Consumer Reports: How healthy are snack bars marketed to kids?

File photo
File photo

Parents are seeing lots of snack bars for kids that are smaller and often offer more chocolate options than the bars adults might grab on the go.

The marketing makes the kids' bars look healthy, but are they a good choice for a child?

Consumer Reports’ nutritionists evaluated the ingredients and nutritional information for 12 different snack bars for kids.

They looked for natural vs. added sugars, whole vs. refined grains, and 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.

What’s the difference between snack bars for grown-ups and 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.

One concern 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 and are rated Very Good. 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 cost about $1.30 per bar.

Consumer Reports also recommends chocolate-flavored Quaker Kids Organic Whole Grain Bars. This snack bar has all organic ingredients: whole-grain oats along with dates and chocolate chips. The Quaker bar has just 3 grams of added sugars and comes in boxes of five that cost $5.

CR’s take on how to pick the right one? Take a minute to check out the label to give your kids something you’ll BOTH like.

Consumer Reports says that when it comes to kids’ snacks, think outside the bar, too. Easy options include whole fruit, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, carrot sticks, and bell pepper slices.