Are KIND bars healthy?
KIND’s website says KIND bars are only made with whole ingredients you can see and pronounce.
And you’ve probably seen their commercials boasting, “People confuse nice with kind. But they’re different. It’s nice to remove artificial ingredients, but KIND never had to.”
But does that really mean KIND bars are healthy or good for you?
While it may appear so on the surface, a deeper dive into KIND’s sneaky marketing tactics and suspect food labels says otherwise.
Today’s guide will put KIND bars on trial and examine:
To start, we can’t discuss whether KIND bars are healthy without defining what “healthy” means.
What The FDA says about KIND Bars
Back in 2015, the Food and Drug Administration, also known as the FDA, sent a nine-page warning letter to the makers of KIND bars.
In it, they claimed four bars in particular did not meet their requirements for being considered “healthy”[*]:
- Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Apricot
- Kind Fruit & Nut Almond & Coconut
- Kind Plus Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein
- Kind Plus Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew + Antioxidants
This meant KIND manufacturers were no longer allowed to use the term “healthy” on the labels of those four bars.
But there’s a huge caveat you should consider before being alarmed:
The FDA’s definition of “healthy” is questionable.
For a food item to be considered “healthy” in the FDA’s eyes, it must have 1g or less of saturated fat and it can’t have more than 15% of its calories from saturated fat.
Yes, you read that correctly.
So nuts, coconuts and avocados would also not be able to use the word “healthy” on their labels because they each have well over 1g of saturated fats and more than 15% of their calories come directly from that sat fat.
But saturated fat is healthy and good for you.
As you saw in this guide, saturated fats are healthy for you as long as they’re from the right sources, such as the three I just listed.
Instead of contributing to heart disease and high cholesterol, as was previously suspected, these foods can help:
- Improve your triglyceride levels
- Maintain healthy bone density
- Boost immunity
- Aid in weight loss
- Reduce the risk of strokes
- Support creation of important hormones like cortisol and testosterone
- Raise HDL (“good” cholesterol) in your blood to prevent buildup of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) in your arteries to better your overall HDL/LDL ratio
In one study of close to 350,000 participants, scientists learned there was “no significant evidence” for associating dietary saturated fat with increased risks for heart disease[*].
And though one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 11g of saturated fat, half of that comes from lauric acid, which has been shown to lower LDL and raise HDL[*].
Let’s not gloss over this fact about KIND bars: most of the bars in question are loaded with nuts.
Nuts are one of the healthiest sources of saturated fat.
Nuts are packed with antioxidants and vitamins, boost your energy levels, help you lose weight and are little nuggets of portable, crunchy fiber, as you can learn in this guide on the pros and cons of nuts on a keto diet.
And that’s exactly what the KIND team clapped back with[*]:
“Nuts, key ingredients in many of our snacks and one of the things that make fans love our bars, contain nutritious fats that exceed the amount allowed under the FDA’s standard.
This is similar to other foods that do not meet the standard for use of the term healthy, but are generally considered to be good for you like avocados, salmon and eggs.”
So does that mean KIND bars are in fact healthy?
If they’re chock-full of saturated fat, does that mean they’re keto-friendly too?
The Problem With KIND Bars
With KIND bars, it’s not the saturated fat that’s the problem.
The real issue is the amount of sweeteners found in these bars.
These are the labels of 5 randomly bars selected from their most popular categories to show you what’s really lurking behind the KIND label.
#1: No Sugar Added KIND Bars
The “no sugar added” claim on a label is slightly misleading.
Yes, technically no sugars have been added while this food was manufactured, but that doesn’t mean it’s free from sugars or even low in them.
In fact, with this Mango, Apple and Chia KIND bar, it’s just the opposite[*].
One bar clocks in at 21g of sugar and 31g total carbs.
Since most of us aren’t used to seeing grams of sugar in real life, let me convert that for you.
One teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4g of sugar.
So this bar in particular gives you over 5 teaspoons of sugar.
Keto or not, there’s no reason for a supposedly healthy bar to deliver that much sugar in one small snack.
This is like drinking a soda or eating a candy bar — and may even be higher in some cases.
It’s nice you can pronounce those ingredients — mango, apple and chia seeds are familiar, but it’s still way too much sugar for anyone to be consuming at once, even if the sugars are from fruit.
Not only will this send your blood sugar levels through the roof, it can also cause you to crash shortly after and leave you craving more sweets and carbs.
Even KIND bars marketed to lowering your glycemic load aren’t so great for you.
#2: Low Glycemic Index KIND Bars
The glycemic index is simply a measurement of how much a particular food raises your blood glucose levels[*].
Foods with higher amounts of carbs give your system a high glycemic load and are appropriately titled as such.
They flood your system rapidly and give you drastic spikes in blood glucose.
Low glycemic foods don’t act this way.
There are fewer spikes and drops in your insulin as your blood sugar rises and declines more gradually.
So to optimize your health, you should aim to eat foods with the lowest possible glycemic impact.
But… does that mean this KIND bar marketed as low on the glycemic index is safe to eat?
Again, not so fast.
This Almond and Coconut KIND bar has 5g of sugar[*].
While that may seem low compared to the 21g in the last bar, this is still over a teaspoon of sugar.
Imagine just eating a straight teaspoon of sugar for a second.
You would never think to do that yet that’s exactly what you’re getting with this bar.
Now think about what a teaspoon of sugar does to your blood glucose levels.
Just picture a small child running around in circles and screaming their head off if you need help doing this.
Here’s the other issue: there’s only 5g of sugar, but there’s 4g of sugar alcohols if you look closely.
That means only 1g of sugar is naturally found in the bar while the other 4g have been added using a 3-part concoction of honey, sugar, and glucose syrup.
Additionally, this bar is particularly interesting for two other ingredients: soy lecithin and chicory root fiber.
Chicory root fiber, also known as inulin, is a plant-based fiber your body cannot digest. It also cheap, clocks in zero calories and has a naturally sweet taste[*].
That’s why manufacturers commonly add chicory root fiber to their bars; it’s a low-cost way to bulk up their bar’s fiber count while adding some calorie-free flavor too.
Here’s the downside to inulin:
Since it’s technically a prebiotic fiber, meaning the bacteria in your gut is able to feed, or ferment, on it, it may also give off gas as a byproduct of this totally natural process.
That’s why both large and small does of inulin or chicory root fiber may cause:
- Gas and flatulence
- Abdominal pain and cramping
If you have a sensitive stomach or suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), these issues can be worse for you even if you eat just a small bite.
So is this KIND bar really that healthy?
Between the added sugar and cheap filler, I think not.
The next two bars on the list can also be misleading if you’re not careful, especially because of those same sweeteners, additives and fillers.
#3: High Protein, Fiber and Sugar
While eating a high amount of protein is not a target on keto, you may be tempted to use a bar like this next one to meet your protein quota for the day[*].
But don’t let the 12g of protein trick you into overlooking the rest of the stats.
With 12 grams of protein comes 8g of sugar (which is equivalent to 2 teaspoons) and an equal amount of net carbs (12g).
This is more than half of your daily amount if you’re shooting for 20g of carbs each day. What’s worse is that you should never eat the same amount of net carbs as protein in one sitting.
The same happens with this high fiber version[*]:
For a measly 6g of fiber, you’ll need to trade off 11g of sugar.
You can get that same amount of fiber — and zero added sugar — by eating 1.5 cups of broccoli.
In addition to sugar, honey and glucose syrup, this bar also adds in dried cherries, raisins and cranberries. Talk about a sugar bomb.
What about KIND bars clocking in with less than 5g of sugar?
Surely, those are a better option, right?
#4: 5g of Sugar or Less… Are They Really Healthy?
Even in the 5g of sugar or less category, the manufacturers of these KIND bars are still using the 3-sweetener combo (sugar, honey and glucose syrup) as the backbone of these bars’ added sugars.
Even still, we’re talking about an entire teaspoon of sugar here for a whopping 9g of net carbs in a snack.
Are KIND Bars Healthy on Keto?
Some of these KIND bars could technically be included in your daily macro goals, even on keto — but they’re by no means healthy.
They don’t belong in your diet if you don’t want to fork over more than half of your carbs and sugar for the day for a tiny bar without real nutritional substance.
The answer is clear for most: it’s just not worth it.
Find a Better Bar
Don’t settle for a KIND bar if you don’t have to.
There are better snacking options out there, many of which are keto-friendly, such as Perfect Keto Bar, which…
- Is made with clean, keto-friendly, high-quality ingredients
- Doesn’t spike your blood sugar
- Is packed with 10g of grass-fed collagen
- Tastes like dessert
If you want to reach ketosis faster and be healthier, it’s time to drop low-quality snacks like KIND bars and either make your own snacks or pick up a high-quality, keto friendly bar for on-the-go snacking.