Kids' snack bars not necessarily healthier than adult versions

Kids' snack bars are basically the same as adult versions, just a little smaller. (Consumer Reports)

(Consumer Reports) - You're seeing lots of snack bars for kids...smaller, often with more chocolate options of the bars you might grab on the go. The marketing makes it look like they're healthy, but are they a good, healthy choice for your child? Consumer Reports nutritionists checked them out for you.

Like many moms, Chris Wood gives her middle schoolers snack bars two or three times a week.

"Well they're easy to pack in their backpack or their lunchbox, for a quick snack after school before they come home," Wood said.

CR nutritional experts evaluated the ingredients and nutritional information for 12 different kids’ snack bars. They looked for natural versus added sugars, whole versus refined grains and natural protein sources, such as nuts and seeds or whole grains rather than processed sources like isolated soy protein.

Ideally snack bars should consist mainly of whole foods and less processed ingredients.

What is the difference between snack bars for grownups and ones for kids?

Kid's versions are smaller and that's about it. They have pretty much the same ingredients and they're not necessarily healthier.

One concern - many of the bars contain rice ingredients, like brown rice flour or syrup. Rice can contain arsenic and should be limited in a child's diet.

Consumer Reports' two top picks contain no rice products.

The ones CR thought were "very good?" The Kids Chocolate Chip Protein Bar from R-X-Bar topped the list. It has no added sugars, no rice ingredients, inulin or protein isolates. The sugars, protein, and fiber come from whole ingredients, like dates and nuts. Cost is about $1.30 per bar.

Consumer Reports also recommends Chocolate-flavored Quaker Kids Organic Whole Grain Bars. This snack bar has all organic ingredients - whole grain oats along with dates and chocolate chips. This Quaker bar has just 3 grams of added sugars and come in boxes of five, for five dollars.

CR's take on how to pick the right one? Take a minute to check out the label - and give your kids something you'll both like.

Consumer Reports says that when it comes to kids snacks, think outside the bar, too. Easy options include whole fruit, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, carrot sticks, and bell pepper slices.