Sunday, September 30, 2012

From Mountains to Molehills

It’s that depressing time of year again, when the days get shorter and the weather gets cold and rainy and you know winter is coming. You’re cold all the time because you’re used to the sweltering summer days. It’s harder to get up in the morning.

In case it’s not obvious, I don’t like fall. The only season I hate more is winter. Mostly it’s because I’m always cold, and no matter how many sweatshirts, socks, and gloves I put on over my UnderArmour and insulated fuzzy riding pants, my toes get numb and my fingers literally stop working.

But this year I found out that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like fall. My feet don’t, either.

OK, maybe technically my feet are still “me.” But it’s their first fall post-stress fractures, and they let me know as soon as the weather got damp and cold. For the past half a week I’ve been feeling twinges. Sometimes it’s when I put my heel down. Sometimes they just randomly ache in the Achilles area or even my ankles. Sometimes they don’t hurt, they just don’t feel quite “right.” I did notice it when I spurred Sydney (oh lazy horse...). Sometimes it’s one foot, and then later it’s the other. At first I thought I ran too hard on Tuesday. Then I started thinking (or hoping) it was just the weather.

So I’ve been constantly squeezing them, poking, pounding on the bottoms of my heels with my fist just like my sports doctor used to do. Purposely stomping heel-first on the tile floor in the kitchen. Hopping on one foot. Trying to get them to hurt, but they don’t. But then they do later, on their own time. It’s driving me insane. I don’t know what’s in my head and what’s in my bones. And always, there’s the nagging question: Should I run?

It’s amazing how, even six months later, these stress fractures are still a huge emotional drain on me. I almost can’t deal with the decision to attempt a run, knowing it could very well be my last. Now that I’ve lost running, gained it back, lost it yet again and then repeated the cycle one more time, I should be OK with the possibility of injury, right? But I’ve come along farther in my recovery this time, been healthy for longer than ever before my original plantar fasciitis, and a step backward now would feel like dropping from a ten-story building, not a 13-hand pony. How would I ever get back up?

But, since I couldn’t reproduce any semblance of pain no matter how hard I whacked and squeezed, I set off yesterday morning with a solemn promise to stop the second I felt anything. I took it slower than usual, especially going downhill. Six miles feels like an eternity when you’re waiting for your heels to shatter with each step.

But they didn’t. And, while I was still getting those twinges throughout the rest of the day, they certainly weren’t any worse than they had been. So I took heart and tried again today, still monitoring my feet like babies. At the moment, they are dormant.

I seem to have made a mountain out of molehill here. At least, I hope. For sure tomorrow is a day off of running. Right now I’m thanking my lucky stars that this time I was right about what my body could handle, rather than just blissfully ignorant. Let’s hope, this time, I’ve finally learned my lesson. A week off now is much better than nine down the road, if it comes to that. I just need to keep that in perspective.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: Quest Cravings Chocolate Crunch Bar

Here it is--the moment you’ve been waiting for--well, the moment I’ve been waiting for anyway--the moment when I finally get to try the new Quest Cravings Chocolate Crunch bar!

I ordered them over a week ago, and they just arrived yesterday, so of course I had to try this new “candy” last night. Now, I adore Quest bars just the way they are and I really can’t imagine them improving over the original line, so I’m not sure what I think about heading into the protein-candy area, so I’m going into this review somewhat cautiously.

From the packaging, they look a lot bigger than a regular Quest bar. But they’re actually lighter, which sort of makes sense considering that the texture is supposed to be like a Nestle Crunch bar--so none of the usual dense, chewy stuff.

That also explains some of it--it comes in a tray. I later figured out that the tray is for catching your mess while you eat. Plus, I really don’t think this bar would hold up on it own during transport without it.

It certainly looks, if not exactly as advertised, like a chocolate bar with rice crispies in it. It also smells like a Crunch bar. Truth be told, I’ve always found Crunch bars to be one of the more boring types of candy bar, but that’s not to say I don’t like them. And if we’re talking about “healthy” candy here, I’ll take it.

OK, if you just want the quick and dirty verdict, these aren’t nearly as good as the original bars. I did enjoy it, though. The chocolate was a little powdery, and the crunch was a lot harder than your typical Nestle bar. I’d almost call it “rocky.” There were some similarities as far as taste, but the chocolate-to-crisp ratio was much lower here. There was also a bit of odd aftertaste and--what really surprised me--it was salty! Looking back at the ingredients, I can speculate that maybe it was a hint of peanut butter, but I can’t be sure. At first I was weirded out, but then it started to work for me. In all, not bad.

The major con, though, was the mess. Definitely eat this over a plate, bowl, tray, napkin...bib...spread newspaper on the floor. (OK OK, kidding!) But the rice crispies really don’t hold together very well and you’re left trying to catch them in your mouth with each bite as they go in unexpected directions. By the end of it, there were chocolate flakes all over my lap (and yes, my darling MacBook), and I was hunting around on the floor so the dogs wouldn’t pick up stray crispies.

I could see where some people will be attracted to these, as they are more conventionally candy-like than the originals (and contain less fiber, so I can eat more than one per day without fear of traumatizing my digestion). But for me, the originals are still far better in terms of taste and texture, and especially for eating on the go. It’s understandable that they’re still working out the kinks in this new product, but for now I think I’ll stick with what I know and love. :)

Taste: 8--mostly like a Nestle Crunch bar, but there was a subtle of weird protein-ness--which is a first for Quest.
Texture: 7--unfortunately, not up to par. The crunch is harder than a Crunch bar, almost rocky in texture, and very messy.
Health: 9--the only reason this doesn’t get a 10 is because it has less fiber than the regular bars. But really, it has a great profile--especially for “candy.”
Eat Again? Yes, but not often. I’d rather stick with the original line if I’m going to buy expensive protein bars. ;)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ending the Week With Cravings

Wow. What a long week! Between going to class and going to work and doing homework and doing work work at home, I can’t even remember what happened yesterday, let alone Monday! If I had to give a quick list:
  • Slept terribly on Sunday night and almost fell asleep in the pool on Monday
  • Found Strawberry PowerAde Zero at Wegmans, which seems to be the only store in State College (aside from various gas stations) to carry that flavor
  • Bought some more nutrition bars and ice cream to try whilst at Wegmans (surprise, surprise)
  • Upped my running mileage to ~6.2 miles, give or take .1--this was a highlight :)
Those are the highlights, but it’s been pretty crazy all around. I’m hoping to catch up on sleep this weekend, eat dinner out with my family, and relax...or maybe work on my thesis. Not sure yet...I don’t want to plan too far ahead.

But wait...the week’s true excitement didn’t come until I got home today and found an unassuming package labeled “Quest Nutrition” on the kitchen counter. This was the first time I’ve ever ordered directly from Quest, because this was something special.

Only available to Facebook fans and in limited supply, the Chocolate Crunch Cravings bar came out last Thursday at 10 a.m. Pacific Time (and was sold out by the time I went to bed that night). It’s the first of what’s supposed to be a line of “candy” from Quest that still contains 20 grams of protein and, considering that it’s “candy,” a pretty impressive nutritional profile as well.

Apparently the people at Quest think these are as big a deal as I do. My Cravings bars were well protected (although the actual box of bars was a bit squashed).

As you can guess, I’m pretty excited about these. I tracked them on the UPS website every day after I ordered, charting their progress. But I’m also a little nervous, because I love Quest bars just the way they are and I’m not really sure what I think about having a candy line, too. Comments and picture are popping up on the Facebook page, some positive and some not so much. I plan on trying one later, so look for a review coming up!

There was a peanut butter cup version released yesterday, and a box of those is now on its way from California to Pennsylvania as well, due to arrive on Wednesday. Until then, I’m hoping the Chocolate Crunch bars will tide me over. :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: Clif Bar Peanut Toffee Buzz

Here I am again, proving I’m man enough to take on a real Clif bar! (Sorry, even though I’ve gotten over my perception of Luna’s marketing as sexist, I still can’t resist taking a jab at them.) Anyway, this is a flavor I’ve had before, a long time ago, and I remembered thinking it wasn’t too bad, so when I saw it at Wegmans I impulsively added it to my basket.

Here we are: the Peanut Toffee Buzz bar:

Wait, when did Clif start putting pretty designs on their manly energy bars? I don’t remember the last one I ate having those drizzles. Looks like they’re taking a leaf out of Luna’s book...

I always think these things look like the molasses treats I make sometimes for the horses...I actually think Sydney would love them. They are right up his alley. The texture is oaty with some crispiness to it, as well as chewy like molasses. Basically, just what you’d expect based on looks. I didn’t have a hard time chewing it, but I think if you took a huge bite you could have issues. My dad takes these with him on long bike rides, and I’m not sure how he eats it while riding. But he’s proved it can be done, so I can handle it sitting on the couch at home.

I love toffee, because it’s so unique. I don’t know about mixing it with peanuts, though. This bar has such an odd taste that I can’t really describe it. It is sweetish, with an aftertaste that almost tastes like soap. I know, weird, right? But that’s the first thought that crossed my mind. I definitely can’t taste either toffee or peanuts individually; it’s more like this weird mishmash of flavors. It’s not entirely bad, just...different. (I did get over the soap taste as I kept eating.)

The texture does sort of deteriorate upon chewing as the rice crispies dissolve faster and leave the tougher oats behind. As always, it’s very dense and there’s a “chew” factor (just look at the molasses sheen). It’s also a bit sticky, so do as I say, not as I do and please don’t set it on a paper napkin for pictures.

Taste: 7--not really toffee or peanuts, it’s kind of bizarre. But not in a completely bad way.
Texture: 8--sticky, chewy, crispy; watch where you set it down.
Health: 8--the energy comes from sugar. GoodGuide gives it an 8.4.
Eat Again? Probably not.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Review: Kashi goLean Roll! Caramel Peanut

As far as snack bars go, Kashi seems to be hit or miss. But overall, I’ve had success with everything branded “goLean,” so I figured I wasn’t risking too much by picking up the goLean Roll! Caramel Peanut flavor the last time I was at Wegmans.

I reviewed one other Roll! bar, and this one looks pretty much the same. They get their name from the manufacturing process: According to Kashi, it “has a chewy nougat center that is surrounded by a decadent layer and then rolled in whole grains, nuts, and crisps.”

All systems appear to be go. You can’t see the nougat core, but the caramel is heavily coating the bar, with a layer of peanuts and rice crispies on top of that.

There’s the nougat! Of course it’s not just any nougat, it’s protein- and fiber-filled nougat. But it does a fair enough job of mimicking the taste.

This bar is more of a dessert than a “protein and fiber bar,” as the packaging proclaims. It’s very sweet, most likely a combination of the caramel and nougat. I think it helps that the caramel is on the outside rather than included as a filling, so the other components don’t totally override it. On the other hand, the peanuts are very prevalent (being the outermost layer), which does make the caramel more of a subtly sweet background flavor than the main player. The two components work nicely together, creating a salty-sweet balance sort of like a Snickers.

Unfortunately, having all this stuff attached to the outside of the bar presents some issues. One, the caramel isn’t totally covered by nuts and crisps, so this bar will stick to whatever touches it. Two, the peanuts and crisps aren’t anchored securely to the caramel. Just taking this bar out of the wrapper made a small pile on the table that I had to clean up afterward. Both of these things would prevent this from being a convenient snack on the go. Try to imagine driving while dropping crumbs in your lap and trying not to get your steering wheel all gummy.

As for texture--don’t try to eat this fast. You can’t. The nougat part is not squishy soft like real nougat; it’s gummy in a firm kind of way, sort of like a tough Laffy Taffy. That, combined with the gummy caramel, can make your jaw tired. The peanut layer does add a nice crispy/crunchy contrast, though, and overall (because I wasn’t in a hurry), I enjoyed this bar.

I guess I’d classify this as another goLean success for Kashi. If not entirely in texture, then definitely in taste. And maybe the kid in you will enjoy getting your fingers sticky.

Taste: 9--caramelly and sweet, with prevalent nuts.
Texture: 9--ta little tough, and the coatings make it messy. The nuts and rice crispies break it up nicely, though.
Health: 5.5--not bad for something that tastes like dessert, but it does have accordingly more sugar. GoodGuide scores it at 6.4.
Eat Again? Maybe.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Review: Luna Fiber Bar Peanut Butter Strawberry

Now that I’ve been successfully inducted into the world of Luna, I’ve been curious about the product outside their line of standard granola bars. I tried a protein bar and wasn’t disappointed. So when I heard that they were giving free samples of the new Luna Fiber line, I hurried to fill out the form.

Of course, I promptly forgot about it until it showed up in the mail last week. The bar comes in three flavors: Chocolate Raspberry, Peanut Butter Strawberry, and Vanilla Blueberry. It’s almost like they knew who they were sending it to, because I received the Peanut Butter Strawberry flavor.

These bars contain 7 grams of fiber, along with what Luna calls the “Core 4”: calcium, iron, folic acid, and vitamin D. They’re all 110-120 calories, so I knew it would be small.

“Peanut butter smooths the way for Strawberry in this delicious ode to a classic.”
It basically looks like half of a Nutri-Grain bar. Unfortunately I don’t really like those, but then again they don’t come in a peanut butter flavor.... This bar has coarse sugar on the top, which I thought was a little odd at first since PB&J seems like an odd combination with sugar. It definitely smells fruity; I’m not 100 percent sure it smells like strawberries, but it does smell like some sort of bakery pastry or cookie.

The jelly layer isn’t all that thick, but that’s the way I usually make my PB&J...if I include the J at all. ;) In fact, it really works here because it doesn’t take over the flavor completely. This bar has a really good balance of flavors, and it was actually pretty peanut buttery, which I wasn’t expecting based on the way it looks. It’s basically a peanut butter and jelly cookie. The dough contains the peanut butter flavor, which certainly isn’t overwhelming--but it’s there. Same with the strawberry. Perfect.

The texture is amazing, too. I know I said it looks like a Nutri-Grain bar, but that’s where the similarities end. This is about a hundred times better. It literally feels like something you’d pick up in a bakery. The closest I can describe the texture is like that of a soft peanut butter cookie with sugar sprinkled on top. It’s very moist and dense, not crumbly at all, which helps bring out the flavors. The coarse sugar adds a little bit of grit and, of course, sweetness. Maybe it isn’t so weird after all.

This bar was, at the risk of sounding antiquated, delightful. My only qualm is the size. I really wish it was bigger, that way I wouldn’t feel like I needed to eat another one when I finished. But as a snack or dessert, it would more than suffice. Luna sent me a coupon for $0.50 off another Luna Fiber bar, so I’ll definitely buy again...the only question is, do I stick with this flavor or try a different one?

Taste: 9--actually very peanut buttery, with just enough strawberry flavor. Neither was overwhelming.
Texture: 10--like a soft peanut butter cookie. I love the grit that the sugar adds.
Health: 9--70% organic, and contain more fiber and fewer calories than regular Luna bars.
Eat Again? Yes!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Does Cinnamon Buns Right!

Ben & Jerry’s is starting to become a regular occurrence on this blog, a trend that started when I dug up a pint I’d bought with leftover meal points at the end of last semester. I blame that for reminding me just how rich and creamy and amazingly unique Ben & Jerry’s is. And then I discovered that my Wegmans has such a well-stocked B&J’s section, and things just kind of snowballed from there.

Ben and Jerry are the kings of flavor; there are so many, it’s hard to choose! Of course, I steer clear of things with fruit and coffee, but in reality that doesn’t limit the scope of B&J’s much. This time, after drooling in front of the display for a few minutes, I chose Cinnamon Buns, one of the greatest flavors known to man.

“Caramel Ice Cream with Cinnamon Bun Dough & a Cinnamon Streusel Swirl”
Every bit of that description sounds amazing. The first time I had this ice cream I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Like all Ben & Jerry’s, it’s super creamy, but you know how sometimes it’s hard to scoop out of the pint? This is one of the easier ones to scoop.

This ice cream is an explosion of cinnamon, which might surprise you because it literally smells like nothing. But it literally tastes exactly like cinnamon buns at their finest. It’s not even weird eating frozen cinnamon buns, it’s that freaking delicious. The streusel swirl...

...adds grit, which I loved, and the dough chunks...

...look just like cookie dough balls, have the same gritty texture, but taste like...well, cinnamon bun dough! Which, by the way, is fantastic.

This has always been and will always continue to be one of my top favorite B&J’s flavors (it’s impossible to pick just one). Unfortunately it’s a heavier calorie bomb than their other calorie bombs, but IMHO it’s totally worth it. If you’ve never tried it, stop depriving yourself. Buy a pint, you won’t regret it. This is the finest of Vermont
’s finest!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Review: Life Choice Chocolate Caramel Nutrition Bar

Exciting news!! This review marks the completion of my goal to try every flavor of Life Choice bar out there! OK, technically I’ve had this once before, but it was before I started writing reviews, and I didn’t want to go completely off of memory with no pictures for you!

Anyway, here’s the Chocolate Caramel Nutrition Bar from Life Choice:

I know it doesn’t look all that exciting from the outside, but it already has several strong points. First, it’s big. It’s substantially bigger than a Balance Bar, not only in length but also in thickness--this one is really tall! It’s also heavy, so you know it’s dense, and all that for a similar nutritional profile (from a protein and calorie standpoint, anyway). This bar has 15 grams of protein to Balance Bar’s 14-15, and 210 calories to Balance’s 200 (average). I say that’s a pretty good deal.

All right, it looks like a standard rice  crispie base, but it’s not. It’s industrial-strength rice crispies! It definitely wasn’t easy breaking this bar open, but it wasn’t impossible either. This explains why it’s so much heavier than your typical Rice Crispies Treat!

If you’re worried about the texture based on what I’ve written so far, it can make your jaws a little tired. It’s crispy but sort of not; it’s also kind of chewy. Once the crisps are gone (which happens fairly quickly), you’re left with a tougher component. It’s hard to describe, but not too annoying. The only little quibble I have is a very slight powdery feel on my teeth after finishing.

On taste, this is a win. It’s not overly caramelly, but it’s definitely sweet...I’d call it more of a caramel mixed with something else, only I’m not sure what. Whatever, it was good. The chocolate was a perfect complement. If there was an odd aftertaste, it was very subtle and I didn’t really notice it. It did make me thirsty, though.

So Life Choice goes out with one final success in a line that’s mostly full of them. When I want something sweet, this is definitely a viable option, with the added bonus of protein and other vitamins and minerals. And they’re not that expensive, either.

Taste: 9--not quite caramel, but definitely pleasant and sweet.
Texture: 9--crispy but not; it is a bit of a jaw workout.
Health: 7.5--provides lots of good vitamins and plenty of protein, but it’s a little on the sugary side as well.
Eat Again? Yes. It’s an inexpensive source of tasty protein, and given all the ice cream I eat, the sugar doesn
’t bother me. ;)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: Detour Lean Muscle Cookie Dough Caramel Crisp

OK, ready for something scary?

Wow! Now that is a big protein bar. It’s more like a protein monster. That’s the Detour Lean Muscle Cookie Dough Caramel Crisp bar, and it’s certainly a bit intimidating. Although anyone who knows my bottomless pit of a stomach probably isn’t all that surprised that I picked up this enormous bar when confronted with so many choices at a little UniMart on the way to Virginia Beach. In fact it’s not all that different in size from the Metragenix bar I tried recently.

It has 32 grams of protein, 20 vitamins and minerals, healthy fats, and a ridiculous amount of Omega-3s. Which isn’t bad, but it also has 370 calories. So this is more of a meal (or two) or dessert. Luckily, it does come in a smaller size with only 190 calories and 16g of protein.

I really hope it doesn’t taste awful, since it’s so big...but it certainly looks promising with those chocolate chips sprinkled on top. It smells like milk chocolate, like most chocolate-coated bars; there may be a faint whiff of protein, or it could be that I know this thing has 32 freaking grams!!

I just love the way this looks on the inside--it actually made my mouth water, which is pretty impressive for a protein bar. The cookie dough layer looks perfect, with a layer of rice crispies and a somewhat thin layer of caramel. Since I really love caramel, I kind of wish there was more of it, but... didn’t really matter. I shouldn’t have worried about having to eat a humongous brick of crap. It tasted just like a candy bar! Normally when somebody says that in a review I’m like “Yeah, right,” but in this case it’s true. Some candy company needs to come up with a flavor like this, because it would definitely be my fact, I liked this bar better than I like candy bars.

It really does taste like cookie dough, no joke. It puts all the other cookie dough imitators to shame. The crisps add depth to the texture, which overall is gummy--but not in a bad way. It’s sort of like caramelly gummy. Only the caramel layer is so thin, the gumminess almost has to come from the base. The caramel layer is really subtle, but it is there as a sweet background hint.

There’s absolutely no funny aftertaste either, which is great because of all the protein inside. That’s how you know it’s one of those “candy bar” protein bars that maybe doesn’t have to best nutritional profile out there, but in reality it’s not all that bad. It boasts only 3g of net carbs and 3g of sugar, but that comes with the price of a lot of sugar alcohols. But I guess life is, after all, a case of “pick your poison.” If you need protein and you want candy, pick this bar up. I personally wouldn’t eat this size except for dessert (or possibly after a day of fasting, lol--TOTALLY kidding here, so don
t freak out if you know my history). But it was certainly a treat!

Taste: 10--nailed it! The name is a perfect description.
Texture: 10--doughy and gummy/gooey, surrounded by a chocolate shell, plus the crisps add cool variety.
Health: 8--TONS of protein, minimal sugar and active carbs...but also a lot of sugar alcohols. Read the label before you decide it’s right for you.
Eat Again? Yes, but probably in a smaller size, or as a dessert treat.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Even Ben and Jerry Aren't Immortal

I’ve been on a Ben & Jerry’s kick lately. I think I just needed some variety from my normal routine. Anyway, I was rummaging in the freezer last night and happened to find a relic from sometime last spring.

Chocolate Fudge Brownie Froyo. It’s not one of my favorite flavors, but Ben & Jerry do a great job of including huge brownie chunks, and for some reason yesterday I was having a huge chocolate craving. So, Chocolate Fudge Brownie it is.

Unfortunately Ben and Jerry have not withstood the test of time. If you look closely on the right, you can see that I scooped right through the middle of a big brownie chunk--which has turned white. Uh-oh.

As for the texture, it was icy. My scoops kind of flaked away from the rest of the pint, and it wasn’t creamy at all. It was worlds apart from the Phish Food Froyo I had recently, which had the same chocolate frozen yogurt base, so I can only assume it’s my fault for letting this pint sit in the freezer so long.

So it wasn’t as enjoyable as Ben & Jerry’s usually is. It was certainly full of big brownies that at some point in the past were probably very moist and fresh, but now they were crunchy and stale. I had to let my ice cream melt for a little bit to get a better texture, and then I fixed it up with lots of caramel and chocolate sauce to make it passable.

Well, I guess you learn a lesson every day. Last night’s: don’t leave ice cream in the freezer for half a year and then expect it to be like new. Even the ice cream gods are not immortal. ;)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review: PR*Bar Oatmeal Raisin Granola

Most of the time I’m a hopeless chocolate addict. That applies to cookies and brownies, although maybe not ice cream...I really like cake flavors, caramel, French Vanilla, cookie dough.... You get the point. If it’s dessert, it needs to be just plain bad for you. Otherwise where’s the fun?

That said, every once in a while I do get a craving for oatmeal raisin cookies. Which is a problem because I am the only one in my house who will eat oatmeal raisin cookies, so they are a very, very, very infrequent occurrence.

So, I make do with granola bars. There was the Luna Iced Oatmeal Raisin, and then the Metragenix Granola Oatmeal. I used to eat those Quaker Chewy ones in Oatmeal Raisin when I was in middle school.

And then, in Wegmans a couple weekends ago, I saw a new addition: PR*Bars. I’d never heard of them before, but the display said 15g of protein, so of course I went over to look. There were the usual chocolate and brownie flavors, along with some interesting ones like Apple Pie and, of course Oatmeal Raisin Granola. That’s the one I picked up.

Apparently these are supposed to be part of a program called “fastburn nutrition” that helps you burn fat. The website even has this form you can fill out to get your personalized plan emailed to you. I tried it just for fun, and sure enough they emailed me a PDF with tons of information about glycemic index, protein, recovery, and of course comparisons of PR*Bars to other protein bars (namely PowerBar, Larabar, Clif, and Balance Bar). It also gave me my daily plan, which included three PR*Bars per day! One at breakfast, one for a “midday meal” (which is separate from lunch), and one for a late night snack. That could get pretty expensive....

Good thing my “plan” was just for kicks. I don’t want a regimen of PR*Bars, I really just want to eat it for fun and see if it tastes good!

It certainly appears to have all the components. I was prepared for the no-coating, because the website makes a big deal about how it’s easy to take on the go because there’s no messy coating melting everywhere. Personally, I think it enhances the resemblance to an oatmeal cookie.

Unfortunately, it’s sticky. Which sort of has the opposite effect from what they intended. Napkin, fingers, and consequently whatever you touch. It didn’t stick to my teeth, though.

This bar is really nothing to write home about. It’s mostly chewy, with a crispy component as well as some oaty texture. It’s also kind of dry. I’m not sure if that’s the right word to go with chewy, but I guess what I mean is it didn’t remind me of a cookie.

The taste was a little bland, not quite oatmeal raisin. The Metragenix bar had a better granola flavor, although this PR*Bar was more of the texture I was expecting from that one. The only taste that was right here was the raisins--when they were present, they took over, adding some much-needed moistness and a burst of flavor.

On the plus side, it was very filling. It’s the exact same size as a Balance Bar, but for some reason I was less hungry after eating this. Of course, that could be because of something I ate earlier. It wasn’t a terrible bar, and I do appreciate the opportunity to eat something oatmeal raisin-ish. But it’s certainly not something to write home about, and I won’t go out of my way to buy more. Given a choice of PR*Bars, I’d opt to try my luck with a different flavor rather than repeat this one.

Taste: 7--not very reminiscent of oatmeal or granola, although the raisins do a pretty good job of imitation raisins...wait...
Texture: 7--sticky, chewy with some crisps and oats, which is cool; but it’s also dry.
Health: 8--these seem pretty similar to Balance Bars (although they claim to be much better), with their perfectly-balanced nutrients to help you burn fat. has more sugar (16g) than protein (15g).
Eat Again? Probably not. There are so many other bars I like better, although I may try other flavors.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rain, Rain...OK, I Guess You Can Stay

Today was my first downpour in over a year.

Running, that is. It’s not like I crawled under a rock for a year and never even saw a downpour. I just haven’t run in one in a long, long time.

I used to do it all the time. I’d be shivering and even the exertion of heavy cardio couldn’t warm me up, my sweatshirt would be hanging off me like old skin, and it would suck so bad I’d be near tears. But I actually kind of missed that.

Yes, today’s run sucked. At least, the part where it was raining buckets, which was of course at the very beginning, so I was soaked the whole way through. I got to test how much I remembered about dodging puddles, hopping over branches, and trying to see where I was going while the wind blew water into my eyes. And then the rain stopped and the sun even peeked out from behind a cloud.

I guess this would be the place to insert cheesy metaphors about the sun always prevailing through the dismal parts of life...but, actually, what really struck me was the sound of my footsteps. They weren’t the usual sharp raps, but rather sloshing, squishy splashes. Alone on the bike path, with no idea where I was (I took a different route today), they sounded so loud. After the torrential rain assault, it really just emphasized the peacefulness of hitting the zone, mindlessly putting one foot in front of the other, and letting my mind wander while my feet carried me.

So yeah, I looked like a drowned rat when I finished. My shoes are in the dryer as I type. But there was something contentedly cozy about changing into a nice warm pair of dry socks and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Yes, running in rain sucks. But I enjoyed it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Review: Pria Bar French Vanilla Crisp

I’ve mentioned before my reluctance to try Luna bars because their marketing came off as rather sexist (like we can’t handle a “real” Clif bar). Given that I’ve also expressed numerous times how disgusting I’ve found every PowerBar product I’ve tried in the past, you’re probably surprised I decided to pick up a Pria bar, since Pria is PowerBar’s line of women’s nutrition bars.

Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned on my continuing journey with food, it’s to not be afraid to try new things--and not to hold a grudge. Plus, my dad did tell me that the protein and energy bars from PowerBar are easily the worst-tasting products they make.

Which brings us to the Pria French Vanilla Crisp bar:

...uh, that’s really small. That pencil is your standard-length mechanical pencil, and it dwarfs this little midget of a bar. Boo! Unless all women need to eat like rabbits, I’d call this a nutrition bar for extreme dieters. You know how I like volume. :(

On the plus side, this really smells like vanilla. The coating looks a little thin, but judging from the scent it’s going to be plenty potent!

It’s a little disconcerting to find a peanut butter-colored crispy base inside a vanilla product, but I guess looks aren’t everything. Upon closer sniff, there may be a faint hint of protein/nutritional gunk smell.

OK, let me start by saying that this is NOT a meal replacement! It was half of my breakfast and I still wished I had more. On the other hand, it tasted pretty good. The coating was the absolute best part, hands down. It was sugary to the extreme, almost dissolving in your mouth. It’s like the yogurt coating on other bars, only a lot sweeter. The crispy base...I think there’s something off about the taste, it’s a bit sour or bitter, but honestly, the coating is so sweet you hardly notice.

As for texture, it’s a nice light crisp--unfortunately, by “light” I mean it’s not going to fill me up. It was way too easy to eat fast, which is great if you’re on the go but not so great if you’ve got a box in front of you begging to be eaten.

If we’re going to compare these to Luna bars, they’re definitely more candy-like. It’s the coating--total sugar overload! It’s also significantly smaller, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else from a bar whose label boasts only 110 calories.

If you’re watching your calories and you need a snack, this is definitely a good choice, especially for a sweet tooth. But if you need something to hold you over for longer, skip it. Or eat two. Or three. Given the size and how light and easy they are to eat, I could totally see where if you had a box you’d just keep grabbing another one.

Taste: 8--there was something a little funny about the crispy part, but the awesome sugary sweet coating hid it very well. That said, you’d better want something sweet!
Texture: 9--a very light crisp, which is pleasant but would be way too easy to just keep shoving in your mouth. In a good way, of course.
Health: 8--as far as snacks go, there’s not much to hate on here. It’s not excessive in saturated fats, and although the coating is really sugary it’s overall a fairly good option for a sweet snack. GoodGuide gives it a resounding 10.
Eat Again? Maybe, if I had one laying around, but I’m not sure I’d have much use for them since they’re so small.