The Larabar is the best known of the natural, whole food bars; the 19 flavors are made with whole (unprocessed) foods that retain all their natural nutrients. Larabars have around 210 calories, with 3 to 6 grams of protein and 24 to 28 grams of carbohydrates, depending on the variety. The protein level is fairly low, but total fat content is higher than in other bars, and that along with the fiber will slow the digestion of carbs and provide long-lasting energy. Most of the fat is healthy poly- and mono-unsaturated fat from nuts, but a few flavors have more than the recommended three grams or less of saturated fat, so check labels. The Larabar is not organic, but some varieties use select organic ingredients. The company does make an organic energy bar called Jacolat (*Est. $1.65), but the bars cost more.
We found credible expert reviews of the Larabar at BackpackGearTest.org, in Climbing and Prevention magazines, and at About.com; all are based on objective tests and compare Larabar bars to others. There are lots of user reviews at Amazon.com, Drugstore.com, and Outside magazine that provide a first-person perspective on different energy bars. Real Simple magazine, MightyFoods.com and ShapeYou.com single out specific Larabar flavors for their taste, which they say makes the nutritional benefits even more palatable.
Test reports at BackpackGearTest.org are written by people who try out an energy bar on camping or hiking trips. They assess the bar's quality of energy, as well as its taste and how it holds up in a backpack and in extreme temperatures. All three testers like the energy that Larabar provides, and say they hold up well in heat and cold.
Review: Reviews and Test Reports of Larabar Pistachio and Key Lime Pie, David Bradish, Keven Hollingsworth, Sheila Morrisey, Spring 2008
Reviewer Dave Sheldon reviews five energy bars and a Snickers candy bar based on the responses of an unspecified number of testers who tried each bar while on a climbing trip. Larabar gets the second-highest grade, and according to the review, Larabar bars "were one of the highest ranked for taste, texture, and ease of digestion. They sit lightly in the stomach, provide clean energy, and do well in the heat and cold. A few testers felt that Larabar did not completely fill them up, despite 200 calories per bar."
Review: Energy Food Review - Bars, Dave Sheldon
3. Real Simple
This review in Real Simple magazine rates energy bars on taste based on the reactions of unidentified testers, and has a nutritionist weigh in on each taste-test winner. The Larabar Cherry Pie is named the best fruity energy bar.
Review: Best Energy Bars, Editors of Real Simple magazine
Walking guide Wendy Bumgardner explains that by natural she means "bars with simple ingredient lists you can understand." The Larabar is among the top eight she singles out in this review. Bumgardner writes, "The consistency of the bar is excellent -- no coatings to melt, easy to break in half, but it doesn't crumble, easy to chew. Really perfect for munching while walking. And the taste -- fantastic, with no weird flavors from additives." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Top 8 Natural Energy Bars, Wendy Bumgardner, Updated Oct. 24, 2008
5. Prevention Magazine
Registered dietician Elizabeth Somer helps the two authors choose seven energy bars that are relatively low in calories, yet provide enough carbohydrates for a quick energy boost. All have enough protein to prevent an energy slump after the carbs have worn off, too. A poster linked to the article gives details about each bar. The bars are not rated or ranked, though according to the comments, "testers agreed that Larabars satisfied hunger best."
Review: We Test It: Energy Bars, Denise Foley with Tanya Beers, July 14, 2005
MightyFoods.com is a website dedicated to natural foods. Reviewer Rachel Cole decided to taste-test energy bars made with real foods, by which she means "predominantly made with some combination of dried fruit (usually dates) and nuts and without any added sugars or proteins." She found 11 brands with bars that meet her criteria, and tasted 35 bars in all. Of the eight bars that she liked enough to buy again, four are Larabar flavors: Cashew Cookie, Lemon Drop, Apple Pie and Pistachio.
Review: Real Food Energy Bar Review, Rachel Cole
7. Outside Magazine
Outside magazine provides user reviews of outdoor gear, including food - some reviews are posted directly on the site and some are gathered from other sites like REI.com. A Top 10 list shows the top-ranked products in each category, as well as how many people have posted reviews of each one. Just over 40 people have posted reviews of LŠrabars; they give them an average rating of 4.9 out of five. Most rave about the flavor and wholesomeness of the bars.
Review: Larabar Reviews, Contributors to Outside magazine
User reviews for the Larabar cover many different flavors, but all appear together under whatever flavor you select from a pull-down menu. Over 165 people give the Larabar an average rating of 4.5 out of five.
Review: Larabar Reviews, Contributors to Amazon.com
This online retailer's reviews are especially helpful because each flavor is reviewed individually. The Cherry Pie is the favorite, with almost 30 people giving it a perfect five out of five rating; the Coco Mole also has a perfect score, but from only five people. It's worth reading through reviews of different flavors to see which might appeal most to you. Most people love the texture of the bars and the fact that they're made from whole food ingredients.
Review: Larabar Reviews, Contributors to Drugstore.com
ShapeYou.com, a site for fitness buffs, gives Gear of the Year awards to health and fitness products. In the "natural and organic food products" category, two flavors of Larabar bars win 2009 Gear of the Year awards: Peanut Butter & Jelly and Tropical Fruit Tart. It's not clear what criteria are used to choose award winners, though.
Review: Gear Awards: Bars, Editors of ShapeYou.com