Snack Bar Smackdown: Clif vs. Lara

Yesterday we compared Kellogg’s Fiber Pus to Larabar. Despite the high amount of fiber in Kellogg’s bars, the clear nutrition winner was Larabar, with a short, understandable ingredient list and no added sugar.

Many readers asked about Clif bars, so here today is a comparison between Clif Banana Nut Bread and Lara Banana Bread, two very similar flavors.

What you need to know:

To start off – Clif is made with many organic ingredients, whereas Lara is not.

Nutritionally, the bars are quite similar – Clif weighs in at 69 grams and 240 calories, and Lara at 51 grams with 230 calories. Definitely not a 100 calorie snack. Clif sports 4 grams of fiber to Lara’s 5 grams. Sugarwise – 22 grams to Clif vs 20 to Lara (that’s about 5 teaspoons each!). We shall check the sugars’ source in a bit.

Clif does have 50% more protein than Lara – 9 grams vs 6 grams, but remember that most people do not suffer from lack of protein.

Here is Clif bar’s ingredient list:

Organic Brown Rice Syrup, ClifPro® (Soy Rice Crisps [Soy Protein Isolate, Rice Flour, Barley Malt Extract], Organic Roasted Soybeans, Organic Soy Flour), Walnuts, Organic Rolled Oats, Organic Toasted Oats (Organic Oats, Organic Evaporated Cane Juice), Organic Diced Bananas (Organic Bananas, Organic Rice Flour), Organic Evaporated Cane Juice, Chocolate Chips (Evaporated Cane Juice, Unsweetened Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavors), ClifCrunch® (Organic Oat Fiber, Inulin [Chicory Extract], Organic Milled Flaxseed, Organic Oat Bran, Psyllium), Organic Banana Powder, Organic Soy Butter, Organic Date Paste, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Cinnamon.

And LaraBar:

Almonds, Dates, Unsweetened Bananas.

Clif has 29 (!) ingredients vs Lara’s 3. And the first one is sugar (Organic Brown Rice Syrup is just a fancy word for sugar, don’t be fooled). There are 3 more added sugars mentioned in Clif’s list (underlined), so you can be sure that most of the sweetness is not from the 26th ingredient, organic date paste. Lara goes to the other extreme – sourcing all its sweetness from dates and the bananas. Funny they write unsweetened bananas, we’ve not see sweetened bananas as an ingredient in other products. Bananas are simply very sweet, especially when a bit overripe.

Clif’s high protein count is again, not from a direct food, but rather soy protein isolate, a derivative of soybeans (note that here Clif is not using organic, so for organic fanatics – you’re probably getting GMO here).

Another irritating fact about the Clif bar is the addition of “Natural Flavors”. When the Clif founder Gary Erickson was mixing the first bars in his mom’s kitchen, there were no such additions, be assured. So what happened to the wholesome natural ingredients that they need to be fortified with a “natural flavor”?

In summary – looks like Larabar is the winner again.

We do have a lot of respect for Clif though. It is a small company run by a passionate founder and his wife, with a focus on organic and sustainable raw materials (recyclable packaging), exceptional employee benefits, etc… Now if they could just put together a simple bar…

  • Katie Hamm

    Totally agree that LARA is the true winner – they are my FAVORITE go-to bar. A lot of people I know rave about Luna bars, but their ingredient list is just as complex as the other bars prepared by their parent company (Clif). Clif used to have a line of Nectar bars which boasted a small recognizable list of ingredients. Haven’t been able to find these on the market in quite some time so I am unsure whether or not they are still in production! Nice article, Hemi.

  • Shauna

    Clif does put out a simpliar bar. They are called Nectar and are found here:

    4 different bars. 5 ingredients, and the ingredients are organic. I’ve had them and they are very comparable in taste to the Lara bar. It’s been out for quite a while – before I remember Lara bars being around, but obviously isn’t their flagship product as it isn’t even on their home page. Makes me wonder how widely they are sold.

  • Jason

    If I were buying something like this, which I rarely do, I’d look for something that doesn’t have soy (because of the phytoestrogens, the fact that it is not a complete protein like egg white, whey, or casein, and that it very well could be GMO-soy). I don’t think it’s bad to add protein. In fact, I don’t think people get enough good quality protein. Protein helps slow digestion/regulate blood sugar levels and repair/build muscles among other things. Good luck finding a bar with organic whey protein concentrate (without the soy or other inferior quality proteins) though.

    I’m with you on the ever-ambiguous “natural flavors” which is found in practically everything on the shelf. It’s VERY hard to find off-the-shelf item that don’t have this (or even worse artificial flavors) in the ingredient list. Natural flavors could be simple fruit extracts or something made in a lab. I don’t know why they don’t list it as extracts if that’s what it is. If you really want to know what it is you have to call them ask and even then they may not give you a clear answer. Whole foods have plenty of flavor, so it shouldn’t be necessary to add any superfluous flavors.

    I like the simplicity of the Larabars, though it could be improved with organic ingredients.

  • carol

    Clif Bar makes lots of different bars, including the Nectar bar (as posters mention above, very similar to Lara… but smaller, so lower in calories) and a new one called Clif C, which is also basically just fruit and nuts, and even smaller (only 130 calories) This is probably the Nectar replacement. The big Clif Bar you mention is their original/flagship product and isn’t a fruit & nut bar… it’s more of a jacked-up muffin bar/meal, so you can’t really compare them to Nestle’s Lara Bar.

  • Emily

    Here’s an idea: How about eating a portion of almonds, dates, and a banana instead of a bar? Hmmmm…

  • Joanna Cake

    Having a vegan for a partner and being a follower of the anti-Candida diet which prohibits sugar and processed wheat, as well as a lot of fruits, ‘treats’ are something of a problem. We have found a brand called gonakd which are similar in content to the lara bars in that they are made of dates and nuts with no added sugar.

    The big problem with all foods is, as you say, unspecified natural flavours. But the worst words of all are ‘New Improved Recipe’ or, worse still, an update without notification.#

    My mother has an allergy to certain types of preservative and the number of cakes and buns that she can tolerate is slowly dwindling away because all the manufacturers keep changing to those preservatives. When they do it without telling her, she only finds out when her feet swell up to twice their normal size.

  • Zachary Smith

    date sugar is sucrose, which is 1/2 fructose and 1/2 glucose, fructose has deleterious effects on the the body (source for this fact: watch it!!)
    Brown rice syrup is maltose, which converts completely and directly into glucose: very easy on the body and good for you. an energy bar full of glucose is a great thing to eat when exercising.

  • Audrey

    “Yesterday we compared Kellogg’s Fiber Pus to Larabar.”
    Even though it’s just a typo, Fiber Pus is right!