Jam on toast is messy. Strawberries in a backpack are a mistake. But a strawberry breakfast bar? It’s a great option for those who need a fast bite en route or a backpack snack to quash hunger on a busy day.
Breakfast bars — or cereal bars — are not nearly as nutritious as whole grain toast and fruit, but they are tasty, convenient and portable. These bars come in a host of flavors and styles, but for this feature, we stuck with strawberry fruit and grain bars.
Nearly all the bars we tasted were identical in terms of calories, but there were huge differences in texture and flavor. Great strawberry breakfast bars are made with minimally sweet, fresh-tasting pastry with a generous squeeze of aromatic, bright-flavored strawberry jam down the middle.
The bad ones are crumbly, dry and filled with a brown paste that neither smells nor tastes like strawberry. While all the bars we tasted were sweet, some packed so much sugar they required a tall glass of milk alongside.
Here’s the scoop on the most delicious strawberry breakfast bars out there — and the sad, sugary ones to avoid. Nutrition info refers to a single bar, except where noted.
Nature’s Bakery Oatmeal Crumble Strawberry
A fat ribbon of bright strawberry jam down the center of these chewy, grainy bars is a plus. A warm, aromatic hit of cinnamon in the pastry makes them taste homemade. 140 calories, 2.5 g fat, 85 mg sodium, 13 g sugar, 2 g protein. $5.99 for six 1.41-ounce bars at Lucky. (4 stars)
Trader Joe’s “This Strawberry Walks into a Bar” Cereal Bars
The soft crust in these bars is ordinary, but a thick layer of strawberry kicks these to the top. They taste like a delicious strawberry dessert. 140 calories, 2.5 g fat, 75 mg sodium, 16 g sugar, 2 g protein. $1.99 for six 1.3-ounce bars. (3½ stars)
365 Organic Strawberry Fruit & Grain Bars
Moist pastry and just the right amount of fresh strawberry filling make these bars a good choice. Less sugar in both the pastry and the filling would set these up for top marks. 140 calories, 3.5 g fat, 85 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 2 g fiber. $3.29 for six 1.3-ounce bars at Whole Foods. (3 stars)
Good & Gather Organic Strawberry Fruit & Grain Bars
Tender pastry held together with lots of strawberry paste make for a pleasant bite, even though the jam is overcooked and too sweet. 140 calories, 3.5 g fat, 80 mg sodium, 15 g sugar, 2 g protein. $2.89 for six 1.3-ounce bars at Target. (2½ stars)
O Organics Strawberry Flavored Organic Fruit & Grain Bars
These bars are dry and crumbly and the generous layer of paste is too stiff, but the overall flavor is good. Brighter strawberry flavor would be an improvement. 140 calories, 3.5 g fat, 80 mg sodium, 15 g sugar, 1 g protein. $3.49 for six 1.3-ounce bars at Safeway. (2½ stars)
Kellogg’s Special K Pastry Bars
Crunchy, saltine cracker-like wafers filled with a thin layer of bright, sweet filling are pretty to look at, but the trace amount of filling has no strawberry flavor, and the drizzle of frosting is sugar overkill. 148 calories, 3 g fat, 118 mg sodium, 10 g sugar, 2 g protein (for 3 bars.) $3.99 for six 2-packs of .44-ounce bars at Safeway. (2 stars)
Kellogg’s Nutri Grain Soft Baked Strawberry Breakfast Bars
These rustic pastries have lots of chewy oats and plenty of jam, but the flavor is flat and sugary. 130 calories, 3.5 g fat, 140 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 2 g protein. $3.49 for eight 1.3-ounce bars at Raley’s. (1½ stars)
Signature Fruit & Grain Strawberry Cereal Bars
The chintzy strip of filling in these is sad. It has great strawberry flavor, but there’s so little of it that the bar crumbles on contact. 130 calories, 3 g fat, 90 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 1 g protein. $2.49 for eight 1.3-ounce bars at Safeway. (1 star)
Full Circle Market Strawberry Cobbler Cereal Bars
Oops! Someone swapped out the strawberries in these cloyingly sweet bars. The filling is pink, but it tastes like apples. 140 calories, 2.5 g fat, 85 mg sodium, 16 g sugar, 2 g protein. $4.49 for six 1.3-ounce bars at Lucky. (½ a star)
Sunny Select Strawberry Fruit & Grain Bars
Hate strawberries? This bar is for you! The thick, brown, glue-like filling has no trace of strawberry aroma or flavor. 140 calories, 3 g fat, 100 mg sodium, 12 g sugar, 3 g protein. $3.19 for eight 1.3-ounce bars at Lucky. (No stars)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/tag/taste-off.