Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Luna Bar Caramel Nut Brownie

So I walked into Wegmans on Sunday with a coupon for $1.00 off four Balance Bars and came out with four bars, none of which were Balance Bars. Go figure.

Anyway, one of them was the Luna Caramel Nut Brownie bar. I’ll admit I’ve never understood all the hype about Luna bars, but if you’re a woman looking for a protein/nutrition bar, you can bet someone will recommend them. They’re Clif’s nutrition bar “for women.” According to the website, it’s “more suited for us,” being “smaller and with fewer calories.”

To be honest this all comes across to me as rather sexist. As if we can’t handle a regular Clif bar! (This girl can!) And I don’t know about you, but when I want a nutrition bar I want a BIG one! The result of all their marketing pitches is that I’ve been in the minority shunning the Luna bars.

Well, anyway, I like caramel and I like brownies so I decided to put aside my biases and see if they’re really as good as everyone says they are. The website describes this flavor as “Rich chocolate brownie goodness drizzled with creamy caramel.”

Well, it was promising from the start:

So pretty! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a frosting done better, and to top it off the bottom is coated in chocolate. It actually looks like Kashi’s Chocolate Almond goLean Crunchy! bar, except with the delicious-looking caramel frosting on top....

And the smell! It’s almost mocha-ish, a very deep chocolate aroma. OK, I’m drooling, better get on with it before I short out the keyboard....

Everything that this bar promises in sight, smell, and description, it delivers in taste. It was WAY chocolatey! That was the dominant flavor, which wasn’t a bad thing at all! The chocolate is just as deep as the smell suggested, surprisingly rich for something with a rice crispie base. The caramel was subtle, like it only came from the frosting, but it was definitely present in every bite. The nuts were kind of scarce; I didn’t hit any until I was about halfway through the bar. When you do hit a walnut, the flavor comes through all that chocolate easily. But I like it just fine without. :)

On top of that, the texture was a pleasant surprise. I was ready for a big crunch like the Kashi bars, but this was way softer--softer even than a Rice Crispies Treat! But it was crispy too, because of the base...it’s really hard to describe, but it’s like a brownie in every aspect except that it’s crispy.

OK, now I see why Luna bars are so popular. This could seriously be a dessert. I felt like I should be guilty eating it for breakfast, but it has so many nutrients that I didn’t even care. Forget about letting your kids have Pop Tarts before school, shove a Luna bar in their hands!

This is going back on my shopping list for the future. It’s just a shame their advertising backfired and it took me this long to try one!

Taste: 10--WOW chocolate OOH caramel...is this breakfast or dessert? (Oh yeah there is a little bit of nut.)
Texture: 10--crispy, but at the same time soft and brownie-ish...if you can imagine a crispy brownie?
Health: 9--there’s no disputing the label “nutrition” bar. It has 8g of protein along with fiber and other nutrients that are apparently essential for women, plus it’s 70% organic. GoodGuide agrees, giving it a health score of 8.9.
Eat Again? An easy yes!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Balance Bar Original Peanut Butter

Wow, I guess it was a peanut buttery weekend! I went on a peanut butter-marshmallow sandwich craze, and then there was the Peanut Butter Supreme Quest bar, and finally last night I decided to try the Balance Bar Original Peanut Butter flavor. What can I say, I just keep hoping that someday the nutrition/protein bar industry will finally capture the perfect creamy, rich nuttiness that is peanut butter.

But I wasn’t really expecting this bar to deliver on that promise. I wasn’t very impressed with Balance Bar’s Gold Chocolate Peanut Butter; how much different is just plain peanut butter?

First difference: the coating. Obviously, it’s not chocolate. I can only assume from the color that it’s intended to be peanut butter-flavored. It doesn’t smell like anything, so no hints there.

First bite: protein. Remember that discussion we had about adding peanuts to cover up any flavor? Well, this bar didn’t and consequently it’s the same as the other Balance Bars that didn’t contain “nut” in the title. Like its more-chocolatey sibling, this bar ended up tasting mostly like protein. In fact I think we could take most of the flavors and just rename them “Balance Bar,” because I could probably identify a Balance Bar blindfolded, just from that darn protein taste! That, and it leaves your teeth feeling a little chalky when you’re done.

To be fair, I think the coating tastes like peanut butter. At least, before you bite too far into the bar there is a faint trace of peanut butter and the most likely source I can think of is the coating. I will say that this coating went better with the protein than the chocolate did... Grr, why is the coating always the best part?!

The one thing this bar did have going for it is what the Chocolate Peanut Butter version was missing: an awesome texture. Whereas the other one was disappointingly tough (I was expecting Reese’s), this bar is very soft. In my mind peanut butter = creamy, and this certainly reminded me of creamy (if not peanut butter). It was almost cookie-like, which made it go down a lot easier. Judging strictly on texture, I think this one, along with the Cookie Dough, is my favorite Balance Bar. (Flavor-wise, the Yogurt Honey Peanut still wins.)

Meanwhile, peanut butter fanatics will just have to wait for a nutrition bar to get that perfect combination of peanuts and butter....

Taste: 6--almost a carbon copy of the disappointing Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor (minus the goo), only this coating goes better with “protein” than chocolate.
Texture: 10--almost like eating a cookie.
Health: 8--well, there are 15g of protein and plenty of nutrients, but you have to weigh that against the sugar, saturated fat, and sodium content. GoodGuide gives it an 8.3.
Eat Again? No.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Review: Quest Protein Bar Peanut Butter Supreme

The Chocolate Brownie Quest bars have finally made the rounds at my house, ending this morning with my sister. After I found out that you can microwave them, I tried it once and let me tell you, 10 seconds really takes it to another level! I could fool myself into believing it was a brownie. So of course I told them all how amazing it was. :)

Apparently my sentiment isn’t universal; Zoe admitted it was better than the Life Choice bar she had, but still gross with the aftertaste. (What aftertaste?? :-/) My mom said she could see eating one every night, and my dad said it was pretty good, although he also likes PowerBars and hates peanut butter.... All three of them ate it microwaved.

There was something new for me too: the Peanut Butter Supreme Quest bar! Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?


There are real live, big peanut chunks in there! I think the dark things are almonds. This bar seemed more compact than the other two I’ve tried, and less sticky--I could put it down on a napkin, no problem.


After taking a bite, I can also say it’s a lot harder to bite into and chew than the others, too. This may not be the case universally, as I’ve heard that they’re not always soft and fresh coming from third-party vendors (I got these from bodybuilding.com). Either way, my front teeth kind of hurt a little bit from trying to get the first chunk off. It was work but not awful to chew; just don
’t try it when you’re in a hurry!

I ate half of the bar as is and then microwaved the other half. On its own, it’s respectable, but I wouldn’t say it has a strong peanut butter flavor. The flavor isn’t bad, it just is. I know it sounds weird but there’s almost a faint toffee thing going on. The peanuts come through a little bit, but they’re not as strong as peanuts in other bars tend to be. The overall effect is faintly like chunky peanut butter.

On to the microwave! After 10 seconds it still seemed pretty hard to the touch, so I put it in for another five...I still wasn’t sure it was soft enough until I bit into it. Microwaving really helped the texture; although it wasn’t as gooey as the brownie ones get, it was a lot softer.

The microwave also brought out the peanut butter flavor a little bit more. But it was only a little bit. The main effect was to make it easier to chew and make the peanut crunch more obvious. Heated up, it was a very satisfying bar, although if you’re a peanut butter fanatic you will probably disappointed that there isn’t more peanut butter flavor.

Overall, it was good, but I’m not crazy about it. Given the cost ($2.39 for a single bar or $24.99 for a box of 12),  I’d probably go for a box of Life Choice first. And this comes nowhere close to even touching the Cinnamon Roll flavor!

Taste: 8--faintly peanut buttery, though not what I think of when I see “supreme.” The peanut chunks do help out.
Texture: 8--a little hard but not jawbreaking; heated up it’s soft but still firm.
Health: 10--again, great nutritional profile. You won’t have to worry about your daily fiber requirement after this!
Eat Again? With so many other choices that either taste better or cost less...honestly, probably not.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cold Stone's Competition

Well, I found two more hazards to add to Thursday’s aqua-jogging list. The first one is rubber balls thrown by six-year-old boys. (Believe me ducking while aqua-jogging is hard but if I hadn’t my face wouldn’t look the same anymore.) The second isn’t specific to aqua-joggers, but it’s shared by all swimmers: that electrocution thing. We had to clear the pool today while a thunderstorm passed through, but I waited it out and still got to finish my “run.”

But anyway, that’s not really what I wanted to write about. I got to try out some of the greatest frozen yogurt on the planet today!

We met up with a friend at Kiwi, which is in downtown State College, right across from Atherton Hall. To think I lived there for my freshman year and never once got frozen yogurt here! I always thought of Cold Stone as the go-to place for custom creations, but I think this place beats it—and it can be healthier, if you don’t go crazy.

Kiwi is a self-serve place, so you get your frozen yogurt, put whatever toppings you want on it, and then weigh it. You pay by the ounce, so you don’t have to feel bad about not filling the cup. Or you have to feel bad about knowing exactly how many ounces of ice cream you’re eating, because under each flavor they have the calorie count per ounce. Hmm…I guess that’s either helpful or depressing, depending on how much yogurt you dump in there. ;)

My dad went all out. He filled the cup with three (I think) different flavors of yogurt, plus toppings. I just tried a little of the Birthday Cake yogurt with, of course, some cookie dough topping. And then I saw that they had peanut butter cookie dough, and I had to try that too! Check out all their flavors and toppings on the website (each location offers a selection of them).

Obviously letting people self-serve with cones is just asking for a huge mess, so the only option was cups (we all got the small ones, which are still HUGE by the way). Now I’m definitely not a huge fan of soft-serve unless it’s in a cone (I need to lick it), but this was amazing! Mine was SO rich and full of flavor that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t real ice cream, let alone low-fat! WOW. I liked it better than Cold Stone’s cake batter ice cream, and it’s not nearly as bad for you.

Oddly enough, I didn’t enjoy the peanut butter cookie dough as much as the rest of my creation. Go figure, my peanut butter gene let me down this time. Still, that’s not to say I didn’t like it!

Like I said, you NEED to try this! I still can’t believe I spent three years living on campus and only thought of the creamery and Cold Stone when I wanted ice cream. I should have gone to Kiwi all along! The cool part is that you can have as much or as little as you want. The bad part is that you can have as much as you want…which is somewhat scary if you’re like me and frequently lose control around ice cream. I mean, frozen yogurt. Jeez, I still can’t believe it wasn’t ice cream!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Turning "Food" Into FOOD

I have an obsession with getting deals on food. But it’s not a bad thing; in the most recent case, it got me 10% off an order from bodybuilding.com. I have never ordered from them before, but I found out that they carry Quest bars and the rest is history. Needless to say, when the box came on Tuesday it was the highlight of my week. I ripped it open as soon as I got home and examined the contents, even though I already knew what they were.

That’s two boxes of Quest bars (12 bars/box) on the left along with three new flavors to try. The box of Cinnamon Roll was non-negotiable because yes, they are just that good. And after I reviewed the Chocolate Brownie flavor, my mom wanted to try those, so we bought a box of them too. The three new flavors are Chocolate Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Supreme and Strawberry Cheesecake. Ha! Did that last one surprise you? :)

On the right are a few products from Walden Farms. These are a total experiment. Walden Farms specializes in “calorie-free” foods (the FDA allows companies to claim “trace” aka 0 calories if it contains less than 5 per serving). What we have here are the caramel syrup, pancake syrup, marshmallow dip, and peanut spread. I was somewhat skeptical about the quality (and yes, healthiness) of these (especially the peanut spread) after reading many reviews, but really that just stoked my curiosity.

So what did I do that night? Eat a Quest bar? Absolutely! (Cinnamon Roll!) But I also set about making a “fluffernutter” wrap using a FlatOut flatbread and the Walden Farms peanut spread and marshmallow dip.

I have to say, it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten. The marshmallow dip was too sweet even for me, and the peanut spread...it’s hard to describe the peanut spread. Even the smell was revolting. I was not expecting it to be peanut butter, because it’s NOT (not even called “butter”). But still...neither product spread very well; they were both runny, with the result that my wrap leaked smelly goop on top of making me want to throw up. I seriously was not even hungry for the next 36 hours.

So that was a bummer, because they were pretty expensive. But last night I was having a craving for pudding, and with none readily available I got to dreaming. What happens when you mix PB2 with Walden Farms marshmallow dip?

I used Chocolate PB2 because I like the regular stuff more and I was afraid of wasting it if this experiment turned nasty. I didn’t measure out the dip, just kind of spooned it into the cup and then added two tablespoons of PB2. I will say that after being in the fridge for two days it had congealed into a mousse-like texture, and the sweetness was a little more tolerable when it was cold, but it’s still not something I would ever eat plain.

So anyway, I ended up with some fluffernutter-chocolate mousse sort of thing:

The dip by itself might be gross, but man this stuff was the shit! Seriously. It had a few super-sweet spots because I didn’t mix it terribly well, but even those were enjoyable. This needs a name that conveys all its sweet, mouth-watering goodness...how about Fluffernutella mousse? That’s kind of what it reminded me of, only more peanut buttery.

As for the peanut spread...well, the texture, like the dip, was firmer and even smelled sort of peanutty after being refrigerated. It’s deceptive, because it really does look like peanut butter.

It’s only when you feel and taste it that it grosses you out. I took two small tastes (I was still nervous); the first wasn’t so bad, but after the second I remembered why I didn’t like it in the first place. I almost want to say it’s really salty. Hmm. Maybe I should try making PB2 pudding out of this, too.

Anyway, I haven’t tried the caramel and pancake syrups yet. But I know I’ll be sad when the marshmallow dip is gone and I can’t make “mousse” anymore. Time to get some pudding!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

After yesterday I though it would be nice to have a silly post today, so here goes! While I was aqua-jogging this morning, I got to thinking about...well, aqua-jogging. It’s been almost a year since I started, and while I hated it at first I’ve actually grown fond of it in some ways. Of course, it has its downsides too...when it comes right down to it I’d MUCH rather be out on the roads, but the pool is definitely a good option too.

So here’s my tribute to the successes and sufferings of aqua-jogging. It may seem like I found more cons than pros, but really--it’s not that bad!

The Good

  • It’s no-impact. If you’re accident-prone like me, or have lower bone density (also like me :(), this is a big plus, if not a necessity. Even if you don’t have issues, it’s good to give your body a break from all that pounding.
  • It keeps you cool. Just think, you could be sweating it out on a treadmill. Instead you’re sweating it out in the pool...where you can’t even tell you’re sweating.
  • You have more energy. Water lets me go longer before I feel tired (probably because it’s cool). If I’m biking it’s easier to feel like I’ve been going for longer than I really have.
  • It’s a wake-up call. If I’m tired (as in sleepy) before I get in the pool, the water wakes me up a little. Again, probably because it’s cold. On the other hand, if it’s cold outside I don’t really want to get in the water. ;)
  • You don’t have to think about breathing. Not like in swimming, anyway. Since you never put your face in the water (ideally), you are free to do whatever you want without having to worry about drowning. This is especially handy when you feel the need to sneeze.
  • You don’t have to worry about what’s really in the water going into your mouth. If you thought about it too hard you might never put your face in a public swimming pool again. ’Nuff said.
  • It really IS a workout! Studies have shown that aqua-jogging can actually increase your VO2 max. It’s a full-body workout, especially if you don’t use a belt (trust me, I was sore all through the arms/shoulders when I first started), which means better all-around fitness. And it does work the same muscles as running. Of course, all of these things are provided you do it “correctly.” And don’t ask me what that is, I’m still not sure I’m doing it right!

The Bad

  • You’re always the first person to get a lane buddy. It doesn’t matter where, when, or how. If all the lanes are taken you’re like a magnet for the next swimmer that walks through the locker-room door. I get that it’s easier to avoid collisions when one of you is looking straight ahead, and I don’t take up as much room as somebody doing butterfly, but...
  • You get splashed in the face a lot. I mean a LOT. From your lane buddy, from the next lane over...sometimes even the guy two lanes over! I got all three types this morning. Even if it’s not in the face...my hair smells like chlorine for the rest of the day. It doesn’t come out.
  • You have to avoid flailing body parts. I have been kicked in the stomach, arm, leg, and yes, ass. Breaststroke swimmers are the worst offenders, but I had a lady doing sidestroke claw me in the thigh several times one day because she was reaching under the lane line and I was sharing with another swimmer (see #1). I also had an old guy club me in the head while doing freestyle. Twice.
  • It’s boring. This isn’t too bad, really. You can watch the other swimmers. You can pretend you’re in a video game while dodging vicious physical assaults. And being on a treadmill or elliptical isn’t that much different.
  • It’s easy to forget what you’re doing. That may not seem like a bad thing, but I find my mind wandering sometimes instead of concentrating on keeping up an effort. If you just float along placidly you’re not getting a good workout. Make sure your legs keep churning!
  • You smell like chlorine. Maybe this doesn’t apply so much to guys, but for girls: if you do it often enough, the smell sticks in your hair. And the worst part is, after a while you don’t even smell it. I only know this because other people tell me I stink. The best way to get rid of it is to sweat it out...in which case you stink in a different way.

The Ugly

...my hair when I get done! I’ve figured out how to not intentionally get it wet (by tying it up on a loop), but going back to #2...it’s a losing battle. :) I suppose I could always wear a swim cap, but would that really make it look any better?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Forgotten Battle

When you stop and think, it’s hard to believe how much progress we’ve made in medicine. Diseases that years ago would have caused a pandemic are now preventable with routine vaccines. We can regulate heartbeats with electronic devices and test our own blood sugar at home. Survival rates for so many types of cancer are rising. There are promising new technologies for restoring sight.

And even more research is under way in these areas. But there is a whole other sector of medicine that doesn’t enjoy all the headlines. What about mental illnesses?

What got me thinking about this? TIME magazine printed an article in its July 23 issue about military suicides (available here to subscribers). They have now outstripped combat deaths in Afghanistan. It seems we are fighting yet another war, but one that is hidden behind stories of raids and bombs and drone strikes.

The article talks about the difficulties of adjusting to life back home. But what really struck me was the observation of one of the wives that her husband was anxious with all the downtime; he didn’t feel comfortable without the precise routine he’d lived with while deployed overseas.

What strikes me is how much this can relate to eating disorders. You have a rigid schedule of what to eat and when, and it’s like the world stops spinning if something interferes with that. I know that for me, moving towards more regular meals was kind of scary (I’m still guilty of usually eating at certain times). There is some sort of perverse comfort in such repetitive behavior. I can totally understand how overwhelming it would be to let go of such a strict regimen.

If you want another similarity, consider this: Eating disorders have a higher mortality rate than any other mental illness. Yet we hear more in the news about multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia. These things appear more frequently in television shows and movies. As a society, I feel like we are much less aware of eating disorders than these other diseases.


Well, the TIME article pointed out a very important reason for the high suicide rates: the stigma of seeking treatment for depression. The same stigma exists to some extent with mental illnesses. We don’t want to talk about it.

With a physical problem, the causes are known. It’s not your fault you have the flu, or cancer, or a broken leg. But with eating disorders, some people feel that there is an element of choice and that’s how you “got” it. And, since you made the “decision” in the first place you should be able to decide to stop. No one wants to go to a doctor and be told, It’s your own fault, make the choice to stop.

So part of it is lack of understanding. Sometimes we’re afraid of what we don’t understand; sometimes we just don’t want to think about it. Either way, a large part of the population is fighting a huge battle under the radar, made all the harder because the supporting troops are few and far between. We cannot do it alone.

I think there is a link between reducing the number of military suicide rates and increasing the chances of recovery from eating disorders. I can relate to so much of the mental processes that the TIME article touches on, and that makes me think that helping one group can only help the other as well.

It’s time to support our troops by enlisting ourselves, not against the physical perils of war but against the mental demons that can be so much deadlier.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review: Balance Bar Gold Caramel Nut Blast

It’s just one of life’s lessons: peanuts cover up any taste.

It’s true. Have you noticed that the only Balance Bar I didn’t complain about a weird proteiny aftertaste was the Yogurt Honey Peanut?

Well, another case in point is the Caramel Nut Blast bar from their Gold line. It looks pretty unassuming on the outside:

Inside, it has three layers: the “peanut” (protein), gooey caramel on top of that, and chocolate coating to top it all off. After the Chocolate Peanut Butter Gold version, I was ready for the gooey part, and it definitely wasn’t disappointing!

That caramel actually required some force to pull apart! I would compare it to the hardened caramel you get in a 100 Grand Bar, only slightly gooier. (Ha! I learned how to spell “gooier” today!) Anyway, I discovered that there are actual peanuts in the caramel, too.

Wow, that looks kind of crazy, doesn’t it? Is it just me or does the caramel look...jagged? It reminds me of lightning bolts. :) Whatever, all the caramel is getting me excited, so let’s eat it!!

The initial taste was mainly chocolate and caramel, with a hint of peanuts. I expected that, because the Balance Bars usually taste exactly like their labels at first. I kept waiting for that big protein aftertaste to kick in...but it never exploded like it did with the Cookie Dough and Chocolate Peanut Butter varieties. It was still there, but much less noticeable. Like I said before, just add peanuts!

As for those peanuts, there were some in the caramel but they weren’t too common. They added some random crunch to this otherwise chewy bar. The peanutty flavor was there but not as strong as the Yogurt Honey Peanut, I’m guessing because the peanuts weren’t as plentiful. Or maybe they got lost in the caramel. For whatever reason, this flavor combination works pretty well.

About five minutes after I finished the bar I noticed my mouth was a little dry and chalky. The caramel does a good job covering that up until the very end. It wasn’t terrible, just drink some water and you’ll be fine. It keeps you hydrated anyway.

I won’t lie, the best part was the caramel. It was super gooey and sticky, which I could see being annoying...it was a challenge to remove from my teeth (think Milk Duds). But I thought that was kind of cool! It was a bit like eating a Snickers (OK, not really, but close for a protein bar). I could have done with a few more peanuts, though.

This bar has 14g of protein and, according to the website, 24 vitamins and minerals as well as a low glycemic index (GI). But I still prefer the protein content of the Quest and Life Choice protein bars...it’s hard to beat those! But, for variety, this would definitely make a good snack.

Taste: 8.5--the protein taste wasn’t as noticeable under the caramel and peanuts, but it was still there. I still like the Yogurt Honey Peanut better.
Texture: 8--the caramel is really sticky and, along with the chewy protein part, gives a Milk Dud-like texture.
Health: 8--the usual warning about sugar and saturated fat. GoodGuide scores this one just like all the other Balance Bars: 6.7.
Eat Again? Yeah, occasionally...put it this way, if I walked into a store with a Balance Bar coupon (yes I have another one!) and there weren’t any new flavors this would be one I would pick again.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: Life Choice Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Energy Bar

We’re getting closer...the end is near...I have now sampled all but two of the Life Choice bars!

I can hear you either cheering because you’re that close to never having to hear from me about Life Choice again, or groaning because there are still two more!

Well, today’s is at least a little refreshing, since I’ve only reviewed one other energy bar. Strictly speaking I’m not a huge fan of their nutritional profile (in comparison to the other Life Choice bars), but hey--a Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip energy bar is better than a Reese’s when it’s all said and done.

So here we go:

“Creamy peanut butter with rich chocolate has always been a flavor combination made in heaven. Now this dynamic duo comes together once again in our delectable energy bar, packed with protein and nutrients to give you the extra pep you need.”
Oh good, I need some pep!

Hmm, another one that's been through a few temperature cycles...
I’ve noticed that the energy bars aren’t as tall as the other kinds. Each variety seems to have its own unique shape so that you can usually tell them apart even without the wrapper. This one looks just like the Cookies & Cream bar, with a different coating.

I mentioned Reese’s before, didn’t I? I must be psychic...or I’ve eaten way too many nutrition/protein bars labeled “chocolate peanut butter.” Anyway, the inside looks promising. The thing I love about the Life Choice energy bars is the soft interior. I like crispy, but sometimes (especially with flavors like peanut butter or cookie dough) I want something creamier.

Since the Cookies & Cream version was such a success, I was holding out high hopes for the rest of the energy bars. Although it’s hard to top something that makes you feel like you’re eating a white chocolate-coated tube of cookie dough.

My first impression was that the main flavor is chocolate, but there is a definite peanut butter presence here. It’s not as strong as real peanut butter or even a Reese’s by any means, but it’s more obvious than any other peanut butter bar I’ve tried so far. The coating is the usual Life Choice chocolate, which is basically what you would find on a Reese’s cup. The twist comes with the chocolate chips. I’ve never even thought of combining peanut butter with chocolate chips...ooh, that would make a wicked cookie, wouldn’t it? Anyway, whoever came up with that idea was a genius. They add a nice surprising thud to this otherwise doughy bar.

So it definitely passes the peanut butter test, but there’s also (again) that weird flavor hiding underneath. As with the Chocolate Pretzel meal bar, though, you have to know what you’re looking for in order to find it. The filling also has a slight oaty taste to it, but since I love oatmeal cookies that totally worked for me. If you’re going for pure peanut butter you’re probably going to be disappointed (and your expectations of a poor little energy bar are waaay too high).

Final verdict? This is the best bar yet as far as imitating a Reese’s, but it still falls pretty short. If you want a healthier replacement for candy, though, this could be it. The flavor is definitely well done, although I still like the Cookies & Cream bar better (I’m a sucker for any baked good in raw form). I think this bar is definitely worth a try for peanut butter fans out there.

Taste: 9--most peanut buttery bar yet, but there’s also a (very small) hint of oats that may throw you off.
Texture: 10--doughy with the chocolate chips adding a nice thud.
Health: 5--there’s a reason they give you energy, and it’s the sugar. The fat content is also higher than Life Choice’s other kinds of bars.
lots of sugar, and on top of that most of the fat is saturated. Still, better than real cookie dough.
Eat Again? Yes, if I want a “Reese’s” but not a Reese’s.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Life Choice Fudge Graham Nutrition Bar

*** As warned, here’s Life Choice review number two for today. I know, I know, you’re probably groaning...but you have no idea how good it feels to finally get this one out of draft form! It’s been sitting for a couple of weeks now! ***

Just imagine sitting around a campfire eating toasted s’mores with your friends, the marshmallows oozing out of the graham crackers. Not exactly nutritious, so you can’t do it every day...but with these Life Choice Fudge Graham Nutrition bars you can get pretty darn close.

You probably know by now that I’m a huge fan of the Life Choice bars. I haven’t tried all the flavors yet (almost there!), but the ones I have tried were really impressive in terms of balancing taste and nutrition--so many bars sacrifice one for the other, but these seem like a good compromise.

The latest:

“Give in to your craving for a yummy, fudgy treat combined with the classic flavor of graham crackers... while fueling your body with the protein and nutrients it needs to perform at its best.”

It’s bigger than the protein and energy bars, so if you want something to really fill you up this is a good choice.

Like I said, these really do taste like a s’more. I’m not sure if there are actual marshmallows in there (those white things might just be rice crispies), but it has a graham cracker-flavored filling and chocolate chips. (You can see a couple in the picture above.) I’d say the graham is the dominant flavor, with the chocolate as a really nice backup. The fudge coating tops it off nicely. This is one sweet bar.

On the plus side, it has a lot of nutrients: lots of essential vitamins and 15g of protein. On the downside, it has a lot more sugar than the Life Choice protein bars, and the carbs are also higher if you’re worried about those. I’ve read that to be considered a “protein bar” it should have less sugar than protein; not sure if I buy that but this bar does fail that test.

As with the Cookies & Cream energy bar, this is something I would use as a snack, or possibly dessert (it’s not quite as sweet and tasty). If you’re picky about protein bars tasting like “protein,” this is a good way to increase your intake without feeling like you’re choking something down.

I fear my Life Choice posts are becoming redundant as they always seems to end with a “good job!”

Taste: 9--Lots of graham flavor, combines nicely with the chocolate.
Texture: 9--Chewy with a little resistance; the chocolate chips give a little crunch
Health: 7--Lots of protein, but even more sugar and carbs. It does provide a wide array of other vitamins, though.
Eat Again? Yes. It’s not my favorite Life Choice flavor, but definitely one I will go back to.