12 Best Snack Bars for Kids – from a Pediatric Dietitian

by | Jan 31, 2024

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Do you ever walk down the snack bar aisle feeling overwhelmed and wondering which one is the best?

As a Dietitian and mom, I’ve spent my fair share of time in the snack bar aisle comparing different brands to determine which ones I want to feed my own kids.

Kids love almost any kind of snack bar, but if you’re not careful, they can add a whole lot of unnecessary added sugar to their diet. 

I’m not only sharing the 12 best snack bars for kids, but also what to look for in a snack bar so you can make the best decision with what’s available to you and within your budget. 

And in case you were wondering, there’s no perfect snack bar for kids.

Types of Snack Bars for Kids

It seems like the snack bar aisle at the grocery store keeps getting larger with more and more snack bars to choose from.  They even have versions that are marketed just for kids.  

Because there are so many different bars to choose from, I’ve broken snack bars for kids into four categories to help you understand the nutritional difference between snack bars; granola bars, fruit bars, protein bars, and dessert bars, plus a few randoms that don’t fit into any of these categories.

Granola Bars

To me, a granola bar is the original snack bar for kids and adults.  I most often think of it as a bar with oats and chocolate chips, but there’s many different varieties and flavors to choose from nowadays. 

Nutritionally, granola bars provide mostly carbohydrates, minimal protein, maybe a little fiber, depending on the bar.

When choosing a granola bar for your child, aim for one with 8 grams or less of added sugar.  The lower the better, but I understand that sometimes that’s hard to do, your kids may not enjoy the lower sugar options, or maybe other varieties aren’t in your budget.

Regardless of how much added sugar is in your child’s granola bar, it’s important you pair it with other food groups such to add protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals to keep them fuller longer. 

For more super simple snack combinations that keep your kids fuller longer, grab my Super Simple Snacks Guide.

Here are a few granola bars that I feel good about feeding my kids that have 8 grams of added sugar or less.

Dietitian Recommended Granola Bars:

Fruit Bars

Only 1 in 10 Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit.  That’s why fruit bars can be such a convenient option for kids and adults. You can easily take them with you anywhere and not worry about spoilage or bruising. 

Fruit bars are what they sound like; mostly fruit.  Ideally they should contain no added sugar because the natural sugar from the fruit should provide enough sweetness.  However, on occasion, you may find a few grams of added sugar.

Dietitian Recommended Fruit Bars:

Protein Bars

Protein bars essentially contain a higher ratio of protein compared to carbohydrates and/or fat.  However, I would also classify a snack bar for kids as a “protein bar” if the main ingredient (first few ingredients listed) are protein-rich foods like nuts and seeds.

I have a hate love relationship with protein bars.  They can serve a valuable purpose nutritionally, but sometimes they’re completely unnecessary and expensive too.  

Take Zeek Kids Protein Bars for instance.  While there’s 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and only 5 grams of added sugar, they’re over $2.00 a bar, which is a lot if you ask me.  Granted you’re getting double the nutrients in one bar, so it will depend on your child and your budget.

Most Americans, including children, are getting enough protein in their diets without eating protein bars.  However, protein can help you feel fuller longer and stabilize blood sugar levels, so a protein bar may not be the worst choice when you can’t add a protein in any other way.

Instead of purchasing an expensive protein bar for your kids, try these more whole food options.

When choosing a protein bar for your child, you should still aim for one with 8 grams or less of added sugar.

Dietitian Recommended Protein Bars:

Dessert Bars 

Unfortunately marketing has fooled us into thinking many snack bars are “healthy,” when in fact, they’re no different than eating a bunch of cookies – nothing wrong with that from time to time!

So what would I consider a snack bar for kids to be a “dessert bar?”  Well, if it has more than the 8 grams of added sugar I like to aim for, then you have a “dessert bar.”

As a pediatric dietitian, I recommend using dessert bars sparingly due to the amount of added sugar they may contain. And most importantly, always trying to pair them with a form of protein, fat, or fiber.

Just because a bar may have more than my preferred 8 grams of added sugar doesn’t mean it has no nutritional value.  I prefer to look at what a food adds to a child’s diet and if they enjoy it, rather than one single micronutrient; added sugar.

For instance, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars have 14 grams of added sugar, which isn’t ideal.  However it also contains 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein, and 1 mg of iron.  These work great on occasion when you’re in a pinch.

Dietitian Recommended Dessert Bars:

Other Snack Bars for Kids

There are a few bars that I love and recommend as snack bars for kids, but they don’t necessarily fit into any of the four categories above.  

Check out more on-the-go snacks here. 

What to Look for in a Healthy Snack Bar for Kids

It’s difficult not to get hooked on the fun characters and marketing claims on the packaging of snack bars for kids. 

I encourage you to take a few extra minutes the next time you go grocery shopping to explore the snack bar options.  Ignore the front of the package and flip it over to look at the nutrition label.

I typically look at added sugar first and then move my way to other macro (fat and protein) and micronutrients (iron and fiber).  

As a pediatric dietitian, here’s what I look for in a healthy snack bar for kids:

  • 8 grams or less added sugar
  • 2 + grams protein
  • 3 + grams fat
  • 2 + grams of fiber
  • 1 + mg iron

While these are the levels I look for, there’s rarely a bar that meets all of these, so don’t worry if you can’t check all of these boxes – no snack bar for kids is perfect. 

I don’t recommend focusing too much on carbohydrates or natural sugars unless it’s medically necessary.  Our kids need carbohydrates as their main source of energy and it’s inevitable that most snack bars for kids will contain carbs. 

What about the ingredients?  

The ingredient list is not my first priority, simply because I don’t want you to fixate on ingredients you can’t pronounce or feel scared if there’s an ingredient that may be fear mongered.  

However, what I will say is that the ingredient deck is listed by weight, with the ingredients making up the most of the product listed first and the ingredients towards the end in minimal amounts.

If the ingredients are a priority for you, focus on what’s making up the most of the product, not the entirety of the product.

While many influencers and even health professionals fear monger certain ingredients, the fear, stress, and restriction that comes with avoiding those ingredients is more dangerous than simply eating it and focusing on variety.

Best Snack Bars for Kids

Best Snack Bars for Kids

Okay, now it’s time to cut to the chase and get to the 12 best snack bars for kids and why.

As I said, there’s no perfect snack bar for kids.  The most important things to consider are:

  • Pairing snack bars with another food group that contains fat, fiber, or protein
  • Choosing a snack bar your kids actually like
  • Aiming for 8 grams or less of added sugar if possible

1. KIND Chewy Granola Bars

Best Granola Bars for Kids

I love every KIND snack bar out there, but for my kids, I love their KIND chewy Granola bars.  While they only have 1 g of protein and fiber, they do have 1 mg of iron and the 25% less added sugar than leading competitors is a huge plus.

They’re also gluten free and have no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.

2. Dino Bars

Best fruit bars for kids

Dino Bars might just be my favorite “fruit bar.”  While other fruit bars contain mostly carbohydrates, Dino Bars also provide 2 grams of protein and fiber, plus 3 grams of fat.

That’s not even the best part.  Dino Bars have an edible wrapping, not the actual wrapper it’s packaged in, but the coating of the bar, to help keep fingers clean and mess free.

Grab some here and use code familynutrionist10 for 10% off your first order

3. MadeGood Granola Bars

Best Snack Bars for Kids

MadeGood Granola Bars are another favorite of mine as a Dietitian and mom and for many reasons:   

  • Allergen friendly
  • Contains nutrients found in one serving of vegetables
  • Only 6 grams of added sugar, depending on the variety
  • Comes in granola minis

4. Kirkland Granola Bars

Costco Granola Bars

I’m a huge Costco fan, and the Kirkland Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are always a staple on my Costco runs.

I love them because they not only have 7 grams of added sugar, but you can get 64 for roughly $12.  That’s $0.19 per bar and hard to beat compared to other brands.

5. That’s It Minis

I love are Thats It Fruit Bars.  Mostly because it’s an easy fruit on the go option that I can throw in my purse and it can stay there without spoiling for months until I’m conveniently in need of a snack for one of my hangry kids or myself. 

That’s It bars typically contain just fruit.  That’s It – get it?  Because they contain only fruit, they pack 2 grams of fiber in just one mini bar, 3 grams in the apple blueberry bar.

6. Good & Gather Whole Grain Baked Bars

Healthy snack bars from target

If your kids love CLIF Kid ZBARs, I highly recommend Good & Gather Whole Grain Baked Bars from Target.  They have a variety of flavors, they’re cheaper ($0.61 versus $0.88), AND have 2 grams less added sugar than Z Bars. 

If your child loves CLIF bars, I’d recommend the CLIF Bar minis for 2 grams less added sugar and 2 grams more protein.

7. CLIF Kid ZBAR Protein Bars

Protein Bars for Kids

While I do love the Good & Gather Whole Grain Baked Bars over regular ZBars, I think the CLIF Kid ZBAR Protein is a great option.

At just over $1.00 per bar, you get 5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and only 8 grams of added sugar. 

Just one bar could be a quarter of your child’s protein for the day, depending on their weight.  Find out how much protein your child needs here. 

8. Annie’s Organic Dipped Granola Bars

best snack bars for kids

If your kids really enjoy chocolate, then I recommend Annie’s Organic Dipped Granola Bars.  

For only 7 grams of added sugar, they can enjoy a chocolatey snack bar that also provides them with 2 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.  Plus they’re made in a peanut free facility making them a safer option to send to school.

9. Larabar Mini’s

Best Snack Bars for Kids

Another mini snack bar for kids that I am a big fan of.  With a minimal ingredient list, Larabar Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mini’s pack 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of added sugar. 

10. Once Upon a Farm Refrigerated Oat Bars

Best Snack Bars for Kids

Once Upon a Farm Refrigerated Oat Bars are relatively new, and a tad on the spendy side, but their nutrient profile is impressive.  

Even though they run almost $3.00 a bar, you can often get them on sale with Target Circle.  

Sometimes you have to consider what you’re getting for your money.  These Oat Bars contain no added sugar, not even artificial sweeteners, 4 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber, which is great!

They also contain ingredients from real fruit and veggies.

11. Simple Mills Almond Flour Snack Bars

Best Chocolate Bar for Kids

I think Simple Mills Almond Flour Snack Bars are a great option to include in your kid’s snack rotation. While they do have 8 grams of added sugar, they have 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and almost 2 mg of iron.

12. MadeGood Soft Baked Oat Bars

snack bars for kids

These MadeGood Soft Baked Oat Bars are a newer snack bar for kids and I absolutely love that it only has 4 grams of added sugar. This bar is comparable to Zbars and the Good & Gather Whole Grain Oat Bars and definitely makes it on the best snack bars for kids list.

Snack Bar for Kids Gluten Free

For families avoiding gluten for medical or life-style reasons, there are many snack bars for kids that are gluten free. The main thing to look for is whether or not the oats used to make the bar are certified gluten free.

Here are a few, but always double check the ingredients to be certain. 

Nut Free Granola Bars

Many schools have moved to a nut free policy for snacks and lunches.  This can make it challenging to determine what snacks, let alone granola bar are safe to send to school.  

For the safety of children who have life-threatening food allergies, paying attention to what snack bars for kids are nut free, is very important.  

Here are a few, but always double check the ingredients to be sure, as well as what your district and classroom’s policy is on snacks and food in general.

Are Snack Bars for Kids Healthy?

Again, another word I have a hate, love relationship with.  The term “healthy” is relative to the person using it. 

And yes, snack bars for kids can be a healthy choice.  Just remember these tips when choosing and serving a snack bar to your child. 

  • Add a fruit or vegetable, plus a protein or fat to help keep them fuller longer. 
  • Aim for a snack bar with 8 grams or less of added sugar
  • Choose a snack bar your child loves, you have access to, and is in your budget.

For more balanced snack ideas, grab my Super Simple Snack guide with over 50 customizable snack combinations and 48 dietitian approved packaged snacks.

Hi! I'm Alex Turnbull. I'm a registered dietitian specializing in introducing solids and picky eating. Most importantly, I'm a mom of two so I get how stressful feeding kids can be.

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