The lovely folks at Enjoy Life Foods sent me one of each variety of their Chewy Bars to review for the blog. The stack looks impressive but we already buy them by the case so you can guess that we love them before I get too far into this post. The four varieties are Sunbutter Crunch, Cocoa Loco, Caramel Apple, and Very Berry. I actually use the Cocoa Loco bars as part of my recovery from long runs, they aren’t energy bars or anything (I wish Enjoy Life would make an energy bar, actually) but often I just need to eat something fast and I’m not a breakfast person so they work for me. They also remind me of brownies which is always a good thing. Those of us that eat gluten and allergen free on a regular basis seem to prefer the chocolate variants of “safe” foods because the chocolate seems to cover up a bit of the rice flour aftertaste that you get otherwise. That isn’t to say that we don’t enjoy all the flavors pictured below, but when I order them in bulk I choose the Sunbutter Crunch and Cocoa Loco bars over the Caramel Apple or Very Berry varieties. All are top 8 free, though since the Sunbutter Crunch contains honey it is the only one not officially labeled “vegan” on the box.
I will warn you that these are pretty pricey, but having convenient throw-in-the-diaper-bag snacks is something I used to take for granted before our food allergy diagnosis so you are paying for convenience on the one hand but on the other you’re also paying for ingredients that you know are costly to begin with. What I mean to say is that I’m finding that the time, effort, and ingredient cost of making our own treats (and I’ve yet to be able to adapt my own chewy bar recipe, actually) is outweighed by the convenience of having some of these on hand for the kids. What I need to do is stop eating them and then they’ll last a little longer! I’m glad to know from a fellow food allergy parent on twitter, however, that I’m not the only parent eating these along with their kids:
— Amy Stubblefield (@amylstubbs) December 12, 2012
I would never have purchased these without having tried a sample at our first FAAN walk, however, because of some scathing Amazon reviews. There are positive ones in the mix, but I wanted to address some of the negative ones because when you’re going to indulge in a treat and pay about a dollar per one ounce bar, you want it to be worth it. (Here’s an Amazon affiliate link to their Enjoy Life Chewy Bar listings, the Subscribe and Save deal is pretty good by the way but do check Vitacost – in fact as of writing this post they’re running a “BOGO” sale on my son’s favorite flavor: Sunbutter Crunch bars.)
Portion size – a number of reviews complain that the bars are too small and too small for the money. I’ve weighed bars that appear to be slightly different in size and they’re always an ounce as indicated on the package though I’ve run twice (in the whole year we’ve been buying these) across bars that must have been cut too short by the machine and then include a little end piece of another bar (so still an ounce, just in two pieces). Now that I’ve been counting calories for a while I think our idea of portion sizes has changed. A “king sized” candy bar looks more like the norm but these really are more of a treat and especially with my 2 and 4-year-old eating them I wouldn’t want the portions to be too big though of course I’d love to spend less on buying them.
Taste – I’ve mentioned already that I really enjoy the flavor of the Cocoa Loco bars and the Sunbutter Crunch bars. While I love the hint of caramel in the Caramel Apple bars, they’re a little too sweet for me and the Very Berry bars are just the last ones I pick out of the pantry but they’re also good, just not my favorite. If you are just trying these out for the first time, go with the chocolate and see how you fare. Allergy friendly foods take some getting used to but my husband likes the flavor and he can eat regular granola bars at work and when he’s biking a trail so that is telling. Definitely don’t buy a case to start if you’re hesitant at all, my mother in law has been finding the old box design for $2 a box at clearance stores so that is worth a try if you don’t want to wait for a sale at Whole Foods or the like. I genuinely like these but it is really a matter of personal taste.
If you have questions I’m happy to answer them. I am a big fan of the company and I appreciate getting these four boxes for free but purchase these regularly anyway so I think I can give a fair opinion.
Also: Happy 2013! I have some more park write-ups as well as cookbook reviews, meal planning ideas, and some running updates in the works if I can find the time to share them. I’m in the middle of a couple big projects but hope to check in at least once a month, if not more often. It is hard to know who is out there reading so if you’ve got requests for topics please let me know in the comments. May this year bring good things to you and yours!