Energy bars-- crunchy, chewy, tasty... but healthy too?

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Consumer Reports' food experts sampled 33 bars-21 chocolate nut and 12 berry nut types-looking at flavor, ingredients and nutritional quality.

In the 1960's, energy bars were created for astronauts to eat in outer space. Energy bars fueled the jogging craze of the 70's, and continue as a fitness favorite today. After all, they're portable, convenient, and help squash hunger. They're certainly marketed as being healthy, but are they legit? Consumer Reports' food experts sampled 33 bars-21 chocolate nut and 12 berry nut types-looking at flavor, ingredients and nutritional quality.

CR's most important finding: Many of these bars don't live up to the healthy marketing seen on the packaging. For example, will eating "This Bar Saves Lives" save your life? The name actually refers to food aid donations. And the RxBar sounds like a prescription for health but there's nothing medicinal about it.

The best way to choose a bar is to look for more real ingredients, like nuts, fruits, and grains rather than processed ingredients.

Here are CR's top choices for nutrition and taste --

In the berry category, Pure Organic Wild Blueberry Fruit & Nut Bar contains whole blueberries and nuts. This soft bar is sweet and tangy, and tastes of dates.

Testers found Larabar's blueberry bar soft and dense. It also has cashew pieces throughout, with a slightly sour and sweet flavor.

In the chocolate energy bar category, CR recommends the organic chocolate and peanut butter bar from Nature's Path. It's a sweet-tasting, moist bar with lots of coconut and chocolate chunks. And Larabar Nut & Seed Crunchy Bar is crunchy, with finely chopped almonds and dark chocolate with a slight coconut flavor.

And a word about sugars. If you can, choose a bar made only with fruit. But if it has added sugars-with names like agave or tapioca syrup-Consumer Reports says to make sure they're toward the end of the ingredient list.
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