Luna bars are one of the more popular nutrition bars you will see often around grocery stores and gas stations alike. Luna bars didn’t catch my eye until I looked at their ingredients and nutrition facts. Are these bars healthy? Do they taste good? Which bars taste the best? I will answer these questions for you here.
I went to the Clif Bar & Company website (yes, Clif makes Luna bars) and ordered their variety pack of 10 to give each flavor a fair shot and a taste test. First, I will talk about the company values and how I feel about the company as a whole. It is important as consumers to know to whom we are giving our money. Second, I will go through each bar individually and summarize their taste, categorize their ingredients and any other outstanding nutritional information. At the end, I will analyze each ingredient and why I categorized them in that manner below the bar-specific sections.
Clif Bar & Company
As per their mission statement, Clif Bar & Company claims to make “the kind of food we’d like to eat, one that strives for a healthier and more sustainable world - the kind of world we’d like to pass on to our children.” There also have their five aspirations: Sustaining Our People, Sustaining Our Communities, Sustaining the Planet, Sustaining Our Brands, and Sustaining Our Business.
What I like: As far as a workplace goes, Clif Bar & Company seems to be a great employer to work for. All of their employees are also company owners, 45% of their leadership positions are held by women, and they also provide onsite child care for their employees. The company also pays their employees on company time to volunteer in their communities.
What I dislike: While they claim to be environmentally friendly, they source their palm oil from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. This contributes to deforestation, death to endangered species and exacerbation of global warming. There are other issues with palm oil production in these countries too. I recommend you read this article which shows a conversation a representative at the company had with another worried fellow blogger.
Luna Bars 10 Flavor Ranked Taste Test
Now for each Luna bar I have tried I will rank them, starting with the first being the best. Note that the last bar on this list doesn't necessarily taste bad, it was just my least favorite Luna bar of the bunch.
Most of these bars are sweeter than other bars in the industry, so unless I mention that the bar otherwise wasn't as sweet as its Luna siblings, assume that the bar tastes sweet. That said, the flavors were all pretty good overall and each had their own distinct tastes.
Also, I want to point out that the Luna Blueberry Bliss and Lemonzest bars are far greater in terms of taste than the other bars and I believe these two bars are bringing something unique to the nutrition bar industry.
1st - Blueberry Bliss
Good ingredients: Rolled Oats, Rice Flour, Apple Puree Concentrate, Apple Juice Concentrate, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Dried Blueberries, Blueberry Puree, Rice Starch
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Roasted Soybeans Soy Flour, Natural Flavors, Palm Oil
Blueberry Bliss was my absolute favorite bar of the bunch and I think one of the best prepackaged nutrition bars out there (if you consider a Luna bar a nutrition bar, see below). The bar has a nice crisp on its bottom and the top is covered with a gooey strong blueberry flavored jam-like substance.
2nd - Lemon Zest
Good ingredients: Rolled Outs, Rice Flour, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Sea Salt, Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda), Soy Lecithin
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Kernel Solids, Soy Flour, Natural Flavors, Glucose Syrup
I loved the taste of this bar - it tasted similar to a lemon drop candy and it was very sweet. The texture was really nice and moist to bite into, unlike some of the other bars that feel closer to granola bars in terms of having a dry texture. The icing at the bottom has a nice foundation to bite into as well.
3rd - Chocolate Dipped Coconut
Good ingredients: Rolled Oats, Rice Flour, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Virgin Coconut Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Cocoa, Coconut, Sea Salt
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Cane Syrup, Cocoa, Palm Kernel Solids, Palm Kernel Oil, Natural Flavors
This bar has a nice soft bite and comes with a slight chewiness. Different than many of the other bars that had a granola-like texture and taste. The Chocolate Dipped Coconut flavor Luna bar has a really nice sweet and strong coconut flavor that blends nicely with the chocolate swirled on top of it. I recommend this favor for coconut lovers.
4th - S'mores
Good ingredients: Rolled Oats, Rice Flour, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Cocoa, Sea Salt
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Palm Kernel Solids, Palm Kernel Oil, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin
The top of this bar had that very familiar dry granola bar taste, give or a take a few pieces of fake graham cracker (there's no graham crackers in the ingredients). The bottom icing adds a flavor like that of a chocolate marshmallow and the bar has a whole was pretty soft to bite into.
5th - Nutz Over Chocolate
Good ingredients: *Rolled Oats, Rice Flour, Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Peanut Flour, Cocoa, Soy Lecithin, Sea Salt
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, Palm Kernel Solids, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Palm Kernel Oil
I really liked this bar because it was something different than the overdone chocolate peanut butter flavor. Luna does have a chocolate peanut butter flavored bar, do not confuse it with this one. The bar was pretty sticky, damp and chewy albeit a little dry. The crushed nuts provide a texture that really tastes like they are peanuts dipped in chocolate. I also like that the Nutz Over Chocolate flavor uses real peanuts, I think that's what sets it apart for me.
6th - Chocolate Cupcake
Good ingredients: *Alkalized Cocoa, Rice Flour, Rolled Oats, Vegetable Glycerin, Gum Arabic, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Agave Inulin, Unsweetened Chocolate, Alkalized Cocoa, Sea Salt, Cocoa Butter
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Flour, Soy Protein Isolate, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Solids, Natural Flavors, Palm Kernel Oil, Soy Lecithin
Normally I am not a big fan of chocolate on chocolate type flavors, but I enjoyed this flavor a lot. The Chocolate Cupcake bar is crispy almost like a rice crispy treat with a brownie textured topping on the top of the bar. The chocolate flavors in this bar blend nicely and the texture really sold me.
7th - Caramel Walnut Brownie
Good ingredients: Rice Flour, Alkalized Cocoa, Rolled Oats, Walnuts, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa, Unsweetened Chocolate, Water, Sea Salt, Soy Lecithin
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Palm Kernel Solids, Palm Kernel Oil, Natural Flavors, Cane Syrup, Soy Protein Concentrate
Here's a disclaimer: I'm not a big caramel fan, so if you feel that this bar should be higher on the list, I am sorry. The Caramel Walnut Brownie has a similar crisp to the Chocolate Cupcake bar, but this one felt a little more dry. The bar was mostly chocolatey, but I could taste the caramel flavor from the icing on the top of the bar.
8th - Creamy Dreamy Peanut Butter
Good ingredients: *Rolled Oats, Rice Flour, Peanuts, Peanut Butter, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Peanut Flour, Soy Lecithin, Sea Salt
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, Palm Kernel Solids, Palm Kernel Oil, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors
Look, I'm a peanut butter lover, so perhaps that's why my standards are higher for peanut butter. The reason why I rated this bar so low was because there are many different companies offering better tasting peanut butter bars with lower sugars and bad ingredients in them. That said, the taste was pretty average amongst other peanut butter bars. If you've had a peanut butter nutrition bar or protein bar, you know what this bar tastes like. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the bar, it's just not bringing anything distinctive or new to the table.
9th - Chocolate Peppermint Stick
Good ingredients: *Alkalized Cocoa, Rice Flour, Rolled Oats, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Vegetable Glycerin, Alkalized Cocoa,Unsweetened Chocolate, Sea Salt
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Solids, Natural Flavors, Palm Kernel Oil, Soy Lecithin
I am not a big fan of peppermint in bars and this bar did not change my mind. This was the driest of the bars, reminding me very much of a typical granola bar. The peppermint existed, but I felt that it could have been either stronger or just came with less of a chocolate-flavored punch.
10th - White Chocolate Macadamia
Good ingredients: Rolled oats, Rice Flour, Chicory Fiber Syrup, Macadamia Nuts, Vegetable Glycerin, Sea Salt, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin
Cautionary and bad ingredients: Soy Protein Isolate, Roasted Soybeans, Soy Flour, Brown Rice Syrup, Cane Sugar, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Kernel Solids, Soy Flour, Natural Flavors
The White Chocolate Macadamia was the most disappointing bar of the bunch, because I was promised macadamia. While there are actual macadamia nuts in the bar, they get overwhelmed by the intense sweetness of the bar. The sweetness tastes more like a syrup rather than a white chocolate or macadamia-type sweet. The texture was similar to a rice crispy bar, so I enjoyed the texture quite a bit.
Now that the taste testing is out of the way, lets take a deep dive into the main issue of Luna bars: they aren't actually very nutritious nor healthy. Case in point: their macronutrients. Let's take a look at a couple of their nutrition labels.
Disclaimer: The nutrition labels on Nutrient Check are my custom creation and not the same as the actual nutrition facts label that provide the useless percent daily value (%DV) column.
While Luna bars claim to be nutrition bars on their very labels, the macronutrients tell a different story. I would say Luna bars are halfway between a good nutrition bar and a candy bar. A Hershey's chocolate bar, at the time of writing this blog, has 24 grams of sugar in it. Two Luna bars brings you in the ballpark of that amount of sugar. Also, 7 and 8 grams or protein is nothing to boast about.
Luna bars are also lacking in the micronutrient category, Clif is not being careful with the ingredients they are putting in these bars. Above I pointed out all good ingredients and cautionary and bad ingredients. Good doesn't necessarily mean healthy, it just means that for the common person the ingredient has no negative side effects. Cautionary or bad can mean a variety of things, as I will point out below.
Oats are a great source of fiber. Oats contain a super fiber called beta-glucan which reduce risk factors of diabetes and other cardiovascular risks and lower cholesterol levels. They also contains large amounts of micronutrients - nutrition data.
Chicory Root Fiber
Chicory root fiber improves gut health, as chicory root contains 68% inulin. Inulin is a fructan that your body doesn't digest and it feeds your beneficial bacteria in your gut. Bacteria that play a role in improving mineral absorption and inflammation reduction.
A sugar alcohol derived from plants, petroleum or animal products used to help mix oil and water-based ingredients. Vegetable Glycerin is generally considered safe and may even have some health benefits.
Great product which is less processed than chocolate is, so its just that much better. Cocoa is proven to have some substantial health benefits such as lower blood pressure and reduced heart disease risk. One publication calls cocoa a super fruit!
High-Oleic Sunflower Oil
High oleic oils are higher in monounsaturated fats, which are better for your health than oils that are not high in oleic acid. We consider monounsaturated fats to be the "heart healthy" fats. That said, this oil was not expeller pressed nor cold pressed. This means it was extracted using the chemical solvent process.
Flavors that have been extracted from a plant or an animal. This can include a large array of sources and we cannot tell where these flavors come from. Quoting the FDA, this can be a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof.
Brown Rice Syrup / Cane Sugar
I listed these as cautionary ingredients because too much added sugar can cause numerous complications with health and I don't think the amounts of sugars in these "nutrition" bars is justifiable.
Soy Protein, Soy Flour, etc.
Soy Protein is a complete source of protein, but studies show that it isn't as efficient at muscle synthesis as whey protein is. While high protein diets are shown to aid in weight loss, the evidence isn't clear with soy protein particularly. Soy protein and soy flour comes from soy products which are frequently genetically modified (GMO). That said, just know that there is no clear evidence that soy protein is inherently bad for you.
Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Kernel Solids, Palm Oil Palm kernel oil derived from the kernel or seed of the fruit in oil palms. This oil is high in saturated fat and also has conflicting studies around whether or not it is healthy for the heart. The methods of which palm kernel products are obtained usually impacts the environment in destructive ways. It contributes to deforestation, killing endangered species and population displacement.