Gluten Free Fitness

product reviews

A Tale of 3 Gluten Free Protein Bars: 22 Days Nutrition, Luna Protein, and Quest

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If you’ve been here at all, you know I’m a fan of real food, real, whole, naturally gluten free food. In fact, I think it’s the easiest way to eat a gluten free diet.

I also am a fan of making my own protein bars.   And there’s a plethora of naturally gluten free easy snacks you can eat.

But sometimes, you need or want a shelf stable, premade, small meal or snack.  That’s when a store bought protein bar can come in handy.

Gluten free protein bars

I’ve eaten a lot of protein bars in my time, both prior to learning I had celiac disease and after.  After celiac (AC) the challenge has  been to find a true gluten free protein bar.  There really were very few up until recently.  I’ve already reviewed several here, my favorites being VixiBars and ZingBars.  And now, we have 3 more contenders.  And my new hands down favorite.   (Full disclosure: The 22 Days and Luna bars were provided to me free of charge for review purposes.  As always, this in no way influenced my review.)

A general comment about protein/snack bars: if you are keeping one in your bag or car for “emergencies” remember that a chocolate/yogurt coated bar WILL MELT and make a damn mess!!  (Yes, this is experience talking 😉

First, 22 Days Nutrition Bars:
  • 22 Days bars are vegetarian/vegan, and the protein they use is is hemp and rice.  This is a bonus to the dairy sensitive, and obviously to vegans.
  • I like the idea of 22 Days, I like that they are gluten, HFCS, and soy free.
  • I like that I can read and understand the short ingredient list.
  • I did not like that the protein content was a bit low in my opinion, at 10-11 grams per bar.
  • I did not like that the texture was very dry, in my opinion.
  • Out of the 3 flavors I tried, the only one I remotely liked was the Daily Mocha Mantra.  Again, everyone’s tastebuds are different, so your mileage may vary.
22 Days Daily Mocha Mantra Nutrition Facts label

22 Days Daily Mocha Mantra Nutrition Facts label

Next, Luna Bars new line of gluten free Protein Bars:
  • As some of you may know, Luna Bars were NOT gluten free in the past.  Here is the information that is on Luna’s website:

    At the beginning of 2011 we started to transition all LUNA Protein flavors to be gluten free. To do this, Clif Bar & Company has looked at all aspects of making our bars. Our ingredient suppliers have confirmed that all ingredients are gluten free, so they contain no gluten from wheat, rye or barley. The location where we make our food is capable of making a gluten free food and we test our finished products to confirm that they are gluten free.  Our newest flavors, Mint Chocolate Chip and Chocolate, are all labeled gluten free.  As of March 2011, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cookie Dough, and Chocolate Cherry Almond transitioned to be gluten free, as well. You can tell if your LUNA Protein bar is gluten free by looking at the packaging.

  • Luna Bars use soy as their protein source.  For me, this is a downer.  I prefer to not use soy protein.  These bars also had the longest ingredient list of these 3 bar brands.
  • I tried 3 flavors.  I liked only one, the Chocolate Peanut Butter.  The others tasted very artificially flavored and had a funny aftertaste to me.  I expected to love the Cookie Dough and was really disappointed in that one.
  • Again, in my opinion these were skinny on protein at 12 grams.  This all depends on what you shoot for as your daily protein intake.  For me, as an active, weight training athlete, I generally shoot for at least 1 gram per pound of body weight.
Last, but certainly not least, and my new favorite: Quest Bars:

  • Quest now has 5 flavors in their line up.  I had tried the Peanut Butter and Vanilla Almond in the past, and they were good but not great.  They have just added 3 new flavors, and now they are great.  In fact, the Chocolate Brownie is on auto-ship to my house.  Not lying.  My husband and I both really enjoy them, and a bar is now my “dessert” on a regular basis.
  • According my taste buds, here’s my listing from most to least favorite (although I thought they were all good) Chocolate Brownie, Apple Pie, Peanut Butter, Mixed Berry, Vanilla Almond.  I did hear there is a Chocolate Peanut Butter coming soon…
  • Ingredient list for the Chocolate Brownie: Protein Blend (Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Isomalto-Oligosaccharide* (100% Natural Prebiotic Fiber), Almonds, Cocoa, Water, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Lo Han Guo, Sucralose.
  • Here’s the low down on the ingredients that may look unfamiliar:
    • Isomalto-Oligosaccharide: In order for Quest Bars to be usable as a complete meal, we wanted to ensure that they contained enough fiber to really matter. Almost every ounce of carbohydrate in our bars comes from fiber, which will keep your insulin levels low and your stomach satisfied. Fiber has been shown to do many things such as controlling hunger, improving digestive health and preventing certain diseases. IMO is a 100% natural fiber derived from plant sources that is very similar to the better known chicory root fiber. The two fiber sources are almost identical in taste, feel and texture but with one minor exception: IMO does not cause any intestinal upset whatsoever even for people with very sensitive stomachs. We use it to make sure that Quest bars can be complete meals for use whenever you want something convenient.
    • Lo Han Guo: A natural herb that’s been used as a sweetener in China for over 1,000 years. It only takes a TINY amount as it’s 300 times sweeter than sugar.
  • They do use some sucralose, which is the one thing I would change if I could.  I have heard that they are working on removing this as well.
  • Quest Bars all have 20 grams of protein.  That’s what I’m talking about.
There you go!  Have you tried any of these?  What is your favorite/least favorite brand/flavor?

PureFit Gluten and Dairy Free Nutrition Bars Review

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No Wheat, No Gluten, No Dairy

Such is the tagline for PureFit Nutrition Bars.  I was contacted by Robb Dorf, owner and creator of the Pure Fit line, to take a look at the bars and give them a taste.  Robb graciously provided samples of the bars for this review.

First, a bit about what is in, and not in, these bars.

PureFit definitely gets points for being aware of food sensitive consumers.  The bars are:

Kosher-certified and vegan-approved… do not contain dairy, wheat, or gluten, and will not melt in their packaging. PureFit works diligently to provide high-quality, award-winning nutrition bars without artificial ingredients, sugar alcohols or common allergens, including milk, wheat or gluten.

However, they have one big ingredient which many are sensitive to-and that is soy.

Ingredients

The ingredient list for the Berry Almond crunch Bar: Soy protein isolate, ground almonds, brown rice syrup, Energy Smart™ (fruit juice, natural grain dextrins), Energy Blend (fructose, natural extract of chicory, dextrose) soy crisp (soy protein isolate, rice flour, calcium carbonate), agave nectar, soynuts, soy flour, textured soy flour, natural raspberry flavored fruit [(sugar, raspberry juice, raspberry extract) cranberries], almonds, inulin, raspberries, natural flavors. Manufactured in a plant that ALSO processes milk, egg and peanuts.

Too much concentrated soy?

Not a horrific ingredient list, in fact, not bad at all.  However, I am concerned about the amount of concentrated soy products.  I personally am sensitive to concentrated soy.  (To complete this review I spared my stomach and simply took a couple small bites of each flavor, spreading the testing out over an extended period of time.)

However, I can tolerate naturally occurring soy (think edamame, and gluten free tamari) just fine.  The amount of actual soy ingested from those items is significantly less that what you would find in a soy milk or soy protein product.  This is definitely an area where your mileage may vary.

Concentrated soy is quite the controversial ingredient.  You can find many instances of soy lovers and soy haters.

As was indicated in the allergen statement, the bars are processed on shared equipment, but not with gluten containing items.

Let’s move on to the taste.

Robb sent me a sample kit, which is also available for purchase if you want to give the flavors a try.  The flavors are: Granola Crunch, Peanut Butter Crunch, Berry Almond Crunch, Chocolate Brownie, and Almond Crunch.  Believe it or not, the one I liked the least was Brownie Crunch.  Shocking, I know, as I am a confessed chocoholic.  All the flavors were a bit chalky in texture.  The Peanut Butter Crunch was the one I liked the most, and the Almond Crunch and Granola shared a very close second.  The Berry and Brownie just had too much of an artificial flavor for me to really get around.  They all required a hefty sip of water to chew and swallow.  They did have a nice crunch and chew texture.

Overall, I think these are a decent option.  The fact that they do not melt makes them good for “emergency” stash, like in your car glove compartment or in a natural disaster preparedness kit.  For that same reason they would be good fuel for outdoor sports.

However, for me personally these will not become part of my ordinary rotation.  Soy protein does not have a place in my diet.  It’s certainly a personal opinion, preference, and tolerance level.  My friend Kim at Gluten Free is Life also reviewed these bars, and she and her family were fans.  Just goes to show, what will work for one of us will not work for all of us, so keep an open mind whenever reading reviews of products.

Wish list

If there is a nutritional supplement company out there listening, here is my wish list for a protein bar:

  • Gluten free
  • Uses whey protein in some bars, and a gemma or rice protein in others for a dairy free option
  • Uses chicory root and/or stevia to sweeten
  • No sugar alcohols, no soy, no artificial sweeteners
  • At least 20 grams of protein per bar
  • Fat source of coconut
  • Low to moderate carbohydrate count

I know, a tall order.  So far the closest I’ve seen is in the Quest Bar. I’ll do a full review of them in the future.  I am very curious to see what their new flavor will be.  In the meantime, you can always make your own protein bars and control the ingredients and nutrition profile completely.

And if you want more, Gluten Free and Fit 101 has a lot more reading on living healthy and gluten free.

If you have tried the Pure Fit bars, I’d love to hear your feedback!  Also, if you’d like to weigh in on the soy controversy, feel free to comment below!


Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Review

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Have you noticed I’ve done a few chocolate chip cookie recipes?

Well, even if you haven’t noticed, I have.  I seem to have a bit of an obsession with chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate chip cookies are just such a soothing, all-American treat.  When I was a kid pre-celiac diagnosis, I had a chocolate chip cookie obsession then too.  Soft Batch cookies, remember them?  Oh, yeah.  Heated up for just a few seconds until the chips were all mice and melty…heaven in a bite.

Now that I’m a bit older, gluten free, and aware of nutrition, I try to have some redeeming qualities in my treats for the most part.

As a part of designing my diet to provide maximal quality and nutrients, I try to use coconut products on a regular basis.  Coconut is not a miracle cure for anything, and please run screaming from anyone who tries to tell you so.  However, it is a food that has some very interesting and unique properties.  And, it tastes pretty darn yummy.

Funny random fact about me: I like coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut flour, and coconut flavor in general.  However, I don’t like actual coconut.  Like, the shredded kind.  I hate macaroons.  I think it’s a texture thing.  But I digress.

Coconut oil is also not the devil as opponents to saturated fat may try to state.  Actually, saturated fat itself is not the devil.  Saturated fat in combination with refined carbohydrate may in fact, be the devil.  But again, I digress.

I feel compelled to say that coconut products contain calories.
Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate

Tropical Traditions Coconut Cream Concentrate

This seems obvious, but I have heard stories of people adding large amounts of calorie dense coconut products to their diet and expecting the laws of thermodynamics to no longer apply.  As much as that would be fabulous, it is in fact false.  If you add calories in, you have to take some out from somewhere, or you will gain weight.

Tropical Traditions is where I get my coconut flour and coconut oil.  I saw they had a product called coconut cream concentrate, which I had never heard of/tried before.  They very kindly supplied me with a complimentary sample to try.

Coconut Cream Concentrate is pretty cool stuff.

From the Tropical Traditions website:

Coconut Cream Concentrate is certified organic whole coconut meat in concentrated form. It contains no additives* (not even water). The dried coconut meat is ground very finely, giving it a creamy consistency due to its high fat content. Since it is 70% fat, it is a rich source of pure coconut oil. Note: this is a food, not a cooking oil.

It reminded me a lot of natural nut butter, how the oil separates and comes to the top?  Same gig.

I highly recommend watching the video provided by Tropical Traditions on how to prepare your concentrate to use.  Me being me, I skipped that part thinking I could stir it like nut butter.  No, you can’t.  Warm it first.  What’s really cool about this product in my opinion, is that you could theoretically pour off the top coconut oil and use that, and then use the meat part to make coconut milk (they recommend a couple teaspoons per 16 ounces of water, and it will be “grainy” due to the fiber in the coconut.)  It’s pretty darn versatile.  I mixed up a couple tablespoons in a quart jar with water and use it in my coffee.

Here is my coconut cream chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Have you used coconut cream concentrate?  What’s your favorite way to use coconut?  Hit it up in the comments!