An open clif bar with more clif bars in the background

Are CLIF Bars Even Healthy?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but they’re essentially overpriced candy bars.

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When you’re on the run, grabbing a CLIF bar seems like a healthy option. I mean, they’re loaded with nutritious ingredients like rolled oats, nine grams of protein, heart-healthy nuts, and other organic ingredients, right?

The only problem: your beloved CLIF bar is, unfortunately, not as good for you as the marketing may lead you to believe.

“For any protein bar, my eyes go directly to the ingredients. I look for added sugar, processed ingredients, and inflammatory oils,” says registered dietitian Sarah Becker, M.S., R.D. “CLIF bars don’t pass the test.”

Are CLIF Bars Healthy?

Not exactly. For starters, they’re insanely high in sugar. My favorite, the White Chocolate Macadamia CLIF bar, for example, clocks in at 17 grams of sugar. That’s just three grams less than a Snickers. CLIF Builder bars (the brand’s high-protein option) are even worse, averaging 27 grams of sugar per bar.

All that sweet stuff sets you up for blood sugar imbalance, says Becker. “You’ll get a spike in blood sugar, followed by a big crash that leaves you less productive and with even more intense cravings.”

Meanwhile, the carb count for an original CLIF bar comes in at a whopping 42 grams per bar. “Depending on the intensity of your workout, your body may benefit from supplementing with carbs,” says Becker, “but the quality of those carbs is key.”

Becker likes that most CLIF bars (the original, Nut Butter, and Thins) opt for organic rolled oats—a complex carb that lends fiber to each bar. But the majority of the carbs come from four types of simple sugars: brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, cane sugar, and barley malt extract.

She prefers CLIF Nut Butter bars and CLIF Thins, which go lighter on sugar than the original. Still, “a handful of nuts and a banana, two to three peanut butter stuffed dates, or trail mix would all be better options for athletes,” she says.


What’s Good About CLIF Bars?

The company claims CLIF bars prioritize organic, plant-based ingredients from sustainable sources. Each bar (including the original CLIF Bar, CLIF Nut Butter Bars, CLIF Builders, CLIF Minis, and CLIF Thins) breaks down to about 70 percent organic ingredients, with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Though the ingredients vary per bar and flavor, here’s what you’ll find on most CLIF bar labels.

When Is It Okay to Eat a CLIF Bar?

It’s better than nothing when you’re in a pinch. “If a CLIF Bar was my only option, say in the airport or while on the go, I’d grab it to hold me over until I was able to get a more nutrient-dense snack,” says Becker.

Pair it with some protein and fat, like a handful of pistachios or almonds. Then, get up and take a lap around the terminal. “Even a 10-minute walk can make an impact on blood sugar balance and how your body breaks down and stores the glucose,” she says.

What’s In a CLIF Bar?

The company claims CLIF bars prioritize organic, plant-based ingredients from sustainable sources. Each bar (including the original CLIF Bar, CLIF Nut Butter Bars, CLIF Builders, CLIF Minis, and CLIF Thins) breaks down to about 70 percent organic ingredients, with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors. Though the ingredients vary per bar and flavor, here’s what you’ll find on most CLIF bar labels.


Sugar is disguised on the label in various forms: organic brown rice syrup, organic tapioca syrup, barley malt extract, organic cane syrup, organic cane sugar, or cane sugar. Organic or not, sugar is still sugar.

Oats, soy, rice, and peanuts

In the original CLIF bar, you’ll find organic rolled oats, organic roasted soybeans, and soy rice crisps which give each bar its crunchy texture, fiber, and plant-based protein. Whereas, the Nut Butter Bars and CLIF Thins stick to organic rolled oats. For structure, most CLIF bars rely on a mix of peanut flour, rice flour, and organic soy flour. This makes most CLIF bar flavors vegan and gluten-free.

Protein powder

Many CLIF bars (like the original CLIF bars and CLIF Builders) rely on soy protein isolate to up the protein content. The claim that soy is bad for men has been proven false. However, Becker warns, like any dietary supplement, soy protein isolate-based protein powders may be subject to mislabeling or contamination due to the lack of FDA oversight on such products. “In 2018, the Clean Label Project tested 133 protein powders and found that plant-based protein powders were the biggest culprits of heavy metals, specifically arsenic and cadmium,” she says.

Becker likes that the CLIF Nut Butter bars turn to organic pea protein instead. The organic stamp means that the peas used in the protein powder weren’t treated with harmful pesticides like glyphosate.


Nuts and chocolate

Many (but not all) flavors also contain nuts, organic peanut butter, cocoa, unsweetened chocolate, or a combo.

Natural flavors

CLIF sneaks in some iffy-sounding ingredients towards the bottom of the list, like natural flavors. According to the FDA, natural flavors come directly from plant or animal sources, but they can be used to describe almost any type of food. This doesn’t mean that natural flavors are always unhealthy, but they might be more processed than you think.

Soybean oil

Some CLIF flavors contain soybean oil, like the original CLIF White Chocolate Macadamia. Soybean oil is high in omega-6 fats, which are okay in small amounts but can contribute to inflammation when eaten in excess (2).

How to Pick the Healthiest CLIF Bars

CLIF bars tend to vary in ingredients and macros from okay to glorified candy bar. Here’s what Becker looks out for.

The Healthiest CLIF Bars

Few CLIF bars are up to Becker’s standards. In fact, none from the original range of CLIF bars made the list. But if you’re going to eat one anyways, reach for these more nutritious options that feature less sugar and better macros.

CLIF Nut Butter Bar

Of the entire CLIF line, CLIF Nut Butter bars are the only option Becker recommends. “They’re lower in sugar than your average CLIF bar, capping at 10 grams of total sugar per bar,” says Becker. They also offer more balanced macros at nearly half the carbs of a regular CLIF bar, and more healthy fats with organic peanut butter as the number one ingredient.

Per Bar: 230 calories, 11g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 150mg sodium, 27g carbs (3g fiber, 9g total sugar, 6g added sugar), 7g protein

CLIF Thins

While CLIF Thins technically pass Becker’s sugar test, she doesn’t recommend them as a snack. “I aim to get at least 10 grams of protein in a snack. At two grams of protein per serving, CLIF Thins severely miss the mark,” says Becker. To increase the protein content she recommends crumbling the chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia nut, or chocolate peanut brownie flavors over plain Greek yogurt.

Per Bar: 100 calories, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 95mg sodium, 16g carbs (2g fiber, 5g total sugar, 5g added sugar), 2g protein

Here’s how some of the rest of CLIFS’ current lineup stacks up.

Clif Bar CaloriesProtein Fat Carbs Total sugar 
Crunchy Peanut Butter CLIF Bar 260 11 grams 8 grams 40 grams 17 grams 
Peanut Butter CLIF Nut Butter Bar 230 7 grams 11 grams 27 grams 10 grams 
Chocolate Peanut Butter CLIF Builder 290 20 grams 11 grams 29 grams 17 grams 
Chocolate Chip CLIF Bar Minis 100 4 grams 2.5 grams 18 grams 7 grams 
Chocolate Peanut Brownie CLIF Thin 100 2 grams 3.5 grams 15 grams 5 grams 



You’ve got questions about CLIF bars, we’ve got answers.

What should I eat instead of a CLIF Bar?

Any bar that has less sugar, higher protein, and more whole-food ingredients would be a better choice. Becker’s favorite is Elemental bars, which are sweetened with organic honey, and rely on nuts and seeds for protein and healthy fats. Her second pick is Aloha bars, which provide 14 grams of protein and only 5 grams of sugar per bar.

Are CLIF bars good for weight loss?

Unfortunately, no. Since CLIF bars are high in calories, carbs, and added sugar you’ll want to steer clear if weight loss is your goal.

Are CLIF Bars a good meal replacement?

This is a hard no from Becker. “A meal consists of ample protein (25 to 30 grams), healthy fats, and fiber-rich carbohydrates for satiety, satisfaction, and optimal blood sugar balance.”

Are CLIF Bars Keto?

No. CLIF bars are high in carbs and added sugar, and thus, are likely to severely impact ketosis, and are not considered keto compatible. Try Atlas Protein Bars, Quest Bars, or IQ Bars.

Are CLIF Bars Whole 30?

No. CLIF bars are not considered Whole 30 as they contain added sugar and most have nuts. Most nuts are allowed on the Whole 30 diet, but peanuts—which are technically a legume—are not. For a Whole 30-compliant bar, try RX Bars, Larabars, or EPIC Bars.

Are CLIF Bars Paleo?

Nope. If our ancestors couldn’t hunt or gather it, it’s not Paleo. CLIF bars might be less processed than your average candy bar, but they contain oats and multiple sources of added sugar like brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and barley malt extract—which aren’t allowed on the Paleo diet. Try Larabars, That’s It Fruit Bars, or EPIC Bars instead.