Every month Men’s Health Magazine features a segment called “Eat This, Not That!,” which puts two similar foods or beverages into a head-to-head battle royale and compares them based on their health benefits. I love this article because it exposes an unhealthy food and simultaneously unveils the health benefits of an extremely similar alternative. These subtle differences often go unnoticed, but realistically they can make a huge difference.
In our rapidly changing, fast-paced world, supplements, bars, and other meal replacements are absolutely key to the 5+ meals/day lifestyle. There in lies a major problem–most bars/shakes/meal replacements have a ton of sugar, fat, and sweeteners that do more harm than good. The key is to find meal reps that are actually truly good for you. They’re out there, you just need to do a little searching. Consideringthat they’ve gained a ton of popularity over the last few years, Larabars and Clif Bars are a good starting point.
Larabars are all-natural bars made from 100% whole foods–mainly unsweetened fruits, nuts, and spices–and contain no added sugar, preservatives, or artificial flavors. Most flavors have 4-5 ingredients! Another plus is that they’re suitable for any lifestyle; they’re gluten free, dairy free, soy free, kosher, vegan, and non-gmo (genetically modified). They’re the gold standard of the pre-packaged food market.
Clif Bars are high performance, energy bars designed for long-lasting performance, specifically cycling, climbing, and other outdoor endurance sports. They’re made from whole, all-natural, organic ingredients, and contain over 20 vitamins & minerals.
I’ve rated Larabars and Clif Bars across 5 different criteria to come up with a winner:
1. Health – Larabar
Larabar Nutrition Info
Clif Bar Nutrition Info
Larabar – 10/10
As far as bars go health-wise, Larabars are perfect. The only ingredients in the Pecan Pie flavor are dates, pecans, and almonds…THAT’S IT! There are no artificial sweeteners, added sugar, preservatives, chemicals..NOTHING!! Everything is 100% all-natural, straight from real food.
Larabars are loaded with heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, 6 g of protein, as well as 3 g of dietary fiber. Although the sugar content is pretty high, it’s 100% derived from organic dates. Larabars also pack a nice blend of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, iron, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and copper. For only 190 calories Larabars are incredibly filling, nutrition, and keep blood sugar levels stabile.
Clif Bar – 4/10
Although Clif Bars try to be a health food, realistically they’re closer to a candy bar with a health kick. Think the bar version of Gatorade–fantastic for use during high intensity sports, not so much for everyday life.
On the positive side they’re made from whole, organic ingredients, have high fiber content, and have a TON of vitamins and minerals. That sounds really nutritious, but when you dig a little deeper you start to figure out where Clif went wrong. Take a look at the ingredient list:
There are over 30 ingredients, most of which is sugar, sugar, and more sugar! Compare that to Larabars, which are made from only 3-8 ingredients and have zero added sugar. The first ingredient is sugar (which means that sugar is the primary ingredient), there are at least three references to organic evaporated cane juice (sugar), and it’s even topped off with chocolate chips.
Although some of the ingredients are healthy on their own, the entire concoction has far too much added sugar and soy, which is anything BUT a health food. Soy is GMO, pumped with hormones, increases estrogen levels, prevents the body’s uptake of nutrients, and all-in-all is a low quality product in processed form (natural soy, e.g. Miso/Edamame, is healthy though). 240 calories is fairly high for a bar that’s not all that filling.
2. Performance – Clif Bar
Larabar – 7/10
Larabars provide a fantastic source of sustained energy on a day-to-day, lifestyle basis. They’re great for curbing appetite and prevent overeating, but they’re not the supplement of choice for endurance-based activities. The high fat/low protein content is not ideal pre/post/during activity, which makes it a poor choice from a sports performance standpoint.
Clif Bar – 10/10
Clif Bar’s blend of sugar, complex carbs, and protein forms a great combination before, after, or during exercise. Eating a Clif Bar before/during a long run, bike ride, or other sport is an effective way to energize the body and power through ongoing fatigue.
3.Taste – Larabar
Larabar – 9/10
With the exception of the Cherry Pie flavor, which tastes just as good as vomit in my mouth, Larabars have MASSIVE, phenomenal flavor. For only 3-8 ingredients they taste shockingly similar to the flavor they’re advertised as. I love the Banana Bread, Blueberry Muffin, Peanut Butter Cookie, and Key Lime Pie. I’m thoroughly impressed.
Clif Bar - 5/10
In my experience Clif Bars are completely hit or miss and far too inconsistent. Some of the flavors are so nasty that I can’t even finish half the bar, while some of them are pretty good. To put things into perspective, with the exception of the aforementioned Cherry Pie flavor, I prefer EVERY Larabar to any Clif Bar. Clif Bars have a strong, nauseating artificial sweetness to them.
4.Flavor Variety – Clif Bar
Larabar – 9/10
Larabar has 24 flavors including PB & J, Apple Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Peanut Butter Cookie, Cinnamon Roll, and more. The flavors are all based on foods that have nuts, fruit, or spices. Larabar has a very solid, diverse lineup
Clif Bar - 10/10
The one thing I really like about Clif Bars is that they have really unique and inventive flavors. Some of the flavors include: Chocolate Chip Peanut Crunch, Cool Mint Chocolate, Iced Gingerbread, Maple Nut, and Cranberry Apple Cherry. They even release seasonal flavors around the holidays. All in all both bars pack impressive flavor lineups, but I’ll give Clif the edge based on creativity.
5.Consistency – Larabar
Larabar – 8.5/10
Even though there are no preservatives, Larabars always manage to taste gooey, moist, and fresh out of the oven. I really like how they’re not so chewy that you get a jaw workout, but chewy enough to taste silky smooth on the way down. At times the bars can fall a part, which is a negative, but that doesn’t happen often.
Clif Bar - 3/10
The consistency of Clif Bars is gross. They’re overly sticky and chewy, taste chalky, and easily break apart. They feel really, really fake.
Larabars win, 43.5 – 32
Larabars are utterly perfect as an every day snack–they’re uber healthy, curb appetite, and best of all they’re delicious! Clif Bars should be reserved solely for energy before, during, or after intense, endurance-based sports.
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