in a line doesn’t work for you, try others. We learned the hard way you have to eat a lot of bars to find a few that you like. Good luck.