SAN ANTONIO – Grab-and-go snack bars for kids are convenient and can satisfy their munchies. But are they as healthy for your child as the packaging portrays?
Chris Wood gives her middle-schoolers snack bars a couple of times a week.
"They're easy to pack in their backpacks or lunchbox for a quick snack after school before they come home," she said.
Nutritional experts with Consumer Reports evaluated the ingredients and nutritional information for 12 different snack bars for kids. They looked for natural vs. added sugars, whole vs. refined grains, natural protein sources, such as nuts and seeds or whole grains, rather than processed sources like isolated soy protein.
"Ideally, snack bars should consist mainly of whole foods and less processed ingredients," said nutritionist Ellen Klosz.
What's the difference between snack bars for grown-ups and the ones for kids?
"The kids' versions are smaller, and that's about it. They have pretty much the same ingredients, and they're not necessarily healthier," Klosz said.
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One concern, she said, is that many of the bars contain rice ingredients, like brown rice flour or syrup. Rice can contain arsenic and should be limited in a child's diet.
Consumer Reports' two top picks don't contain rice products.
The Kids Chocolate Chip Protein Bar from R-X-Bar topped the list. It has no added sugars and no rice ingredients, inulin or protein isolates. The sugars, protein and fiber come from whole ingredients, like dates and nuts. It costs about $1.30 per bar.
Consumer Reports also recommends chocolate-flavored Quaker Kids Organic Whole Grain Bars. It has all organic ingredients: whole-grain oats along with dates and chocolate chips. The Quaker bar has just three grams of added sugars and comes in boxes of five that costs $5.