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Which breakfast bar packs the most health punch?

They're easy for breakfast, lunch or an after school snack, but which chewy bars have the protein and fiber you need, and which healthy looking labels are hiding mounds of sugar and carbs?

Registered Dietician,dietician Chris Nixon, from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, has her own grading system. She said Nature Valley Crunchy Granola and Quaker Chewy bars get an F.

“I see one gram of protein and one gram of fiber, so these are more granola bars, these are not what I consider to be protein bars at all,” Nixon said. “If you pair it with some sort of protein, so if you pair it with a quarter cup of nuts or seeds, a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, maybe a string cheese, hardboiled egg, then these bars would be OK but this is where your energy is coming from, you're not getting any sort of protein to fill you up.”

The oatmeal raisin CliffClif Bar and apple pie Larabar earned a C score, which according to Nixon’s grading system means they do hit the protein goal but are not doing your waistline any favors.

“These bars for example have about 250 calories, so it would be more like a meal replacement, although they do have the protein, they have a lot more carbohydrate than you really want for a snack.”

Kashi, Luna, Nature Valley salted nut protein bars and Kind bars get straight As. With six, 10 and 12 grams of protein, Nixon said these are at the top of the class for nutrition and do not overdo the calories.

“These have a little bit of carbohydrate which is going to give you a boost in energy but they also have protein and fiber which is going to fill you up,” Nixon said.

She says all bars should be under 200 calories to classify as a snack, more than that equals a meal replacement.

Nixon said she prefers to make her own bars to really pack the protein, the recipe she likes is listed below.

As-Good-As-It-Gets Protein Bars

Yield: 16 bars
Ingredients:
• ½-¾ cup organic low-fat (1%) milk
• 1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
• 2 tsp honey
• 1 cup vanilla whey protein powder
• 2 cups rolled oats
• ¼ cup chia seeds
• ¼ cup ground flaxseed
• Dash of cinnamon
• 2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips or dried fruit (optional)

Directions:
• In a medium bowl, lightly mix rolled oats with flaxseed, chia seeds, protein powder and cinnamon.  Set aside.
• In a medium saucepan, combine milk (begin with ½ cup, and add 1-2 Tbsp at a time as needed until desired consistency reached), peanut butter and honey.  Heat over low-medium heat.  Stir mixture until the peanut butter has melted and is mixed well.  Remove from heat.
• Fold in oat mixture and stir until ingredients are well combined and moist.
• Press mixture into a 9x9-inch baking pan.
• Sprinkle with dark chocolate chips or dried fruit as desired.
• Let pan sit until cooled and slightly hardened before cutting into bars.  To help expedite the process, consider allowing pan with mixture to cool in refrigerator.

Estimated Nutrition Information:
• Calories: 200 kcal/bar
• Fat: 11 grams
• Carbohydrates: 15 grams
• Fiber: 4 grams
• Protein: 12 grams

Nixon’s “A” ratings, which can be eaten as a snack or you can add fruit to make a replacement meal:
Kind bars
Nature Valley Protein
Luna peanut butter dark chocolate chunk
Kashi chocolate almond sea salt with Chia
*Nixon said the above choices are good snack choices for patients with diabetes

Nixon’s “C” ratings, which could be used as a meal replacement, but she says have too many carbohydrates for a snack:
Cliff Bar oatmeal raisin
Larabar apple pie

Nixon’s “F” rating, she says are granola bars that lack protein but could be paired with something else for a healthy snack (peanut butter, hardboiled egg, nuts):
Nature Valley crunch oats ‘n honey
Quaker Oats Chewy bars