How Nutrition Bars Compare to Candy Bars

How do nutrition bars compare to candy bars.

ByABC News
July 16, 2015, 11:04 AM
A woman eats a granola bar after exercise.
A woman eats a granola bar after exercise.
Getty Images

— -- Nutrition bars are a quick snack for many grown-ups and kids, and Americans spent $1.2 billion on them last year. But just how healthy are nutrition bars?

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told KIND brand nutrition bars to stop using the world “healthy” because the term is reserved for foods that are relatively low in fat.

No KIND bar has fewer than 4 grams of sugar. Indeed, some have 16 grams.

“So the issue with the bars is that really, they're full of sugar, fat and salt,” Maya Feller, a registered dietician/nutritionist, said.

Good Morning America” looked at popular bars and picked two – a Larabar brand bar and Clif bar -- that each had more than 200 calories. Feller analyzed them, and compared the Larabar to a Kit Kat bar.

The KitKat bar had 3 grams of protein, 11 of fat and 21 of sugar, with a total of 210 calories. The Larabar had 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 23 grams of sugar, with a total of 200 calories.

The chocolate-chip brownie Larabar does have more fiber, but Feller said they two offerings are “quite similar.”

She then compared the Clif bar – with macadamia nuts and white chocolate – to a Reese’s peanut butter cups and an egg white.

Even after adding the egg white to match up the protein, Feller said the Clif bar still had more calories and fat.

The Clif bar had 9 grams of protein, 7 of fat, and 21 of sugar, with a total of 260 calories.

The Reese’s plus the egg white had 8.6 grams of protein, 5 of fat, and 21 of sugar, for a total of 227 calories.

“GMA” reached out to the manufacturers of the Larabar, who said their bar had only real food ingredients, including dates, semi-sweet chocolate chips, almonds, walnuts, cocoa powder and sea salt.

"Which of these ingredients would your nutritionist not recommend as individual food?” they said in a statement.

The makers of the Clif bar said their bar “is an energy bar specifically crafted for athletes and active people to deliver balanced nutrition and a convenient source of sustained energy."

Feller suggested that air-popped popcorn, nuts, boiled eggs and fruit can be just as easily packed as a nutrition bar.

"Go for a fresh, unprocessed, whole food,” she said.