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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Product Review: The best snack bar

Nature Valley's Honey & Oats Granola Bar has been one of my favorite snacks since I was about 10. And to any smarty pants out there: yes, they did make it in the "dark ages," aka the 1970s, before MTV was a gleam in anyone's eye.  

As the years passed, I realized I wanted something with a little more protein. As a kid, I liked Carnation Breakfast Bars for that purpose. I was horrified years later to figure out that they were between five and six Weight Watchers Points. The Tiger's Milk bars that I ate in my 20s thinking carob was better for me than chocolate had corn syrup! (I go on about corn syrup a lot, mostly because due to studies that state is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country. Supersizing played a part, too, I'm sure.

I've tried Clif Bars, chewy granola bars with nuts, NutraGrain bars, South Beach Bars and Luna bars in my search for a good snack bar with more protein. (Until a couple of years ago, the latter I felt was the best one I had found, fairly healthy and only about three to four Weight Watchers points, depending on the flavor.)

If you are seeking a healthy snack bar with a short list of understandable ingredients, I've found it. It's called a LaraBar, made by the Clif Bar people.

A LaraBar is not a low-calorie food. The bars I've tried are all right around four Weight Watchers points. They are made of dried fruits and raw nuts ground together and mixed with seasonings to make the different flavors. The LaraBar that blows the other ones away (mind you, all the ones I've tried are pretty darn good) is the Cocoa Mole bar. It's sweet, savory and spicy all at once. The chili powder with the chocolate has a little kick to it. And, of course, it's chocolate. The only place I can find Cocoa Mole is at Whole Foods. If it's available elsewhere, I definitely want to hear about it.

Many grocery stores, including Kroger and Trader Joe's, carry other kinds of LaraBars. Banana Bread, Gingersnap, and Cherry Pie are all good. You can even carry them around as an emergency meal substitute.

I'm not the only one who's tried finding the best snack bar. Elaine Magee, a registered dietitian, has a systematic approach to pick the best bar. My second choice, the Luna Bar, made the list. (Iced Oatmeal Raisin, my former favorite, tastes just like a great oatmeal cookie in snack bar form.) It is a little cheaper than the LaraBar (about $1.29 on average compared with $1.59 to $1.79 for the LaraBar). The LaraBar did not make Magee's list. (I'm guessing that the fat of the nuts and the dried fruit's natural sugars made it too high in those categories to meet her criteria.) I still stand by Cocoa Mole as being better for me than a candy bar! It gets a rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5 in my book for a combination of taste and nutrition.

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