The Best Food Bars for Preppers When Dinner is Not Being Served

SurvivalWoman SurvivalWoman  |  Updated: January 26, 2021
The Best Food Bars for Preppers When Dinner is Not Being Served

Editor’s Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2021.

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.

girl eating energy bar

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.

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.

Food Bars for Preppers

Mainstays Emergency Food Rations

Ready to Eat: Each package contains 9 pre-measured 400 calorie meals
Non-Thirst Provoking, Withstands Temperatures of -40° F to 300°F (-40°C to 149°C)
Contains no cholesterol or tropical oils., Enriched with vitamins and minerals

New Millennium Energy Bar

Long expiration date for up to 5 years
Comes with different fruity flavors
The packing is Mylar vacuumed and BPA-free


Gluten free, No Genetically Modified Ingredients, 0g Trans Fat, Kosher
Low glycemic index, low sodium, good source of fiber
Contains 12 - 1.4oz KIND Bars

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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11 Responses to “The Best Food Bars for Preppers When Dinner is Not Being Served”

  1. Wow! Most of these products are junk food (bleached flour, gmo corn syrup…???) which strikes me as counter-intuitive for people who are focused on SHTF survival. The kicker to whatever shitstorm lies ahead will be continuing to eat food that has been undermining quality of life and feeding our runaway health industry since the 50s or NOT. Nice to see at least a couple manufacturers on your list that are sensitive to the misinformation that is the corporate-driven food pyramid and RDAs and tuned into the anti-industrial food movement that is born out of largely self-reliant, small farms treating their soil right and their animals humanely (grass, grass, grass) which I would think all people thinking survival would be in synch with. Boggles my mind.

  2. Datrex
    Serving Size: 1 Bar (38 grams)
    Servings Per Unit: 18 individually wrapped bars
    Each package is stamped with it’s manufacture and expiration date.
    Nutrition Facts per serving:
    Calories 200 Calories from fat 52
    %Daily Value*
    Fat 10 gm 26%
    Sat fat 2 gm 21%
    Mono-Unsaturated 7 gm 65%
    Poly-Unsaturated 1 gm 14%
    Cholesterol .378 gm
    Sodium .75 mg <1%
    Total Carbohydrates 21 g 55%
    Protein 7%
    Vitamin A 1%
    Vitamin C 1%
    Thiamin 8%
    Riboflavin 5%

    • Gary,
      Thanks so much for the information. Do you have Datrex bars? How do you find them?

    • Late to the party, but you went unanswered…
      The Datrex and SOS bars are small shingles instead of squares/blocks (Mainstay, Mayday; Mayday’s lower-cal single-serve pack is a shingle, but it’s hard) and significantly softer than the rest of the emergency food ration bars.
      Datrex & SOS are indivdiually wrapped inside the foil; pre separated, which is nice. Others come in a big shingle you break (no – stab and saw, then break). The individual wrapper is not really water tight or fully sealed, though, and the foil doesn’t seal (the big shingles do have zip closures usually) so you’d want a zippy baggy.
      The smell is very coconut, but the flavor isn’t. It’s not much of any flavor, really, which I like as a comparison to some of the others (to me, Mainstay tastes like butter and sugar that got whipped and then hardened…I can eat maybe a quarter to half a block before I get sugar sick).
      It has a waxy kind of texture in your mouth.
      Priorities differ, but for kids, seniors, the potential of getting whacked in the jaw and having something you can break and dissolve and chew easier versus scrape and gnaw at…Datrex or SOS over the others.

      I skip some of the ration bars in favor of MRE side/dessert breads and good ol’ Lance’s peanut brittle bars ($1 at our Dollar Tree, less by the display box, 115-outdoor high and they stay good in a black camper shell for 3-5 years, mostly peanuts and just enough candy to hold together – 340 cals, 13g protein, 19g fat, 29g carbs, 19g sugar, 100mg sodium, no significant vitamins but for a few days and with the ability to make teas and soups from greens most seasons where I roam…*shrug*).

  3. The first review I read on Mainstay said they would withstand temp changes and last virtually forever. That was the reason I bought them, especially for my get home bag in the car. It doesn’t appear that it gets that hot where I store the bag, looking at the other items in the bag. But it’s nice to know they will keep a long time. I have changed them out every couple of years anyway. Just in case. And you’re right. Edible, but not going to gobble them all up. As for the comments above, these are just to get us thru the immediate future. We’re not planning to live on them forever. The day after an EMP, I will care less if I’m eating GMO’s or bleached flour, as long as I have something to sustain me today.

  4. Just a comment on some of the bars with higher sodium content. If you are doing anything that requires a high amount of physical labor, you will sweat and lose salt, aka sodium. The higher salt bars will help to replace that lost salt and is very important to have balanced electrolytes, especially in a grid down situation.

  5. 1. i’ve eaten mainstay and millenium bars that were well past their 5-year limit, and they were fine. the soft crumbly texture becomes a bit harder, even a little crispy (a plus in my opinion), but perfectly edible with no stale taste at all.
    2. kind bars are great, and among the lowest in carbs. but they are extremely perishable–don’t last more than a couple of months before the nuts go rancid. i eat them as the occasional snack, but wouldn’t call them survival food…i guess if you eat a lot of them and rotate them at least once a month they might serve that purpose.

  6. I like the Nature Valley XL Protein chewy bars. Their nutritional info is:
    Calories 290 calories from fat 160
    Total fat 18g or 28%
    Cholesterol 0mg
    Sodium 250 mg or 10%
    Carbs 21g or 7%
    Protein 15g or 23%
    They taste very good, are soft and chewy and very filling. These may not be designed to keep for 5 years but a few in a bob would certainly go a long way until you can get to your location or a camp set up.

  7. I’ve spent the past few weeks learning about as many different ration bars as I can find, so this was very helpful.

    I just wanted to comment — for those of us addicted to caffeine who don’t like caffeine pills, I highly highly recommend Military Energy Gum. The company that makes them is called Market Right Inc or something. The gum has three flavors, Spearmint, Cinnamon, and Arctic Mint. The last one is the only one I don’t like. If you buy directly from the company, you can get a case of 12 boxes (each with 24 packs of gum) for like $220 or something. I buy a case every couple years. Each piece has 100 mg of caffeine but you can easily cut them in half if that’s too much for you. The caffeine is absorbed through the blood vessels under your tongue and in your mouth, so it kicks in within a few minutes. It’s amazing.

    Because it’s gum, it’ll last as long as it doesn’t get too hot. The packs are pretty waterproof, too.

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