Top 4 Snack Bars for Diabetes

Avoid the Glorified Candy Bars and Choose a Nutritious Bar

Kind bars
Claire H Cohen Photography

Snack bars may be convenient, but they also can match up nutritionally to a standard candy bar. With excess sugar, fat, and added ingredients, it's important to read labels and know what kind of bars you are getting.

No Idle Snack Bar Eating

Make sure you eat them for a reason. For example, pre-workout fuel to prevent low blood sugar, or to tide hunger between meals when you are on-the-go. But, remember that not all bars are created equal—some don't stack up nutritionally to others.

I asked my patients and peer Certified Diabetes Educators to tell me their favorite snack bars based on flavor and blood sugar results. Before I reveal the "best picks," here are some basic guidelines and things to think about before buying a snack bar.

General Guidelines to Choosing a Healthy Snack Bar

There is no real science behind this, rather just trial and error and professional opinion. I tell my patients to aim to keep the counts close to this:

  • Sugar content less than 10 grams (the lower the better)
  • Carbohydrates less than 30 grams (depending on what you are eating it for)
  • Protein at least 5 grams (this will help you to feel full and reduce the likelihood of blood sugar crashes)
  • Fiber at least 3 grams
  • Calories less than 250
  • If you need a bar that is gluten free, vegan, or nut free make sure you read ingredients carefully

Keeping snacks to about 250 calories or less can help to prevent weight gain and keep metabolism revved up.

When Should You Eat a Snack Bar?

  • If you are running late to work and need a quick breakfast, a snack bar can be a good choice. To complete the meal, pair it with a low-fat Greek yogurt, a hard-boiled egg or a handful of nuts. Some people benefit from a larger breakfast. Figure out what works best for you.
  • As a snack. The right bar is rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fat, which are all filling factors that can help to hold you over between meals and prevent low blood sugars throughout the day.
  • Pre- or post-workout. Some bars can give you just the right amount of carbohydrate to fuel or refuel you before or after a workout. Depending upon the duration, intensity, and your blood sugar level, you may need to eat 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrate before a workout. Ask your dietitian or certified diabetes educator to help you create a meal plan to maximize your nutrition and regulate your sugars during workouts.

Do Not Use Snack Bars to Treat Low Blood Sugar

When your blood sugar is low (less than 70mg/dL) or when you are feeling symptomatic (shaky, sweaty, confused or increased heart beat), it's important to test your sugar and treat it right away with a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as 4 ounces of juice, 5 hard sugar candies, or 6 ounces of regular soda.

Eating a snack bar will not raise your sugar quick enough because fiber, protein, and fat delay carbohydrate metabolism and take longer to break down.

If, however, you've treated your blood sugar and your meal is going to be delayed you can eat a snack bar to stabilize your sugar and prevent it from dropping again.

The Best Snack Bars

KIND® Bar

KIND® Bars are one of my favorite snack bars because the ingredients are whole, natural, and not processed. No artificial sweeteners, no artificial anything. The bars are made of all-natural whole nuts, fruits, and whole grains, making them rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and fiber.

The best part is that they taste great, too. If you have diabetes, avoid the bars covered in yogurt or chocolate as they will be higher in sugar.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 180-200

Protein: 4-10 g

Carbohydrate: 16-24 g

Sugar: 4-10 g

Fiber: 3-7g

Fat: 4.5-16 g

** Also available in KIND Plus for added protein, fiber, antioxidants, or Omega 3s

Flavors to try: Fruit & Nut Delight, Almond Cashew with Flax, Apple Cinnamon & Pecan, Almond & Apricot

Where to find them: Target, Walmart, Amazon, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and online at www.kindsnacks.com

For more information go to: www.kindsnacks.com


Quest® Bars

Sweetened with stevia and erythritol, Quest Bars are a low-sugar, gluten-free protein bar which can be a good option for those people with Celiac disease or those that are sensitive to gluten. Quest does not use soy protein, but rather whey protein isolate and milk protein isolate.

I have never had one before, but I am told they taste good. Most of the carbohydrate in these bars comes from added fiber which can help to delay how quickly blood sugars rise.

Although Quest is not a whole-food product, its nutritional breakdown can help to regulate blood sugars. Take caution when increasing fiber rapidly, 16 g of added fiber is quite a bit and can cause gas and bloating, especially if you are not used to eating this much fiber in one sitting.

Nutritional info:

Calories: 170-210

Protein: 20 g

Carbohydrate: 21-25 g

Sugar: 1-3 g

Fiber: 17-19 g

Fat: 6-10g (~2.g saturated fat)

Flavors to try (recommended by patients): Mixed Berry Bliss, Vanilla Almond Crunch, Peanut Butter Supreme

Where to find them: Vitamin Shoppe, online at www.questproteinbar.com

For more information: www.questproteinbar.com


RX Bars

Created by two best friends, the RX bar has taken off. Made of pure ingredients, these bars have no artificial additives or preservatives. The bars are made with about 6 ingredients, most include, egg whites, dates, and some sort of nut. These bars are rich in healthy fat and protein. They do contain a fair amount of sugar because they are made with dried fruit, but are also a good source of filling fiber. They contain no dairy, no soy, and no gluten. 

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 210-220 calories

Protein: 12 g

Carbohydrate: 21-24 g

Sugar: 13-15 g (this sugar is not from added sugar rather from the fruit inside the bar)

Fiber: 3-6 g

Fat: 7-9 fat (~2 g saturated fat)

Flavors to Try: Blueberry, Chocolate Sea Salt, Peanut Butter, Coconut Chocolate

Where to find them: On-line, Amazon,Trader Joes, leading grocery stores, gyms,etc. To find the retailer nearest you: https://www.rxbar.com/shop.html 

For more information: https://www.rxbar.com/

Kashi Chewy Granola Bars: 

A favorite of many of my CDE colleagues these bars are convenient, tasty, and generally found everywhere. Keep in mind, not all Kashi bars are created equal. Aim to purchase one of the chewy bars to save on calories and sugar. 

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 140-160 calories

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrate: 19 g

Sugar: 6-7 g 

Fiber: 3-4 g

Fat: 5-6 g fat (0 g saturated fat)

Flavors to Try: Honey Almond Flax, Trail Mix, 

Where to find themOn-line, Amazon, Fresh Direct, at your local grocery store 

For more information: https://www.kashi.com/our-foods/bars

thinkThin® Bars

thinkThin Bars are a favorite of one of my longtime patients. While I don't love them because they remind me of a candy bar, they work well for some people with dietary restrictions, especially those that need to follow gluten-free diet. They are all Gluten free and Kosher. Some are also vegan and dairy free.

thinkThin states that they use non-GMO ingredients, but this is limited to their crunch mixed nuts bars. thinkThin also is a low-glycemic-index choice. The sugar in thinkThin bars comes from sugar alcohols. Be careful when ingesting too many sugar alcohols because they can cause gas and bloating.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 170-250

Protein: 8-20 g

Total Carbohydrate: 19-25 g

Sugar: 0-10 g

Fiber: 2-5 g (important to choose the right flavor to maximize fiber)

Fat: 7-12 g

Flavors to try: Dark Chocolate, Blueberry and Mixed Nuts, Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts

Where to find them: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, online at www.amazon.com or www.thinkproducts.com

For more information: https://shop.thinkproducts.com/

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