Nutri-Grain bars are a staple in the US, since they're convenient, affordable and thought to be a healthy snack option. The brand claims that their products are "made with whole grains," and "can help you come prepared for mornings."
But what's actually in a Nutri-Grain bar? Are the bars healthy or unhealthy? Do they contain any questionable additives like preservatives and dye? And how do real users describe the health effects and taste of Nutri-Grain bars?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Nutri-Grain bars based on clinical studies, to give our take on whether or not the brand is healthy.
We'll compare the ingredients in Nutri-Grain to other popular protein bars (Quest, Kind and Clif Bar), and give our pick for the healthiest Nutri-Grain bar.
We'll also feature a video that shows how to make a healthy protein bar at home with only four ingredients.
Selected macronutrients in the Apple Cinnamon flavor of Nutri-Grain are shown above.
One bar provides 12 grams (g) of added sugar, which is relatively high (nearly 25% of the Daily Value).
Consuming too much added sugar can increase blood pressure and increase risk of cardiovascular disease according to Harvard Health, and many Americans already consume too much sugar from their diet, which is why we recommend avoiding snack foods with high quantities of added sugar.
There is only 2 g of fiber and 2 g of protein per bar which is also suboptimal, because both of these nutrients can increase the sensation of fullness and reduce cravings according to a clinical trial published in the Nutrients journal.
The full ingredient list for this product is shown below:
While there are some nutritious, whole food ingredients in this bar like oats, whole wheat flour and apple puree concentrate, there are also some additive ingredients that we consider to be questionable from a health perspective.
Natural flavor is a broad descriptor, and can contain solvents and preservatives according to a medical review published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal.
Carrageenan is clinically shown to cause gastrointestinal dysfunction (at least in animal models), as we documented in our Fiber One review article.
Citric acid is a food manufacturing additive that can cause significant inflammation throughout the body in some individuals, as documented in a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal.
Overall, we consider Nutri-Grain to be unhealthy and to be a relatively "processed" food product.
But which flavor of Nutri-Grain is the healthiest option? We'll evaluate in the next section of our article.
Which Nutri-Grain is the Healthiest?
We consider Nutri-Grain Strawberry & Squash flavor to be the healthiest flavor of the bars, and its ingredients are shown above.
The added sugar in this flavor is 17% lower than in the Apple Cinnamon flavor (10 g vs 12 g), and it provides both fruit and vegetables.
Squash is nutritionally rich in compounds like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals according to a 2020 medical review, although there's a relatively small amount of squash in this product (even though it's featured in the marketing materials).
Squash is the sixth-listed ingredient in the "Filling" section, and ingredients are required to be listed in order of weight according to the National Institutes of Health.
This means that there's more invert sugar and corn syrup in the filling than there is butternut squash.
We still believe that this flavor provides greater nutrition and potential health benefits than the other flavors we surveyed.
Nutri-Grain vs. the Competition
Quest, Kind and Clif Bar are three of the most popular protein/snack bars in the US. Here's our take on how they compare to Nutri-Grain from a nutritional perspective.
Quest Bars contain artificial sweeteners and some contain erythritol which is clinically shown to be associated with increased risk of stroke.
We consider refined sugar to be a safer alternative to erythritol.
Verdict: Nutri-Grain wins
Kind Bars have about 50% less added sugar and are free of citric acid (though they do contain natural flavor in some cases).
Verdict: Kind Bar wins
Many of the ingredients in Clif Bars are organic, which gives this brand a slight advantage, as we documented in our article on are Clif Bars good for you.
Clif Bars do contain citric acid and natural flavors like Nutri-Grain bars, but they're higher in protein and fiber by a significant margin.
Verdict: Clif Bar wins
Make Healthy Protein Bars at Home
A Youtube creator named Michael Kory has a video with a tutorial for healthy homemade protein bars that has over 1 million views: