“Are you eating three meals a day?”
Of course you’re not lying to Mom when you answer “yes.” Just because lunch can fit in your pocket and comes in a wrapper does not make it unhealthy, right?
Although substantial meals will always trump food bars from a nutritional and gastronomical standpoint, a good bar can still make a well-rounded snack. But not every bar works the same way.
Unless your geology class involves scaling a mountain, you don’t need all the sugar and carbohydrates found in a Clif bar or PowerBar — their low levels of fat and protein coupled with high carbs and sugar will have you eating a textbook within an hour.
The best bars for a mid-class munchie have higher protein and good fats, to keep you full and give you just enough energy to last until dinner. Rushing to history class after a hard workout? Then snag something with higher protein and carbohydrates to refuel.
Between The Lot and sundry cafes, USC has a stockpile of food bars. Some are great, but others are hardly fit for human consumption. Take a gander at this crash course the next time hunger strikes. If you have to grab a bar, it might as well taste good and not destroy your stomach.
Balance Bar: Technically this bar is a good balance of carbs, fat and protein. But the ingredients list is unpronounceable, and your body does not even absorb all the touted vitamins. Taste-wise, Balance Bars taste like Girl Scout cookies — cookies forgotten in a drawer since Girl Scouts wore knee-length skirts.
Larabar: Made just from dates, nuts and whatever other fruits and spices make the flavor of the bar, Larabars come in tasty varieties such as cherry pie and cinnamon roll. In perhaps the highest compliment possible, they taste like their named flavors. These bars are also high in heart-healthy fats and sweetened only with fruit. The protein could be higher, but the fat content will keep you sated through your bio lecture.
Kashi GoLean: All things considered, this is the best bet for an on-campus bar. While more processed than some of the vegan bars, Kashi products are far more natural than most commercial fare. The Kashi GoLean Roll! and Crunchy bars are the best of the lot. Packed with fiber, whole grains and protein, these bars offer a substantial snack and a good energy booster. With flavors such as caramel turtle and chocolate almond, they also assuage a cookie craving.
Pure Protein: Blech! Any protein-hungry weightlifter should just chug some chocolate milk for a perfect post-workout pick-me-up. Pure Protein bars come loaded with sugar alcohols, which, as the bar itself states, may cause “gastrointestinal discomfort.” As far as taste, these bars are dry, medicinal and are no way to reward yourself for benching 280.
Detour Bar: Maybe you don’t give two figs about the bounties of Mother Earth. But if you want a glorified candy bar, you might as well go for the best. Detour protein bars taste just like a Snickers or Twix but are jammed with surprisingly high quality protein. They also come in a lower sugar variety. Lab creations they may be, they will still totally earn you smirking rights over your classmates and their gross Pure Protein bars.
Pure Bar: If you like Larabars, these are another all-natural, vegan, raw and soy-free option. Full of crunchy nuts and chewy fruit, these bars should meet the standard of even the most health-conscious student. Beyond that, the chocolate flavor tastes just like a hearty brownie. The only hang up with Pure Bars is the day you realize that if you weren’t so lazy, you could make them yourself with a food processor and refrigerator.
Pro Bar: Forget the frou-frou little snack bars — Pro Bars are both the manly man and creative artist of the bar world. Despite their brawny package, Pro Bars have an artisanal quality with complex flavors such as cherry pretzel and cocoa pistachio. They are also made from whole ingredients such as rolled oats and almonds, providing healthy fats, carbs and protein. For a lighter snack, check out Pro Bar’s Fruition line.
Perfect Foods Bar: All things considered, these are the closest thing to a perfect food bar. Packed with protein, healthy fat, reasonable carbohydrates and even real minerals, these bars work great as mid-class snack or workout fuel. With a base of peanuts and honey, they will also take your most ferocious peanut butter craving demon and turn it into a purring kitten.