This week's lucky "winner"... energy bars!
Energy bars are a way to feel less guilty about eating a candy bar. Let's compare a Snickers candy bar and a Clif energy bar. One regular-size Snickers bar contains 250 calories, 12 g fat, 4 g protein, and 27 g sugar. One crunchy peanut butter Clif bar contains 240 calories, 6 g fat, 11 g protein, and 21 g sugar. Both go down the hatch in a jiffy. Besides a modest protein-fat swap and a bunch of added micronutrients, they're not that different. But don't worry, Clif bars are organic!
In all seriousness though, I don't have a problem with eating an energy bar (or Snickers bar) from time to time, particularly when doing something energy-intensive like hiking or climbing where you actually need the fuel. The problem comes when people don't need the fuel, and they're eating energy bars and drinking energy drinks instead of real food and water, often thinking they're being healthy. The fact that people perceive these foods as healthy is no accident: they're marketed that way. But fundamentally, it isn't that different from eating candy bars and drinking soda.
Energy bars are calorie-dense and fairly palatable, so they often don't provide the same level of satiety as regular food. To maximize satiety per calorie, look for bars with a high protein and fiber content. Also, look for bars that are made from a short list of recognizable ingredients.
Thanks to reader Kevin for the suggestion.