It's not that hard to put together a gluten-free snack (an apple with peanut butter or Greek yogurt and fruit are two great options), but we'll admit that it's a heck of a lot easier to grab a readymade bar when you're on the run. With the exploding popularity of gluten-free products, more energy bars made without gluten are appearing on the shelves. But when ingredients like wheat or flour are removed, sugar or fat is often added in its place to improve taste and texture, says Alysa Bajenaru, RD, author of the blog InspiredRD. Here, we go beyond the health halo and evaluate how seven gluten-free bars stack up against each other. Whether you have celiac disease or just want to try gluten-free, we've sussed out which energy bars you should skip, snack on, or eat after a workout.
Related: Try this gluten-free diet for runners!
190 calories, 8 g fat, 17 g sugar, 26 g carbohydrate, 4 g protein
If you're working out for more than an hour, you'll want 30 to 60 g of carbs right after to replenish your energy supply, says Bajenaru, and noshing on a LaraBar will almost get you there. LaraBars are made with no more than nine ingredients, so they're much healthier than more processed energy bars with scary unpronounceable ingredients, and added sugars and preservatives.
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200 calories, 13 g fat, 4 g sugar, 14 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein
You're better off having this thinkThin bar as a snack rather than as a postworkout treat. The bar's high fiber (4 g) and fat content come from nuts, so it's healthy and will cut cravings. But the fat can interfere with your body's absorption of carbohydrates, which your body needs to replenish after a sweat session. Plus the bar is made with matitol, a sugar alcohol. GI distress is pretty common in and around exercise, so if you already have a gluten sensitivity, you may also be sensitive to the sugar alcohols that keep thinkThin's sugar content low, says Bajenaru.
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170 calories, 6 g fat, 13 g sugar, 21 g carbohydrate, 12 g protein
Post-workout snacks ideally should have a 2:1 to a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein and a LUNA Protein Mint Chocolate Chip bar clocks in at 1.75:1, which is pretty good, says Bajenaru. Still, you need to watch out for the sugar content. One bar contains 13 g of sugar, nearly half of the 30 g limit of added sugar recommended by the USDA. (Read the nutrition label and you'll see the source of this product's sugar high--the second ingredient listed is organic evaporated cane sugar.)
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200 calories, 13 g fat, 10 g sugar, 17 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein
"I like that KIND bars are just whole ingredients mooshed into a bar. There's not a lot of processed stuff going on here," says Bajenaru. KIND Plus bars won't give you the carbs you need after exercise, but they do have the right makeup for a snack. Made with a combination of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, cashews, and Brazil nuts, the peanut butter dark chocolate KIND bar is a tasty blend of healthy fat and filling fiber that'll satisfy any sweet tooth.
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210 calories, 6 g fat, 13 g sugar, 25 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein
This gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan-friendly bar gets a mixed review in Bajenaru's opinion. While Pure Fit doesn't have sugar alcohols, trans fats, or artificial ingredients, it does have three or four forms of sugar in each bar and 13 g of sugar in the granola crunch flavor.
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190 calories, 11g fat, 10 g sugar, 20 g carbohydrate, 5 g protein
Bumble Bar is a great gluten-free go-to. "This bar is cool because it's made of real ingredients," says Bajenaru. "It's definitely a healthy snack on the go." The bar is full of healthy fats, fiber, protein, and a lot of vitamins--but isn't fortified, so you're getting all these nutrients from natural sources . The chocolate crisp bar also has a 4:1 carb to protein ratio.
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150 calories, 3 g fat, 13 g sugar, 28 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein
Toss this one into your gym bag. NuGO's gluten-free chocolate crunch bar has the right carb-to-protein ratio for a postworkout snack and is one of the few bars that packs enough carbs to properly refuel your body. Plus, the short ingredient list means that it's minimally processed.
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