4 Nutritionist-Approved Meal-Replacement Bars for Every Occasion

Dietitian Shelley Lewis Alspaugh explains which ones you should keep—and which ones you should toss.

In Washington, where powerful politicians and fitness enthusiasts alike are always on the go, skipping meals is, unfortunately, a common occurrence.

Not only is that a terrible idea for your health—with high-energy jobs, you need calories, people!—but skipping meals has been shown to lead to overeating and increased risk of diabetes later in life.

That’s where nutrition bars come in, says registered dietitian Shelley Alspaugh of Rebecca Bitzer & Associates. While it’s not recommended to eat meal replacement bars every day, Alspaugh says on occasion they’re good “as a healthy alternative to either skipping a meal or making an impulsive food choice.”

Read on for her reviews of four popular nutrition bars, and find out which one is the best bet for the next time you’re in a pinch.

Cliff Bar Original

Good for: “They’re great for a heavy snack or a light meal, depending on your calorie needs,” Alspaugh says. The bar’s high-calorie, high-carb, high-protein profile means it’s equivalent to a little more than an ounce of meat.

Pitfalls: It’s a keeper for athletes, but for those trying to lose weight or as a mid-morning snack in the office, it’s a bit too high in calories.

Final verdict: Eat this bar an hour or so before a hard workout or after a long endurance activity, such as hiking.

Luna Bar

Good for: The bar designed for and by women comes in plenty of tasty flavors and is ideal for long meetings and to tide you over during long breaks between meals.

Pitfalls: Alspaugh had no qualms about Luna Bars, thanks to their average nutritional profile of 170 calories, 3 to 5 grams of fiber, 26 carbohydrates, and only 0.5 grams of saturated fat.

Final verdict: “I think these are a great fit for most women who are physically active and trying to maintain their weight,” she says. Bonus: Luna Bars may be geared toward women, but they’re a great option for men, too!

Pro Bar

Good for: “This is truly a meal replacement or recovery bar,” Alspaugh says. With 375 to 400 calories, 40 to 45 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein, Pro Bars are ideal for endurance athletes.

Pitfalls: If you’re trying to lose weight, Pro Bars may not be your best option.

Final verdict: One hundred percent organic and vegan, with no protein powder additives, Pro Bars are a great meal replacement for high-endurance athletes and those trying to gain weight. “This bar is a winner for the individual who needs a high-cal, whole-foods-based bar,” says Alspaugh.


Good for: The PowerBar Harvest Energy Bar is ideal for consumption before moderate intensity exercise, our expert says.

Pitfalls: At 240 calories, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of protein, and 1 gram of saturated fat, this may be a bit heavy for an office snack.

Final verdict: PowerBars are nicely balanced, but save them for when you need a quick fuel boost before a workout.

See Also: 
7 Foods You Should Avoid Eating
Foods to Fuel Up Before 5 Different Workouts
5 Energy-Boosting Foods