Monday, 16 September 2013

Energy Bars Unwrapped: The Ultimate Review Round-Up




IntroductionFruit BarsCereal BarsProtein Bars

Energy bars

I've always found energy bars a very useful kind of product. I have a tendency to slump suddenly and without warning if I forget to eat, and I can go from "slightly flagging" to "irritable and no use to anyone" in a heartbeat, so it's always been important to me to have an emergency bite to eat. I also find them invaluable for travel: whether it's a short city break or a month-long trip filled with hiking and camping, there's a spot in my case marked out for a few handy snacks. In all of these cases I need something that's ready to eat, tastes great, and won't easily be crushed beyond recognition in the bottom of my handbag. It's easy enough to make your own raw fruit & nut bars in the kitchen, but not when you're away from home - and sometimes you just want someone else to do the work for you.

As with any of these things, you never really know what's in the packet until you open it, so I thought it might be useful to take the wrappers off a range of different bars and compare what's inside.
If you spend enough time staring at energy bars, you start to realise that they can be split into a few common types. There are the compressed fruit bars (usually heavy on the dates), the cereal style (often packed with oats or puffed rice), and then there are protein-enriched bars which might taste as though they belong in either of the other categories or something quite different.

The market in the UK has been expanding hugely over the past few years, and there's now a much broader range of flavours available across all of these categories. I divided my product reviews along these lines, because otherwise this was going to be a very long page. (See them here: fruit barscereal barsprotein bars.)

Recently, I've also started thinking about the sports nutrition angle. For an emergency pick-me-up, any source of a few calories will do, though obviously I have a preference for natural ingredients and a minimum of added sugar and oil. But for serious exercise, you need to be a bit more deliberate, especially when it comes to getting extra protein. This prompted me to look more deeply into the different products available, and how they relate to one another in terms of health benefits.

Special Diets

I've tried to determine whether each range is suitable for vegan, gluten-free, or nut-free diets. Take a look at the following table for a summary. These are based on ingredients, so if you have a serious allergy they might not be suitable due to manufacturing contamination - but in that case you're probably already accustomed to checking out everything you eat.


Disclaimers

Products were sampled during August 2013, and nutritional information was obtained from packaging at that time. Protein was calculated as 4 calories per gram. I'm a consumer, not a dietician, so these posts just represent the information I was able to gather for myself. However, I hope it might be useful to someone!

I wrote to a lot of companies to ask for samples of different flavours, in order to afford such a comprehensive overview, so some of these bars were provided to me by manufacturers and their PR companies. Opinions are my own.


IntroductionFruit BarsCereal BarsProtein Bars


9 comments:

rosaria williams said...

This is wonderful, Rachel. However, I have never seen these brands here.

kumars kitchen said...

such an organized way with that quick to follow table...loved the way you have given a wealth of info on all these yummy bars,thanks so much for sharing :-)

Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes said...

I love the Clif bars!! I eat them all the time when I'm hiking or after a run, etc. Great review!

Subha Subramanian said...

Like those bars......Here is not available.....
Good review......
x❤x❤
http://indianveggiesbhojan.blogspot.in/

Midnight Cowgirl said...

Very interesting! I eat a lot of Clif and Luna bars.

Blond Duck said...

Ben likes these peanut butter and chocolate protein bars....bleah!

Charlotte Klein said...

I love Clif bars but there are a few on here I've never heard of that I'd love to try. Love how thorough you are with your list!

christine said...

wow, I'm amazed at how many are vegan - often honey sneaks into energy bars, and GF too - great list:)

Rachel said...

The point you make about things marketed as "substitutes" is a good one. At their worst, they merely remind you that there's nothing like the real thing; at their best, they are something entirely different and wonderful!

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