What are the criteria that I should worry about when buying energy bars ?
What are the ingredients to avoid and those to look for ?
Here are a few things I look for:
- Bars that don't melt when they're warm. Anything with chocolate will become gooey in the summer
- Bars that don't freeze easily when its cold. I've found that Powerbars just become little frozen bricks anytime its below freezing.
- I like bars with all natural ingredients. Not for abstract health reasons, but just that bars made of real fruits and nuts taste better
- You probably want to make sure the bars have a decent amount of protein, if they become a major food source when you're doing all-day activities. 10g of protein a bar is a good number.
- Variety. If you're going to be eating lots of bars because they're easy to carry on a long trip, make sure to get different flavors and brands. I bought a case of one flavor of bar once, and after the 10th in a single long day of strenuous hiking, I was very sick of them.
I'm not aware of one single bar that matches all of these requirements. Cliff Bars don't freeze or melt easily, but they are mostly made of highly processed food goop. Fruit-and-nut bars are highly palatable, but don't have all that much protein.
Its not a bar, but jerky is easy to carry and store, and can also be a good option for protein sometimes.
Honestly, I think taste is most important. There have been times before where eating hardly anything but energy bars for a few days makes starving to death seem appealing.
Jerky is pretty good, as DavidR mentioned, just don't ever bring that unless you have access to virtually unlimited water. Jerky is loaded with salt and your kidneys will be in turbo-mode when eating it.
Jerky is awesome, or Tonkabites, which is buffalo meat and cranberries. Some jerky brands have lower sodium and no nitrates. I also like those Babybell little gouda cheese things, high calorie and really satisfying. Or any cheese for that matter. Dense calories. Also nuts.com has sprouted nuts that are then dehydrated and spiced, so they taste good and are really easy to digest (unlike normal trailmixes that wreak havoc on my digestive system). Any of the above are good if you want to get away from sweets or high-carb food or are vegetarian.