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2. Does it have at least 5 grams of protein? I also try to make sure my breakfast and snack choices contain 5 grams of protein. This helps balance the carbohydrates, so the bar seems more satisfying and the energy lasts longer. Some bars I tested had 1 or 2 grams of protein, while others had 10 or more grams.

3. Does it contain less than 35% calories from sugar? I've got to warn you; not many bars meet this guideline. One of the bars my daughters really like (Nature's Choice Multigrain Raspberry) has 13 grams of sugar ¬which, at 120 calories a bar, comes out to 43% calories from sugar. I like to calculate the percentage of calories from sugar because different brands of bars differ dramatically in size and calories. Putting sugar into a percentage gives you a way to compare them fairly.

4. How much total fat and saturated fat does it contain? You definitely want some fat in the bar, so that it has a more satisfying taste, texture, and helps slow digestion a bit. But you don't want too much fat, and you certainly don't want any saturated fat if you can help it.

I read labels for the bars I came across and tried to find some that followed my four keys to a better bar. I was able to find some bars with 3 or more grams of fiber, 5 or more grams of protein, lower amounts of fat, and no saturated fat. But it was the rare bar that had less than 30% calories from sugar!

That said, here are my better bar choices (for journaling purposes, you'd generally count 230 calories for a meal-replacement bar and 137 calories for a cereal bar):

Clif Bars (made with organic oats and soybeans).

Clif bars score really well on protein and fiber content. The flavors I looked at had 5 grams of fiber, 10 or more grams of protein, around 33% calories from sugar, and 4-5 grams of fat (1.5-2 grams of saturated fat) per bar.

One of Clif's lowest-sugar flavors is Cool Mint Chocolate: One bar (68 grams weight) contains 250 calories, 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams fat (1.5-g saturated fat) and 27% calories from sugar. (Journal as a meal-replacement protein bar.)

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