Whether you're looking for an afternoon pick-me-up to squash cravings or a mini-meal to hold you over until dinner, grabbing a granola bar might seem like an easy, convenient way to get more hunger-curbing fiber in your diet.
And we could all use more of the superstar nutrient: Adults should aim to get anywhere between 25 to 30 grams of fiber daily, per the USDA dietary guidelines, but only about five percent of Americans are actually getting enough, according to a July 2016 study in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
So while fiber bars can help meet your needs, they also contain added sugar and fillers, so it's important to read the nutrition label and ingredient list carefully and choose the least processed options. Fortunately, there are many nutritious fiber bars out there made with whole ingredients, like nuts and dried fruit.
Read more: Does Fiber Cancel Out Other Carbohydrates?
The Types of Fiber in Fiber Bars
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans contain soluble and insoluble fiber, which are responsible for improving digestion, lowering cholesterol, decreasing the risk of heart disease and stabilizing blood sugar levels, Keri Gans, RD, CDN, author of The Small Change Diet, tells LIVESTRONG.com. The difference is that the fiber in fiber bars haven't been studied extensively for their health benefits as the fiber in whole foods.
The most common types of fibers you'll find in fiber bars are acacia fiber, tapioca fiber, chicory root and inulin. "Most of these fibers are known as prebiotics, aka food for probiotics, and have been associated positively with gut health," Gans says.
For example, acacia fiber is a type of soluble fiber harvested from the sap of the acacia tree and "some people with IBS prefer this fiber since it contains no gluten, sugar, salt, corn, soy or yeast," Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, CDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label to Table, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Then, there's tapioca fiber, which is associated with isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO). "It is a sweet-tasting, zero-calorie prebiotic fiber. However, some studies have shown that it has the potential to spike blood glucose," says Taub-Dix. IMOs can stimulate a glycemic response, similar to dextrose, a simple sugar, a February 2020 study in the Journal of Functional Foods suggests.
While choosing a fiber bar can help you meet your daily needs, getting fiber from a granola bar shouldn't replace the fiber you get from whole foods.
"There's no comparison to the fiber you get from whole foods versus fiber bars because whole foods contain more than just fiber. They have a wealth of other nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals," Taub-Dix says.
But for those moments when you're in a pinch and need something quick and portable, choosing a nutritious fiber bar makes a healthy snack. Taub-Dix recommends enjoying fiber bars as a snack versus a meal replacement.
How to Shop for the Best Fiber Bars
Walk into any grocery or health-food store, and you'll quickly notice that the shelves of the snack aisle are lined with a plethora of fiber bars, marketing whole grains, more protein and low sugar.
But with so many different types of fiber bars out there, how do you know you're making a healthy choice? Taub-Dix and Gans share what they look for when choosing a nutritious fiber bar.
- Aim for 5 grams of fiber and protein. Gans recommends choosing a fiber bar with at least 5 grams of fiber and protein per serving. "Typically, when I recommend a bar rich in fiber, I suggest looking for ones that contain 200 calories or less and have less than 5 grams of added sugar," says Gans. The higher fiber and protein content will keep you fuller longer and prevents cravings for sugary, fatty foods. Fiber bars covered in chocolate and loaded with caramel and syrups are red flags that they're high in sugar. Ideally, the sugar you get from fiber bars should come from dried fruit.
- Go for high-quality proteins. Fiber bars that source their protein from whole foods, like nuts, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, egg whites, natural nut butters and isolates and concetrates of whey, soy and pea protein, are your best bet. These foods not only work to help restore muscles after a tough workout, but they keep you satiated until your next meal.
- Limit sugar alcohols. While some high-fiber bars are low in sugar, many of them contain a lot of sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners to make them taste sweeter. Sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress, like bloating, gas and an upset stomach, according to an October 2016 study in the International Journal of Dentistry. Some examples of sugar alcohols commonly found in fiber bars are xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol. So if you're sensitive to sugar alcohols, look out for fiber bars that use minimal amounts or don't have them at all.
- Choose varieties with 100-percent whole grains. The healthiest fiber bars are those that have 100-percent whole grains as the first ingredient. Unlike refined grains that spike your blood sugar, high-quality grains help you curb hunger by slowing down the release of sugar in your bloodstream. They also provide quick energy, making them a good choice for a pre-workout snack. Steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat are some whole grains you should look for in the ingredients label of fiber bars.
It's important not to just look at the fiber contents in fiber bars. "Try to keep the fiber bar's total profile in mind. Some high-fiber foods could also be high in sugar, sodium or calories, and therefore, not as valuable to you," says Taub-Dix.
Healthy Fiber Bars to Try
1. KIND Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt
Per bar: 180 calories, 15 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 140 milligrams sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates (7 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 4 grams added sugar), 6 grams protein
If you're craving something chocolatey, look no further than this flavorful fiber bar for an instant boost of energy. You satisfy your sweet tooth with dark chocolate and get filling fiber, protein and fat from almonds and peanuts. Gans says this KIND bar is her top pick because it has a whopping 7 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and only 4 grams of added sugar.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.22 per pack of 12
2. Health Warrior Dark Chocolate Cherry Bar
Per bar: 100 calories, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 45 milligrams sodium, 14 grams carbohydrates (5 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar), 3 grams protein
Health Warrior's chia bars are made with heart-healthy chia seeds, cashew butter and brown rice, making them a solid choice for a healthy, gluten-free snack. The dark chocolate cherry bars also have dried cherries that give them a nice chewy texture. At just 100 calories, it's satisfying and incredibly tasty. Pack a few in your backpack when hiking, traveling or going for a long run.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $15.76 per pack of 15
3. SimplyProtein Lemon Crispy Bar
Per bar: 150 calories, 4.5 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 250 milligrams sodium, 15 grams carbohydrates (7 grams fiber, 3 grams sugar, 4 grams glycerin), 15 grams protein
Soy protein isolate gives this fiber bar its satiating power while tapioca starch provides a boost of fiber. With only 3 grams of sugar and 150 calories, these gluten-free fiber bars give you the same mouth-watering flavor of a lemon poppyseed muffin minus the huge insulin spike.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $35.99 per pack of 24
4. RXBAR Mixed Berry
Per bar: 210 calories, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 140 milligrams sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates (5 grams fiber, 15 grams sugar, 0 grams added sugar), 12 grams protein
While this fiber bar is a little over 200 calories, it still makes a sensible snack thanks to its high protein and fiber count. Just like other RXBARs, this delightfully fruity snack contains dates, egg whites, almonds and cashews, but it also has cranberries, strawberries and raspberries for some natural sweetness. With only eight simple ingredients, this Whole30-approved fiber bar can help fight cravings on the go.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $19.44 per pack of 12
5. ONE Plant Banana Nut Bread Bar
Per bar: 165 calories, 7 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat), 160 milligrams sodium, 21 grams carbohydrates (8 grams fiber, 1 gram sugar, 0 grams added sugar, 6 grams sugar alcohol), 12 grams protein
ONE's bars let you have your cake and eat it, too. In this case, you'll get the same taste-tempting flavors in a slice of banana bread for less than half the calories and only one gram of sugar. This fiber bar has a plant-based protein blend of pea protein, rice protein and almond protein, and contains soluble corn fiber to ward off hunger post-workout.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $29.99 per pack of 12
6. KIND Maple Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt
Per bar: 200 calories, 17 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat), 140 milligrams sodium, 14 grams carbohydrates (5 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 3 grams added sugar), 5 grams protein
"My favorite go-to snack bar is KIND. You'll always find them in my purse, pantry and the glove compartment of my car. I particularly enjoy their Nuts & Spices line because it provides 5 grams of fiber and only 5 grams of sugar," Taub-Dix says. This sweet and salty fiber bar features hearty chunks of pecans, almonds and peanuts lightly drizzled with maple syrup and honey.
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $10.49 per pack of 12
Read more: The 6 Best Protein Bars — and 3 to Avoid