Monday, December 10, 2007

Product Review: Balance Bare

Some of you have probably already read my run-down of a selection of nutrition bars. This weekend, while shopping at Dillon's, I happened to read the back--more specifically, the ingredients--of a standard Balance bar. As soon as I saw "high fructose corn syrup," I despaired. Much like Iron Wil and her yogurt, Balance bars are one of my favorite options (although I often opt for the cheaper and less-filling Nature's Valley 36-packs) for on-the-go breakfasts.

Well, hard as it was to pass up such tempting new flavors as triple chocolate chaos, I decided to go the more disciplined route and tried the new (to me) Balance Bare bars. I bought three different bars, just to try them out: fruit and nut, chocolate chip, and cinnamon oats and honey. This morning for breakfast, I tried the fruit and nut variety.

The bar is surprisingly hefty, thicker and stouter than I would expect, whereas Balance bars are generally small and dense. The bar weighs 50 g, has 15 g protein, 7 g fat, and 23 g carbohydrate (16 from sugar, which seems to me really high). Like a standard Balance bar, the Bare has a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals, although I don't have a Balance bar around here right now to compare portions.

The bar has a very pleasant taste. It's sweetened with evaporated cane juice, which gives it a light, almost malty flavor and texture. It reminds of this really, really good trail mix I had once . . . I think it was called Mrs. Mayo's . . . and it was sweetened with pomegranate juice. This bar reminds me of that taste and texture. The bar is primarily crispy rice, I think. At least, that's what I think that textural element was. At any rate, the fruit and nut element was understated, but it was very tasty when I got a hit of dried cranberry or nut.

My main complaint was that the coating on the bottom of the bar gave the whole thing a crumbly, even grainy texture. I think that's probably from the added protein. So while the bar was actually pretty tasty, I didn't care much for the crumbly, malt-o-meal texture. And the fact that so many of the carbohydrates were sugars further deters me. So would I buy this bar again? Maybe if it's on sale; it was only a dollar, the other day. This definitely won't be one of my regular purchases, however. I guess if I want a nutrition bar that's all-natural, I'll go back to Clif (or just stick with my cheap, Sam's club bulk boxes of Nature's Valley).

I also recently tried a Muscle Sandwich bar (made by a completely different company than Muscle Milk, which also makes Cytomax). I'm sure it has plenty of protein and amino acids, but I will never put that in my body again. With enriched flour, partially hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup, it's no better than a high-protein candy bar, and if I want a high-protein candy bar, I'll buy a Snickers, pay less, and enjoy it a lot more. I would consider Muscle Sandwich a nutrition bar for muscle head amateur body builders who don't know any better.

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