Review: Special K Protein Meal Bars


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At a recent layover between flights, we had the munchies. This Special K Protein Meal Bar caught our eye near the checkout counter of an airport book shop. Seems delish. Promises lots of health. We scanned it with the Fooducate app and were appalled to discover it gets a D, the lowest score possible!

We decided to stay hungry a little longer and leave this food like substance alone.

What you need to know:

Special K began its life as a cereal for dieters in 1956. The Kellogg’s company created a very low fat cereal from rice and wheat. Ever since, the product line has expanded and grown to non cereal products. The bar / meal replacement category is a perfect fit for the Special K message of dieting, and thus we find ourselves with these protein meal bars on sale.

Here is the ingredient list from the bar we examined; it takes about the same time to read it as a magazine:

Coating [Sugar, Palm Kernel and Palm Oil, Milk Protein Isolate, Yogurt Powder (Cultured Whey Protein Concentrate, Cultured Skim Milk, Yogurt Cultures; Heat-Treated after culturing), Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Color Added], Soy Protein Isolate, Corn Syrup, Strawberry Flavored Fruit Pieces (Sugar, Cranberries, Citric Acid, Natural Strawberry Flavor with Other Natural Flavors, Elderberry Juice Concentrate for Color, Sunflower Oil), Inulin, Fructose, Polydextrose, Sugar, Rice Starch, Vegetable Oil [Partially Hydrogenated Soybean, Cottonseed and Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil (Less Than 0.5g Trans Fat Per Serving) with TBHQ and Citric Acid for Freshness], Cereal [Rice, Wheat Gluten, Sugar, Defatted Wheat Germ, Salt, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey, Malt Flavoring, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Folic Acid], Dextrose, Calcium Carbonate, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Vitamin A Palmitate, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), BHT (Preservative), Egg Whites, Pecans, Almonds, Wheat Flour, Peanuts, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Vitamin D.

There is so much crap in this bar that we don’t know where to begin:

  • Partially hydrogenated oils (ie trans fat)
  • 4 tsp of sugar, almost all of it added
  • barely any real strawberry
  • the fiber is added in the form of inulin, not through whole grains
  • BHT  (potential carcinogen) and TBHQ (causes nausea and delirium) are used as preservatives
  • artificial and natural flavorings
  • a laundry list of added vitamins and minerals, because this fake food has no nutrients on its own.

What to do at the airport:

You’re better off with a bag of potato chips than this so called “health bar”.

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  • -K-

    …disgusting! Well slammed.

  • Sinn1sgirl

    Wow!! Good job guys…I always went for those when my cravings kicked in.

  • Karyn

    One of my go-to items when traveling is simply a bag of nuts, with or without dried fruit.  If it has plain dark chocolate with no weird ingredients, that’s fine, too.  It might vary by airport, but I’ve also been able to simply bring my own bag of custom-made trail mix.  Liquids, not solids, seem to be the big concern, at least for domestic flights.  But if you can’t bring your own, the next best thing is to check the coffee shops and magazine shops for a real-ingredient trail mix.

    (Note:  This is obviously directed towards those of us who are not allergic to tree nuts.  For those who are, take the basic idea of seeking out basic real-food items and adapt it to fit you.)

  • JanieJ

    Special K is the most adept at having the public believing they are a “healthy” option for “weight loss” — their inane Special K diet plan all over TV during January was laughable…yes, lose weight eating our terrible-tasting, sugar-, HFCS-, and chemical filled products.  For the 170-200 calories and double the unimpressive 10g protein in these three bite bars, you could eat eight ounces of plain Greek yogurt with a tbsp. of natural peanut butter …all real food, all filling, 22g of protein and nothing added.

  • sl

    intersting!  I love the new nature valley protein bar. Do you have any info on it??

    • Norma

      It’s a piece of crap. I blogged about it on Sunday at, post titled “More Processed Food Foolishness.”

      • kim

        I bought the special k chocolate bar this week and have eaten 2 of them and both of them I got sick on my stomach about 2 hours after eating. has that happened to anyone else

  • Noel Mathur

    Don’t give inulin a bad rep. Actually, it is a good stuff, its also called as prebiotic on which some of the bacteria feed. AFAIK, its present in a couple of a probiotics formulations too.

    I agree, the laundry list of things would make me not buy this stuff but I would not add inulin in it.

  • Lisa

    That doesn’t even look good. I’ve seen more appealing bars in my toilet.

  • Angie

    Wow I just bought a bunch of special K stuff after gaining 10 lbs. I know they’re very gimmicky and all but I was really spiraling out of control with what I ate. Good thing I didn’t open these yet, I am returning them.

  • Chanel

    I should have read this before I brought and ate this sugar bar. Its like biting into a sugar cane literally.

  • genebernice

    Where Can I get this special K protein meal bars in India? Benefits Of Lecithin

  • Jackie

    Gross! I used to grab this at the gas station for a quick breakfast. Never again will I do that! Thank you for spreading the awareness, I love your site and app to pieces.

  • old_lady

    I know it is a journey for some to read the label……I am glad sites llike this remind us how important it is to read. Thank you Fooducate!

  • yousticktoyournastyogurt

    I have eaten these for probably 4 years straight almost every morning. I feel sustained for hours (I eat the bar with a banana); gives me energy and does not get my acid reflux going. Life-savers!

    • Will

      I do the same now too, i agree whole heartedly