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Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.
There are two kinds of food bars that are useful for preppers. The first are high-calorie and plain food bars meant to provide daily rations in emergency situations. You usually buy these in 3,600 calorie packaging and eat one 400 calorie serving for every “meal.”
The second kind of food bars are snacks that you carry with you when bugging out or bugging in to provide extra energy and comfort while you try to survive. These bars are often designed for hikers or weight lifters, and can meet special dietary requirements.
Among these two categories there are several different food bar options, all with different nutritional information, taste, and price. Which are the best for survival scenarios? Which should go in your bug-out-bag and which should stay in the pantry? If you have special dietary needs are there food bars you can buy to help you normal diet when SHTF? We have all the information you need to make your decision right here.
The Best Food Bars for Preppers When Dinner is Not Being Served
- 1 High Calorie Food Bars
- 2 Snack On The Run
- 3 Special Diet Options
- 4 Final Thoughts on the Best Survival Food Bars
A Word on Taste
Before we get started, I just want to point out that your personal taste is going to be a big factor here. I’ll do my best to give you taste information where it’s relevant, but ultimately you’re going to want to try the food bar yourself before you buy a whole bunch. If you can’t stomach the bar your morale will be even lower when SHTF.
High Calorie Food Bars
We’ll first talk about the more important food bars, the kind meant as meal replacements for when SHTF. These food bars are not supposed to be delicious. They are meant to be plain so that you can keep them down if you are ill/disturbed/sea sick. This also helps you keep to a rationing schedule.
All of the varieties of high-calorie food bars we list here have a 5 year shelf life. So you can buy some, put them in storage or in your bug-out-bag, and forget about them. Unlike other long-lasting foods, like hard tack, or bagged meals, they don’t need to be dipped in water or cooked to be palatable. You just open and eat, delivering you the calories you need to survive.
All of these bars also claim that they don’t provoke thirst– which is important when you’re rationing water too.
If you’ll be doing some high intensity activity while surviving you will either need to have MREs, more than four of these a day, or to supplement them with the higher protein bars we discuss below. If you’re driving out of dodge, or just waiting in your home or shelter or for rescue, then these will do nicely on their own.
1. Mainstays Emergency Food Rations
These food bars come in 1,200 and 3,600 calorie options. The 3,600 calorie option, for example, is composed of 9 bars, each of which is a 400 calorie meal. The idea behind the bars is you eat one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and thereby meet a 1,200 calorie minimum for your day. Many situations will call for more calories a day than this, so plan ahead to give those who will need it an extra bar or more.
The nutritional contents of the bar are as follows:
- Calories: 400
- Fat: 23g
- Carbs: 46g
- Protein: 3g
- Sodium: 23mg
- Fiber: 2g
Of all of the high calorie food bar options Mainstays offer the best vitamins. Three bars will get most people well over their DRI for all kinds of essential nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin B12 and even folic acid. The bar has a mild lemon flavor, is crumbly in the mouth, and meets Kosher and Halal requirements.
It is our number one choice for high-calorie food bars because it has all of the vitamins you’ll need. While getting your micro-nutrients isn’t your main focus in a survival situation, it’s certainly better to get them if you can.
And, if this is a long SHTF scenario where the other food that is available to you is nutrient-poor, eating these occasionally will help you maintain your health, making this option an especially good choice for the pantry.
You can find mainstays for a few bucks per 400 calories, depending on how many you buy at once.
2. Food Bar
The Mayday Food Bar comes in 3600, 2400, and 1200 and 400 calorie options. Like the Mainstays it has a very mild flavor, but apple cinnamon instead of lemon. It has slightly less fat and more carbs than the Mainstays and less vitamins. Still, there are significant amounts of many vitamins in the bar.
Here is the main nutritional information:
- Calories: 400
- Fat: 19g
- Carbs: 51g
- Protein: 7g
- Sodium: 10mg
- Fiber: 3g
Honestly, the choice between Mainstays and Maydays could come down to whether you prefer lemon or apple cinnamon. The shelf life, texture, and most of the nutritional values are very comparable. You can find Maydays cheaper than Mainstays though, even as low as four dollars per 400 calorie bar.
3. S.O.S. Rations Emergency Food Bar
S.O.S. rations tell essentially the same story as the other two. They come in 1,200, 2,400 and 3,600 calorie sets which divide into 400 calorie servings.
The breakdown for nutrients is:
- Calories: 400
- Fat: 22g
- Carbs: 48g
- Protein: 5g
- Sodium: 15mg
- Fiber: 1 g
These bars have no significant vitamins, so I’m ranking them below the others. The price is usually above the cost for Maydays, at around 5 dollars per 400 calorie bar.
4. Datrex Food Bar
Datrex food bars are popular, but I’m not really sure why. They claim they are the “gold standard” in food rations, but they don’t provide nutritional information. There is blue and white packaging, but there doesn’t seem to be a difference between them.
In lieu of nutritional information I’ll list the ingredients, which I had to find at Datrex’s website. Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Vegetable Shortening, Cane Sugar, Water, Coconut flavor and Salt. (Peanut Products Free).
Without nutritional information it’s hard to properly compare this to our other options. I’ve heard that they taste like coconut, but I can’t confirm that. If you have Datrex bars or more information on them, let me know in the comments!
Snack On The Run
Now we’ll move onto bars that, theoretically, have more flavors and protein than high-calorie food bars. Most don’t store for very long, but are good to keep in your bug-out-bag or get-home bag to provide you an energy and morale boost while you’re escaping. Just be sure to rotate them out.
1. New Millennium Energy Bar
New Millenium Energy bars are most comparable to the MayDay bars, but with slightly more protein and slightly less vitamins (though still a reasonable amount). Like the food ration bars they last five years, are resistant to cold and heat, and don’t trigger thirst.
The nutritional information of the vanilla bar is:
- Calories: 410
- Fat: 18 g
- Carbs: 53 g
- Protein: 8 g
- Sodium: 15 mg
- Fiber: 1 g
New Millennium Energy bars are essentially equivalent to the high-calorie bars, they are just not packaged in groups and offer many more flavors, but which are still quite mild. They’re insanely cheap, you can find them for two dollars each. They are more appealing, especially to children, than the other bars and their taste is the main advantage.
2. Power Bar’s “Protein Plus” Bar
You’d want to store these bars for when you’re exerting yourself, like in your bug-out-bag. They can supplement the ration bars to give you some protein or they can be a quick snack by themselves. You’ll crave water after you eat them.
The nutrition of the lemon poppyseed bar is:
- Calories: 200
- Fat: 7g
- Carbs: 25g
- Protein: 20g
- Sodium: 130mg
- Fiber: 5g
You’ll notice that this bar, like essentially all of the ones below it, have much more sodium than the ration bars. That’s not great, but at least the amount of protein you’re getting is nice and high. Vegetarians or vegans will be interested to know that Power Bar offers a plant protein bar that has 10g of protein, which is pretty good considering it’s all from plants.
Power bars aren’t mean to last very long and will be effected by extreme heat or cold. But they are a good option to keep you going and I recommend having some in your bug-out-bag.
3. Clif Bloks
I’ll admit it, I’m addicted to coffee. I’ve often wondered how I would deal with the certain headache I’d suffer if I missed my caffeine in the morning because I was bugging out. There are caffeine pills, powders, and instant coffee, but personally I like Clif Bloks the best. They don’t require any prep and, unlike caffeine pills, taste great (to me anyway, your mileage may vary).
Here’s the nutritional information for three pieces (30g):
- Caffeine: 50mg
- Calories: 100
- Fat: 0g
- Carbs: 24g
- Protein: 0g
- Sodium: 50mg
- Fiber: 0g
The bloks are essentially caffeine and sugar so they last for a year, which is pretty convenient for the bug-out-bag. If you don’t drink coffee or tea, caffeine will still help you stay alert. If you rely on your morning cup of joe, don’t underestimate how hard missing out on it will effect you in an already very stressful situation.
Special Diet Options
If you have special dietary needs it makes good sense to try to choose an energy bar for your bug-out-bag that adheres to your diet. You won’t risk upsetting your digestive track, and you’ll maintain higher morale. So here are some unusual food bars you might want to take advantage of.
1. Low Glycemic Index
Those who have diabetes, or who are prepping for someone else who does, need to be really careful with all kinds of food bars. They all release a lot of energy really quickly, so you need to eat them very slowly, especially if you’re rationing or completely out of insulin.
One relatively safer bar is the Kind Bar. Some varieties were designed to have a lower glycemic index than many other energy bars on the market. Here is the nutritional information for the dark chocolate nuts and sea salt bar:
- Calories: 200
- Fat: 15g
- Carbs: 16g
- Protein: 6g
- Sodium: 140mg
- Fiber: 7g
It’s not more than a simple snack, so don’t rely on it for anything else. And remember, eat all bars slowly!
2. Paleo/ Nut Free/ No Gluten/ No Soy/ No Milk
Those on paloe diets will be pleased with the bars from Wild Zora. They are made of meat and were developed with a whole host of other dietary restrictions in mind.
Considering the small amount of calories, the protein is pretty high. Here’s the nutritional value:
- Calories: 100
- Fat: 3.5g
- Carbs: 10g
- Protein: 7g
- Sodium: 210mg
- Fiber: 2g
There’s also a tiny bit of vitamins, but nothing really significant.
3. Vegan/ No Gluten
If you were shuddering at the thought of an all-meat food bar, the Tahoe Trail Bar vegan and gluten-free options may be just what you’re looking for. The nutrition, based on the dark chocolate cherry flavor, is as follows:
- Calories: 260
- Fat: 9g
- Carbs: 37g
- Protein: 10g
- Sodium: 180mg
- Fiber: 4g
4. Vegan / No Soy / No Dairy / No Gluten / Kosher / Low Sodium
If you have more needs on top of a vegan or vegetarian diet than some of the Larabars may be just right for you. Most notably, they have a really low sodium level that no other energy bar on this list can match. And, I have to admit, I really like several of the flavors. Just be careful, most have nuts and some have soy.
Based on the lemon flavor, the nutritional values are:
- Calories: 220
- Fat: 11g
- Carbs: 26g
- Protein: 5g
- Sodium: 5mg
- Fiber: 3g
Final Thoughts on the Best Survival Food Bars
When you’re picking up the ration bars be sure you’re planning for more than you’ll need and storing them in a dry place. When you’re looking for energy bars, be sure you’re relying on them only as snacks that provide energy or comfort, not as staples you’ll live off when SHTF. And, don’t underestimate the value of having some unique bars stocked up to trade, those will dietary restrictions will be happy to barter for them.
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