There are a multitude of snack, food and protein bars competing within the Free From Food Awards in 2017. Snack Bars have been a booming product for years and there has been a welcome shift away from sugar rich candy bars towards more protein and fibre rich bars using whole foods or fortified with added micro-nutrients.
I have a clear memory of a protein bar I used to ‘treat’ myself to once a week as a young bodybuilder 20 years ago. It was an enormous cinder block brick of a bar which claimed to be chocolate flavour but clearly had never met a cocoa bean. Eating the thing was a workout in itself requiring dogged persistence. The trick to eating it was to warm it up somehow which made it possible, if you had really strong teeth, to tear a hunk off from the bar. Picture trying to take a bite out of a rhino. Then began the hard work of chewing the thing, which had a texture I can only imagine was similar to tree bark. Fortunately this eventually gave way to a more pliable bitumen texture that could probably have doubled up as a useful household adhesive.
Now there are bars almost as delicious as desserts and bars that are high protein, low sugar, high fibre. Are there any that combine these virtues? Any bar that earns a Free From Food Award has impressed a diverse team of taste-testing judges so when you see this badge, treat yourself!
The killer features of bars for me are convenience, speed and portability. Ideal for taking on short or long trips as a backup plan in the event there is nothing safe on the plane or airport. Great when you will be stuck on a train or car or a meeting and need something you can eat easily, quickly and cleanly.
Since there are now so very many choices however bars need to offer a compelling combination of flavour or nutritional virtues too, preferably both. My existing favourites include Kind Bars and those from Pulsin’ and Wild Thing.
Being part of the Free From Food Awards 2017 judging panel gave me a chance to check out the latest and greatest contenders. Of those, here are the ones I would fondly pack into my travel bag. I hope these do well within the Awards but emphasise the following are my opinions alone. Follow the Free From Food Awards on Facebook and Twitter to see the shortlist of the 2017 entrants on 08 February and Awards announced on 28 March.
Credentials: Gluten Free, Vegan, Soy Free, Genuinely Low Sugar, High Fibre!
Why I adored it: Many, many reasons! First is that bars actually merit their honest, low sugar claim. So many other producers claim “no sugar” when what they should say is “no refined sugar”. Some do say “no refined sugar” which I personally regard as meaningless, sugar is sugar and there is very little to differentiate one sugar from another in terms of nutritional qualities. Choose whichever you like the flavour of best and avoid consuming too much.
Adonis are using erythritol as their main sweeter and this is my pick as a neutral at worst, potentially health boosting at best sweetener. It is also scarcely used and little known so the fact that Adonis are using it suggests to me they are focused on quality ingredients and products rather than marketing hype. They do not even use the marketing-babble-speak ‘superfood’ term. Honest, plain-talking, let the products speak for themselves :-)
More reasons . . . the goji berry flavour is strong with this one. That is something I cannot say about anything else I have eaten with goji berries. The use of pecans rather than the more common almonds and peanuts is another choice which gives these bars a unique flavour.
Finally, there is still more! High fibre! 6 grams per 35 gram, 166 calorie bar. That is a very good ratio and a great contribution towards the recommended 30 grams per day. .
In sum, excellent nutritionals, unique and delightful flavour. Bravo Adonis!
Credentials: Free from all allergens except Egg, High Protein, Low Sugar
Why I loved it: FEED ME PRIMAL! This is a real innovation for the UK market and is a fantastically portable high protein, low sugar, mostly whole food on-the-go option.
There is an enormous range of food bars and almost all of them are based on fruit, nuts and seeds whilst protein bars will feature various highly processed protein powders such as whey, casein, pea and rice. Both often feature added sugars or artificial sweeteners too. Despite being mostly vegetarian I tried this and enjoyed the chewy texture punctuated by crispiness from seeds and gentle sweetness and spicy flavoring..Basically, this is like jerky, and Fori also make bars using beef, chicken and turkey.
But . . . why isn’t this called the Moroccan Lamb Baa-aa? Marketing people? No? Okay.
Available from: Direct from Fori in packs of 12
Credentials: Gluten Free, Vegan, Soy Free, Organic and Raw
Why I loved it: Made and packed in Britain, Soil Association certified organic, these pack 16 grams of protein per bar and around 27 grams of protein per 100g thanks to a blend of pea, brown rice and hemp seed proteins..
If someone took away my beloved Pulsin’ bars and replaced them with BodyMe . . . I would forgive them. Just this once. If you want a high protein bar that also tastes great whilst not being a dessert bar of chocolate and sugar in disguise, these are a wise pick.
Available from: Direct online from BodyMe
Credentials: Gluten Free, Soy Free and suitable for vegetarians
Why I loved it: I love cocoa, sure, but it does seem just a little overused within food bars. The most noteworthy flavour I enjoyed from this bar was vanilla and it was a smooth, subtle vanilla that arrived in the middle of the flavour journey and lingered long after. This alone prompted me to pause and relish it.
It is quite a bit higher in sugar than my other recommendations at 10 grams per pack. Enjoy in moderation :-)
Available from: Tesco, Sainsbury