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Are Nature Valley Bars Healthy? What about Z Bar, Nutri-Grain, Clif Bar, Lara Bars, Chewy, and MadeGood?

are nature valley bars healthy and other snack bars for kids

Snack bars seem healthier than cookies, but are they? At Mama Knows Nutrition, one of the most common questions that pops up is, “is snack x,y, or z healthy?”

Today we’re looking at some of the popular snack bars you find at the grocery store. Jump to the one you’re looking for:

Related post: Looking for other bars? Check out this post to learn about RXBAR, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars, Yumi Bars, GoMacro Kids Bars, Bobo’s Oat Bars, Skout Bars, Dino Bars, Happy Wolf Bars and Cerebelly Smart Bars.

Our kids demand approximately 100 snacks per day. If you’re wondering if you’re choosing the “right” snack foods, you’re in the right place.

For a shopping list with all my favorite healthy bars and snacks for kids, click here!

I’m not telling you that if the nutrition isn’t stellar that your kids should never eat them. I’ll never say “never” to any food! It’s important to consider their preferences, and not nutrition alone.

But after reading this post you’ll have the skills to understand the nutrition label on products you buy. And you can make the decision about what you feel comfortable purchasing most often.

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

chocolate chip granola bars

What I want to see in a snack bar

First of all, my main objective for snacks is that I want them to be filling.

No one wants to give their kids a snack only to be badgered for another snack 2 minutes later. The point of a snack is to tide kids over between meals by providing a nutritional boost that satisfies their hunger. But we also don’t want snacks to fill them up so much that they’re no longer hungry for when the next meal rolls around. 

Finding this balance can be tricky.

So what will satisfy them?

For toddlers, this usually means a snack that contains at least 90-100 calories. For an older kid, ideally a snack would have more like 150+ calories.

It’s ok for them to be hungrier and want more than just 1 bar or item for a snack. Sometimes, you may need to give them 2 bars or pair the bar with something else to make it meet those needs. 

I also want the snacks we provide to give them lasting energy, not just a quick sugar spike. We all know that sugary snacks give a burst of energy (because they’re quick digesting carbohydrates), but they’re inevitably followed by the crash. 

What to look for on the nutrition facts panel

To avoid this spike and crash cycle, I usually look for my snacks to provide a mix of macronutrients and some fiber. Ideally, I look for AT LEAST 2 grams of fiber or 2 grams of protein.

Healthy fats are also good to see in snacks and are satisfying. Nuts and seeds do a great job filling this role in snacks. 

jars of nut butters

For snacks, I like to see less than 6 grams of added sugar for toddlers. For older kids, I’m less strict on this number, but still like to see about 8 grams or less.

But remember: added sugar is different from total sugar.

Fruit is naturally high in sugar and that’s okay. What I don’t like to see is a ton of sugar added to bars on top of what’s naturally occurring in the ingredients themselves. 

Also, don’t underestimate the value of some vitamins and minerals. Some snacks may not have the most impeccable nutrition profile or check all my boxes, but getting some vitamins and minerals in our kids is important as well, especially for picky eaters! 

To summarize, I am looking for:

  • at least 2+ grams of protein and/or fiber
  • at least 90-100 calories
  • about 6g or less of added sugar
  • whole food ingredients like nuts/seeds, fruit, and whole grains

It’s hard to find snacks that check all these boxes AND your kids like. It’s not always going to be perfect and that’s okay.

Want to see my favorite grab and go snack picks? Grab the free guide at the button below!

Snack Guide Download Button

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular kids bars on the shelves! 

Are Nature Valley bars healthy?

Nature valley granola bars and Nature valley protein bars have very different nutrition stats! Let’s take a look at both.

Nature Valley Crunchy Granola Bars

are nature valley bars healthy crunchy granola bars

For the oats and honey flavor, here are the nutrition stats:

  • 190 calories
  • 7g fat
  • 11g added sugar
  • 2g fiber
  • 3g protein

Carbohydrates are center stage in this bar. The nutrition stats are extremely similar to Pepperidge Farms Oatmeal Raisin cookies, in fact. So are Nature Valley granola bars healthy? They’re not the best option when it comes to bars. Despite having a little bit of protein and fiber, the added sugar is quite high and these won’t be very filling.

Nature Valley Chewy Protein Bars

are nature valley protein bars healthy nutrition stats

Here are the nutrition stats for the peanut butter dark chocolate flavor:

  • 190 calories
  • 12g fat
  • 5g added sugar
  • 6g fiber
  • 10g protein

Roasted peanuts are the first and primary ingredient. I like that these have low added sugar, and really good amounts of protein and fiber. These are going to be much more satisfying than the Nature Valley Crunchy Granola bars.

Another benefit of these bars? The price point! Compared to other protein bars that have similar nutrition stats, these are lower in cost.

Are Clif Z Bars healthy?

are clif z bars healthy

Your kids love these? Mine too. I actually think my kids might choose these over actual cookies if given the choice. Here’s the lowdown for chocolate brownie z bars:

  • 140 calories
  • 5 grams of fat
  • 2 grams of fiber (from whole grains)
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 10 grams of sugar (9 grams of which are added sugar)

So Z Bars check some, but not all of my snack bar boxes.

They’ve got basically the bare minimum of fiber and protein that I’d want to see in a snack bar, so they may keep kids relatively satisfied. Oats are the main ingredient so I like that there’s a whole grain. I estimate that each bar has about 3 tablespoons of oats. But they are definitely higher in added sugar than I like to see.

I still absolutely buy these for my kids because THEY LOVE THEM. But in my mind, they’re more in the treat category than the snack category. They’re A-OK to have sometimes, but not what I’m reaching for every time they want a snack. 

Are Clif Protein Z Bars healthy?

clif z bar protein bars are they healthy

These have 3 more grams of protein per bar than the regular Z bars, due to added whey protein concentrate.

  • 130 calories
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 5 grams of protein
  • 9 grams of sugar (8 grams of which are added sugar)

They’re also more expensive than the regular Z bars. Looking on Walmart right now, a box of 6 Z bars is the same price as a box of 5 protein Z bars.

The nutrition profile is not different enough for me to recommend these over traditional Z bars.

Clif Bar Nut Butter bars

Are Clif bars healthy? The regular Clif bars have 4 teaspoons of added sugar per bar, so those are not my fave. But these nut butter stuffed bars are awesome!

are clif bars healthy
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 7 grams of protein
  • 9 grams of sugar, 6 grams of added sugar
  • 11 grams of fat 

With 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber- we’ve got a good thing going here! My kids LOVE the chocolate chip peanut butter flavor so much that I have it on auto-ship from amazon so we get a box every month!

These *are* a little bit more calorically dense (over 200 calories) because of the nut butter. They are a great fit for a hungry kid, an active kid, or a time when the next meal is not very soon. A higher calorie amount isn’t something to be afraid of!

I also included the fat content here so you could see how nuts (or in this case nut butter) goes a long way in providing that fat content that will be really satisfying.

Are Nutri-Grain bars healthy?

are nutra grain bars healthy nutrigrain

Nutri-Grain bars have been around since, forever? I vividly remember these being a snack of my childhood, so they’ve stood the test of time. They’ve got tons of fruit flavors and you might think, “great! A serving of fruit!”

But upon closer inspection:

  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 12 grams of sugar- all of it added

These are…well, a cookie.

A tiny bit of fiber, bare minimum protein, and 12 grams of added sugar mean there’s not a ton of real fruit going on in here. That’s mostly cane sugar and equivalent to what you’d find in a baked good.

However, like I said above, that doesn’t mean your child can never have these. Of course not! All foods can fit in a healthy, balanced diet. It just means that these are essentially a cookie and I’d think of them as such! Try to serve alongside some milk or another nutrient-dense component to balance it out.

They are fortified with calcium and iron, so there’s a little bit of a micronutrient boost in there.

I want to say that the Nature’s Bakery fig bars are better. But with 14 grams of added sugar, it’s firmly into cookie territory.

Alternatives that taste berrylicious, but are better nutritionally? I have 3 that are perfect for toddlers and young kids!

  1. Cerebelly Strawberry Beet Bars
  2. Dino Bars (use code MAMAKNOWS10)
  3. Once Upon a Farm Strawberry Oat Bars
healthy snack bars for kids and toddlers

Are Lara Bars kids bars healthy?

are kids larabars healthy
  • 1 gram of protein
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 10 g added sugar

So these are another one I’d file under: basically a cookie. It even says cookie on the box! The main ingredients are flour, sugar, and chocolate chips.

In contrast, the original Larabars actually have more protein and fiber.

are larabars healthy for kids

I love that these are made from just fruit and nuts. The sugar content is on the higher side because of the dried fruit, but none of it is added. If you have a kid who probably isn’t going to eat trail mix, but WILL eat a bar, I’m all for a Larabar snack! Just not the kid-specific bars.

Are Chewy bars healthy?

are quaker chewy bars healthy, chewy bars nutrition info

Another snack that has been around since my childhood is Quaker Chewy Bars!

But I bet you can guess what I might say after glancing at the nutrition label. Let’s look at the Chewy Granola bar nutrition facts:

  • 1 gram of protein
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 7 grams of added sugar

There’s just not a ton going on nutritionally for Chewy Bars. The added sugar content isn’t crazy by any means, but with only 1 gram of protein and fiber, they just aren’t doing much to keep our kids full, energized, and satisfied. 

The box boasts 9 grams of whole grains per serving. But unfortunately this isn’t a high amount of whole grains and isn’t contributing much nutrition. One of the primary benefits of whole grains is fiber – but this bar has only 1 gram of fiber. That isn’t moving the needle!

If your little one needs to get more fiber, read this post for tips: High Fiber Foods for Toddlers

Are Made Good bars healthy?

are made good bars healthy

Made Good is a newer brand and you’ll recognize them if you’ve looked for allergy-friendly snacks before. I love that they’re safe for classrooms that do not allow products with nuts.

This can really help if you’re dealing with a kid with an allergy or need to pack with allergies in mind.  

  • 2 grams of protein
  • 1 gram of fiber
  • 6 grams of added sugar

So, they’re not breaking any records here. I’d love to see some more protein and fiber to contribute to fullness, but they’re also not bad!

And with the added perk of them being school-friendly, they’re definitely ones that I throw in my cart from time to time. Also, remember how I mentioned keeping an eye out for vitamins and minerals? Made Good bars provide about 20% of the DV quite a few vitamins- which is worth mentioning!

kid flexing muscles

Healthy snack bars for kids

My biggest qualm with some of these snack bars is the added sugar content. Added sugar doesn’t do a ton for kids’ bodies or sustained energy levels. And we know that limiting added sugar in the diet is, overall, a healthful choice. 

According to the FDA and AHA, added sugar should be limited to less than 25 grams per day for kids over 2. None is recommended for kids under 2. 

It’s just not going to give them sustained energy like a complex carbohydrate or a mixture of carbohydrates, fat, and protein (and fiber!) will. 

The more added sugar in the bars, the less room there is for ingredients that provide more benefits.

If your kids demand Z Bars or if your picky eater will ONLY accept Nutri-Grain bars for a snack, don’t freak out. These things are okay to feature in a balanced diet. My biggest tip would be to pair them with something else when you serve them, and to view them more as a treat instead of a substantial snack in and of themselves. 

If you’re on the hunt for some easy packaged snack ideas, check out my healthy packaged foods Amazon board where I’ve rounded up lots of my favorite options. Bonus points for the fact that they can be delivered straight to your front door!

If I didn’t mention your child’s go-to bar, stay tuned for my part 2 review coming soon!

More ideas for feeding kids

And if you are looking for more ideas beyond the world of bars, I have a couple resources for you to check out. First, I’m linking my Meal and Snack Survival Guide. This resource is PACKED with ideas for every meal, and of course, snacks. I also included product recommendations and ideas from different grocery chains to make your life easier!

meal and snack survival guide

I’ve also written a few other posts on snack ideas and information for kids and toddlers. You can check them out here and here!

1 Comment

Anonymous · February 23, 2024 at 6:38 pm

Thank you for this post! You have given me an education in the world of snack bars.

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Kacie Barnes holding an apple
Hi, I’m Kacie!

I’m a mom of two and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I offer e-guides and e-books (go to my Shop page), workshops, brand partnerships, and nutrition counseling. Check out my blog for nutrition and feeding tips for your little ones.


This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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