How to know if an Energy Bar is Better than a Candy Bar

Last Updated on January 20, 2021

I really hate energy bars. I have just never been able to get excited about them. I’m also allergic to coconut, which excludes many bars (and has also taught be to read labels more carefully, now that coconut products are everywhere!). Bars have their place however, particularly if you need something to eat quickly on the trail that you can keep in an external pocket, or if you’re a tour guide (like me) or a trainer (also like me) or in some other profession that is “on” all day and you need something you can quickly eat in three bites in the bathroom or under your steering wheel/desk (true confessions!). They also last forever so an emergency food source can be stashed for a long time without it going bad. So, is an energy bar better than a candy bar or not?

Before going any further I need to make a disclaimer: I am NOT a nutritionist and if you have a food allergy or a restricted diet then avoiding those foods is of course more important, so make sure to read the labels! Also, this post is NOT sponsored, this is what I really eat! With that said…

Clif bars are the ones I can tolerate the best (and the occasional larabar), so that’s what I buy and eat for energy bars. I actually like the peanut butter nut filled ones better, but they are more expensive, have less calories (which could be a benefit but it isn’t under the circumstances which I eat them) and harder to find, so I’m sticking with the regular peanut butter one here. As coconut (especially oil) became more common in processed foods and therefore I started reading labels more carefully, I started to wonder: Is an energy bar really any better for you than a candy bar? Is an energy bar even good for you?

It turns out this is a hard question to answer because it depends on what you prioritize, what you care about in your food, and if you have any dietary restrictions (if you do, the larabar might be the way to go as it has the fewest ingredients and is also dairy free, gluten free, vegan and kosher).

Here’s a quick comparison of the macroingredients and calories in a peanut butter clif bar and a snickers bar (both have lots of processed food and things you can’t pronounce):

Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar: 260 calories, 11g protein, 40g carbs, 19g sugar, 7g fat

Snickers Bar: 250 calories, 4g protein, 33g carbs, 27g sugar, 12g fat

It’s worth noting that if you purchase a box of either online, it’s significantly less expensive, though the Snickers bar is 67 cents to the Clif bar’s dollar.

Another major consideration is that the Snickers bar has chocolate and can easily turn into a big mushy sticky mess especially in the car or if in the sun all day. It seems to hold up alright inside a pack if it’s not exposed to the sun directly, or inside a bear bin or other container.

My analysis was the the Clif bar is better for day to day snacks around town (having more protein is a bonus for me), but the Snickers bar is better for hiking (more carbs is good when working hard). Full disclosure: I actually prefer Milky Way bars and eat them just as much on the trail, but the Snickers bar is slightly more macronutritionally balanced (more protein).

Bottom line: Clif has less sugar and more protein, but the same overall calories, a higher cost and is less likely to melt. Snickers is a solid contender for trail food and costs less.

Happy snacking!

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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!