Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gear Review: Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bar

Energy bars have come a long way since the days when eating an energy bar meant trying to rip apart a sticky, homogenous textured Powerbar (not that there's anything wrong with those bars, and I think they're pretty good, but they're kind of an acquired taste that you eventually learn to love). While early energy bars were meant as a high-sugar (for quick energy) sports supplement, today many people want delicious tasting energy bars as a convenient snack food that requires no preparation and can be easily brought anywhere. Companies have responded with options that are often lower in sugar, higher in protein and healthy fats, and have easier to read ingredient lists. One type of bar that falls into this category is the fruit and nut bar. Today, I'll be reviewing Balance Bar's entry into this nutty snack bar category: Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bars.

Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bars are available in Sweet & Spicy Nut, Sea Salt Caramel Nut, and Mixed Berry Nut. The ingredients are primarily nuts, oats, dried fruit, and a sweetener as a binder (brown rice syrup for Sweet & Spicy Nut and Mixed Berry Nut, caramel for Sea Salt Caramel Nut). Similar to KIND Bars, if you've ever had them. All three Balance Bare Bars are relatively low sugar (6-8g, not bad considering some of that comes from dried fruit), and has 3g fiber, 15-18g carbs, 8-10g fat (the first ingredient in all of the bars is peanuts, so I'm assuming a good chunk of that fat is omega-6), and 4-5g protein, for a total of 160 Calories. All Balance Bare Bars are also gluten-free, non-GMO, and soy-free, and Mixed Berry Nut and Sweet & Spicy Caramel are also dairy-free. The labels are pictured below for your convenience.

First up is Mixed Berry Nut:

Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bar in Mixed Berry Nut
Wrapper (with ingredients and nutrition facts) for Balance Bare Bar Mixed Berry Nut

Mixed Berry Nut has the most fruit taste to it, and kind of reminds me of GORP trail mix (without the M&Ms, if your GORP is actually GORP+M&M). It also reminds me of the original KIND Bars that were primarily nuts and fruit, though I don't think KIND Bars have oats in them. It's the most traditional of the group, when compared to the competitors' offerings in this category.

Next is Sea Salt Caramel Nut:

Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bar in Sea Salt Caramel Nut
Wrapper (with ingredients and nutrition facts) for Balance Bare Bar Sea Salt Caramel Nut

Sea Salt Caramel Nut has a strong caramel taste with some butter and vanilla undertones. It's the stickiest of the bunch, though to my surprise, it has the least carbs (15g) and the least sugar (6g), probably because it doesn't have as much dried fruit studded throughout the bar. Despite its name, I didn't notice the salt all that much, and it was the most dessert-y tasting of the group.

Last, but not least, is Sweet & Spicy Nut:

Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bar in Sweet & Spicy Nut
Wrapper (with ingredients and nutrition facts) for Balance Bare Bar Sweet & Spicy Nut

Sweet & Spicy Nut is my favorite of the group. The exact flavor is a little hard to pin down, and while I wouldn't describe it as truly "spicy," it does have some chipotle chili in there, and it's definitely the most savory of the group. If you like the sweet and salty combination, this is the one to go with, not the Sea Salt Caramel Nut, which is more sweet than salty.

Because of their higher fat, lower carb formulation, I probably wouldn't recommend Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bars as a pre-workout food (not that I've been following my own suggestion, but do as I say, not as I do) or post-workout recovery snack. They do have the 4:1 carb:protein ratio down, but it's just a little on the low side for that purpose. However, they do make a very good mid-day snack. Because of their small size (1.19oz and 160 Calories), they don't really fill me up, and I tend to need two at a time, but I feel like I probably eat more than most people in their target audience (160 Calories is an appropriate sized snack for a lot of people, and the nuts will make it more satiating than, say, 160 Calories of candy or pretzels). Balance Bare Bars work well as a pick-me-up when you're looking for something low calorie to hold you over until your next meal. Energy bars have come a long way as far as taste goes too, and these flavors will likely appeal to the general population, not just the people who have gotten used to the taste of traditional energy bars.

Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bars are available on the Balance Bar website for $1.59 for a single bar, $16.99 for a 15-pack ($1.13/bar), and $130.80 for a 120-pack ($1.09/bar). They are also available at select retailers were Balance Bars are sold.

Full disclosure: Balance Bare Nutrition Energy Bars were provided free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Balance Bar or anyone else.

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