A “meal bar” is a full step above a nutrition or energy bar and should be held to a higher standard. They are designed to function as a meal rather than just a snack to fill in the cracks. They can be great high-calorie performance fuel, lightweight trail food or an easy meal when you’re tight on time.
Meal bar considerations:
Weighs at least 3 oz.
Nutrition provides at least 300 Calories.
Minimally Processed Ingredient Label.
Your meal bar needs to be filling, healthy and taste good. Everyone has different nutritional needs. But, to stay on par with anything close to a full meal replacement, it should provide at least 3 oz of food as well as at least 300 calories. Preferably more... especially for active lifestyles. So let's forget about 150 calorie bars because they just ain’t gonna cut it.
Dry, moist, sweet, salty - taste preference is up to you. Many prioritize Gluten-Free, Organic, Nut-Free, Soy-Free and Non-GMO labels as well. Personally, I keep my food as natural and minimally processed as possible. Listed below are, in no order, in my opinion, the best meal bars on the market today.
Kate’s Real Food - Grizzly Bar
Weight: 3 oz
A good meal bar by definition. It provides a decent amount of food and nutrition using healthy ingredients. Fairly calorically dense as well. Definitely on the sweet side.
Website: Kate's Real Food
Clif Bar - Chocolate Chip
Weight: 2.4 oz
A health food titan. Clif Bar has a ton of flavor options, is sold everywhere and is relatively inexpensive. Really don’t cut it as a meal for me though. Some complain about their mealy texture and bland flavor.
Website: Clif Bar
Greenbelly Meal - Dark Chocolate
Weight: 5.5 oz
A true meal. Has a well balanced nutritional profile providing 33% of your daily value for 6 core nutrients. Two bars per zip-sealed pack make it the perfect ready-to-eat backpacking meal.
MET-Rx - Super Cookie Crunch
Weight: 3.5 oz
With a whopping 32 grams of protein, these are marketed as weight lifting bars for bulking up. You may need a scientist to pronounce some of the ingredients though.
GoMacro - Protein Pleasure
Weight: 2.4 oz
This one checks all of the ingredient and dietary boxes - organic, clean protein source (brown rice and pea), Gluten Free, Non-GMO and Vegan. They have a mealy texture.
ProBar- Original Blend
Weight: 3 oz
Probars are usually pretty moist and on the sweeter side. They also have whole chunks of fruits and nuts. Decent amount of nutrition and food.
By Chris Cage
Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine and Bicycling Magazine to Fast Company and Science Alert. He recently wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe.
650-calorie fuel in a ready-to-eat package.