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Friday, February 2, 2007 - Page updated at 11:31 AM

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The good and the bad among nutrition bars

The Associated Press

If you've ever walked down the health-food aisle at the grocery store in search of a nutrition bar, chances are you came away overwhelmed.

High protein, high energy, low fat, low sugar — it seems each bar does something different. Worse yet, it's difficult to tell if the bars truly are good for you (many of them aren't) and whether they taste good or like a chunk of peanut-butter-flavored cardboard.

Well, we're here to take out some of the guesswork.

With the help of Clifton Johnston, a personal trainer at Bally Total Fitness, we break down nine of the most popular nutrition bars on the market. Johnston also works at The Vitamin Shoppe, so he'll handle the good-for-you part. John Marshall has struggled to find a nutrition bar he likes, so he'll tackle the taste-testing.

What Johnston says:

What Marshall says:

Clif Bar
Chocolate-chip peanut crunch
What's in it: Calories 250, Fat 6g (2g Sat. Fat), Carb. 43g (20g Sugar), Protein 11g.

This one is good because it's organic; it doesn't have any kind of artificial sweeteners or anything like that. Overall, it's a good healthy bar - not really good for bulking but a perfect snack bar.

The texture is a little odd, kind of like a kindergartner smashed a bunch of ingredients into an odd-shaped chewy granola bar. But the mild chocolate and peanut butter flavors make it go down easy.

Met-Rx Big 100 Colossal
Super cookie crunch
What's in it: Calories 420, Fat 14g (8g Sat. Fat), Carb. 43g (25g Sugar), Protein 32g.

Of all the bars we have here, this one has the highest calorie count, protein count and carb content. It doesn't have a lot of amino acids, but it does have a lot of minerals. It could be a good post-workout bar or throughout the day, too.

The thing's a monster, nearly the size of a brick. Flavor-wise it's not bad; the white, cookie layer on the top is rather sweet, and the crunchy middle has a sort of brownie taste.

Nutz over chocolate
What's in it: Calories 180, Fat 4.5g (3g Sat. Fat), Carb. 24g (8g Sugar), Protein 10g.

These are also by Clif, another organic bar that's low calorie and uses good sugars, not any artifical sugars. It's also got a lot of essential fatty acids. It's a good bar for a snack throughout the day, and it's definitely healthy.

One word: delicious. I liked this one before - despite my family calling it a girly bar - because it tastes almost like a candy bar, and was pleasantly surprised to find out it's healthy, too.

Nitro-tech Protein Bar
Peanut butter
What's in it: Calories 280, Fat 6g (4g Sat. Fat), Carb. 28g (2g Sugar), Protein 30g.

It's a real high-protein bar, not to mention it has a little blend with creatine, amino acids to help with muscle recovery, and has quite a bit of minerals. It's a nice post-workout bar.

This is the chewy, chemical-tasting bar I've come to expect from something so high in protein. It was one and done - I couldn't eay any more.

Detour Whey Protein Energy Bar Caramel peanut
What's in it: Calories 340, Fat 10g (6g Sat. Fat), Carb. 33g (5g Sugar), Protein 30g.

This is a good protein bar. Guys get these because they're high in protein, and it's made up of those sugar alcohols, real simple sugars that break down quickly. It's a good post-workout bar.

Not too bad. The somewhat chewy center part, which I assume is the protein blend, is nicely masked by the caramel and nuts.

Powerbar Performance
What's in it: Calories 230, Fat 2g (0.5g. Sat. Fat), Carb. 45g (18g Sugar), Protein 10g.

It's a lower in protein and a lot higher in carbs, which I'm sure consist of a lot of complex carbs that take your metabolism up and keep it at some kind of steady level. It's a good bar to wake up and keep you going.

This one has the texture of a tire tread and doesn't taste much better. It'd be edible in a desperate situation - like all the candy boxes were empty - but that's not any chocolate I've ever tasted.

Snickers Marathon Energy
Chewy chocolate peanut
What's in it: Calories 220, Fat 7g (2.5g Sat. Fat), Carb. 26g (18g Sugar), Protein 13g.

It's pretty high in calories and cholesterol considering the serving size. It's got a lot of sugars, and they're artificial sugars. It's basically a candy bar in the making.

This one doesn't quite taste like a candy bar, but it's close. The nuts in it are quite tasty.

Power Crunch High Protein
Peanut-butter fudge
What's in it: Calories 185, Fat 9g (2g Sat. Fat), Carb. 9g (4g Sugar), Protein 14g.

These aren't too bad. There's not a lot of carbs, not a lot of sugar. I tend to see a lot of girls stray toward these. It's got a decent amount of protein for a female, who doesn't need the intake that a guy needs.

The first bite makes you think this one is good. Then comes the aftertaste. Is that fish?

Peanut butter
What's in it: Calories 200, Fat 6g (3g Sat. Fat), Carb. 22g (17g Sugar), Protein 14g.

This one's pretty high in sugar, and it uses high-fructose corn syrup. And it's got a lot of calories for such a little, little bar. On the good side, it does have a lot of vitamins, a good percent of your daily value.

Has a little of that funky, processed bar taste, but the peanut butter flavor is decent.

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