The treat countdown!

The treat countdown!

14th February 2020 0 By Allergendad

I love a snack. You love a snack. We all love a snack.

But when I first cut dairy and then (through my son) soya out of my diet; I found it much more difficult to find little snacks that I could rely on. Over the years, partly through a change in the emphasis of foods I would look for but also given the rise of vegan/raw/health food; it’s become much easier to find items that match my requirements.

I’ve always been a sucker for flapjacks and cereal bar-type snacks. Much more so than cakes or pastries. When I was at University I would sit (in the “Roger Kirk cafeteria” of York University’s campus eatery) and get myself a big block of rich, buttery flapjack and combine that with an espresso. I’d just got into coffee and I thought drinking espressos seemed cool. I knew I liked filter coffees so I felt I should like espressos (or at least try to). I was a bit like a teenager, or – as I still haven’t learnt to like the stuff – a fully grown 30-something adult, trying to pretend I liked whiskey. Anyway, I would order this sugar and calorie overload in the gaps between lectures when I needed to be on campus all day. The lectures that followed were an alternating merry-go-round of highs as the caffeine hit my blood supply and eye-drooping lows as the butter hit my arteries (or perhaps my immune system given I was probably allergic to the cows milk protein). It was a bit of a running joke with my best friend (both then and now – I’m very lucky to still be sharing the same AWFUL jokes with that very good friend) that I would be almost catatonic for short intervals of our Number Theory lectures and then wide awake the next.

Anyway, my days of rich flapjacks, and espressos – come to think of it, are behind me. I eat and drink (and generally live) much more healthily now. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been pro-actively losing weight over the last 6 months or so. As such, there isn’t the same space in my diet for such sweet things but I do often still need sensible snacks to get me from mealtime to mealtime.

I’ve been aiming to eat roughly (and I really do mean roughly, give or take a few hundred) 1800 calories in a day, unless I’ve been doing a particularly high level of exercise. That typically means 350 calories for breakfast, normally porridge with peanut butter; around 500 calories for lunch, a bento box of some meat or fish with quinoa/cous cous/sweet potato and vegetables; and 500-600 calories for dinner – anything, but trying to lean towards higher fat and protein with lower carbs. A quick summation shows that that gets me to about 1400 calories. I usually crave something sweet after dinner (a square of chocolate or a piece of fruit) and I often need something when I get home from work (something like a rice cake with peanut butter). Generally, this leaves me about 150-200 calories which tends to hit at about 11am unless I’m completely distracted with work or tied up in a meeting.

The aim of this post is to list some of the things available to me and let you know what I think of them. Obviously I’ve done this all for the benefit of you my loyal reader. It has absolutely nothing to do with being an excellent excuse to buy a load of snacks and then eat them in the name of research, and certainly it’s a complete coincidence that this post coincides with Nakd’s launch of their new “chocolish” bars. That said, it would be remise of me to not review all three new flavours, wouldn’t it?

None of the items here have milk or soya as an ingredient, but many are ‘may contains’. Please check the labels when you inevitably go out and stock up on all of these… I’m no food reviewer, I know that. So the aim is just to give you a bit of the nutritional information and my thoughts about how keen on them I am… I’d be very interested to hear your views if you’ve tried any of these or think there’s any others I should add.

All in the name of research…

***Please imagine the retro sound of Mark Goodier playing the Radio 1 ‘Top 40’ jingle now***

Daa daa daa da da daaaaa, da da da da!

My wife has helpfully pointed out that this is not, in fact, a top anything. I have just chosen 8 items at random that I know of. So they’re not the top 8 just, well…, a list of 8. And add to that I haven’t actually put them in order – so they don’t read from worst to best or vice versa! Please don’t let that stop you enjoyment of my (factually incorrect) countdown. Now where we were. Oh yes:

Daa daa daa da da daaaaa, da da da da!


Nairn’s Cacao and Orange Oat Bar:

Nairn’s Cacao & Orange Oat Bar
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Sugar mostly from brown rice syrup although some coconut sugar
  • May contain sesame, soya, milk, peanuts and nuts
  • 40g
  • 171kcal
  • 6.7g sugar per bar
  • 62.5p per bar

Tastes fairly dry and less sweet than you might imagine. Certainly more oat cereal bar than flapjack. Nice texture from the cacao nibs and actually quite satisfying and moreish once you start it. But definitely lacking the sweet immediate satisfaction of some of the other options.


Nakd Peanut Chocolish bar:

Nakd’s Peanut Chocolish Bar
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • No added sugar
  • May contain soya, milk and nuts (unspecified)
  • 35g
  • 141kcal
  • 16.2g sugar per bar
  • 83p per bar

Sweet and moist with texture from the pieces of peanuts. A sort of date and nut bar dipped and coated in “chocolate”. A strong flavour of date but with enough bittersweet cocoa flavour to feel chocolaty. Certainly not a chocolate bar but it works as a deliciously satisfying chocolate breakfast bar alternative. Probably my favourite from the list. (And if I’m honest, it was trying this that made me want to do the comparison to see if it really does sit at the top of the list). Although, having compiled the stats for the other items on the list, I hadn’t realised how high in sugar it was; even if just from natural fruits.


Raspberry Chocolish Nakd bar:

Nakd Raspberry Chocolish
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • No added sugar
  • May contain soya, milk and nuts (unspecified)
  • 35g
  • 137kcal
  • 16.5g sugar per bar
  • 83p per bar

Having tried this after the Peanut Chocolish bar, it has the same sweet, soft texture but with a much stronger smell and taste of raspberries. As not the biggest fan of raspberries themselves, I’m probably not in the best position to review this as, for me, the flavour overpowers the senses. It does an incredible job of capturing the sharp sweetness of the fruit considering it comprises less than 1% of the ingredients. Although it has to me just a hint of artificial flavourings to it. I’m sure this isn’t the case as they’re very transparent with their ingredients backed by a name and mission statement that clearly states they don’t ‘add anything’. Maybe a better description is that it reminds of the freeze-dried sharpness of berries in breakfast cereals. I’m thinking specifically Special K. As with all of the Nakd bars, I like this a lot, but it isn’t my favourite flavour of the ones available. I won’t do a separate review for it but the “double chocolish” is equally good and probably falls between the peanut and the raspberry in my preference.


The Primal Pantry – Hazelnut and Cocoa

Primal Pantry – Hazelnut and Cocoa
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • No added sugar
  • Contains hazelnuts
  • 45g
  • 192kcal
  • 17.5g sugar per bar
  • 90p per bar

I tried this with a friend – the same good friend mentioned in the introduction. It wasn’t the most convincing, I must say. They’re very dark and don’t taste anywhere near as sweet as the nutritional information would have you believe. It’s as if the hazelnut flavour comes from the papery skins of hazelnuts rather than the nuts themselves. A little confused too: “100% honest” on the back. “100% real” on the front. My friend liked it more than I. The nutty taste is good but the cocoa is a bit too dark. A decent mastication exercise. Fairly expensive, surprisingly high in sugar and clocking up more calories than I feel like it deserves.

“I don’t mind it”, was the ringing endorsement my friend gave it.


Ella Baked Oat Bar – Cacao and Almond

Deliciously Ella – Cacao & Almond Baked Oat Bar
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free (with gluten free oats)
  • Contains added coconut sugar
  • Contains almonds
  • 50g
  • 218kcal
  • 12.8g sugar per bar
  • 85p per bar

My friend really liked this. Much more robust and hearty than some of the other options here. It’s basically a full on flapjack. Once you realise it’s a flapjack, we were both a bit speechless; not sure what else to say about it. Would have another one. Passing the 200kcal threshold is a bit of an issue for me as a morning snack.

“Perfectly edible”, was the surprisingly positive praise my friend heaped on it.


Larabar – Peanut Butter Choc Chip

Larabar – Peanut Butter, Choc Chip bar
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • No added sugar
  • Contains peanuts
  • 45g
  • 217kcal
  • 13.7g sugar per bar
  • £1 per bar

Another of the ones reviewed with my friend. His first reaction before even putting it to his mouth was to utter “wow that’s peanut buttery” from the smell alone. It certainly packs a decent punch of peanut butter – something that scores very highly with me. My wife has had these as emergency snacks for a while but I’ve never bought them myself.

It terms of taste, I think it scores as highly as anything else on the list. You can taste the complementing simplicity of the dates, peanuts and chocolate. It has a delicious sweetness without being overpowered by the flavour of date (the only source of the sweetness). It’s soft and chewy – a king amongst thieves. The only problem is that it’s priced and highly calorific like a king too. Passing the 200kcal barrier, particularly with 13.7g of sugar makes it hard to be a first choice. Coupled with the highest price on the list; it elevates it to the ‘treat’ list for me.

“It tastes like they were meant to cook it but forgot”, was my favourite quote of the taste test. Apparently that’s not a bad thing.


Sainsbury’s Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Date Bar

Sainsbury’s Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chip Date Bar
  • Vegan
  • Not Gluten Free
  • Does contain added sugar (including Fructooligosaccharides – whatever they are!)
  • Does contain peanuts (unspecified)
  • 35g
  • 143kcal
  • 8.6g sugar per bar
  • 43p per bar

I’ll be honest I was looking forward to this one. Having taste-tested it after the delicious Larabar; I was hoping it might be a cheaper and smaller version. There’s something about the ones that breach 200kcal that makes me want to reconsider if it’s “the” snack I should choose. At just 143kcal, this – at least psychologically – falls into the category of small treat rather than full on snack-of-the-day. It would also be much easier on the purse strings if I would chose this over some of the other options on the list.

The first impressions were not ideal, however. The list of ingredients reads longer than one of my blog posts including a word I’d never seen before (Fructooligosaccharides: it’s a naturally occuring chain of fructose units as appears in bananas, apparently). It also has the allergy notification that should heed a warning to anyone who cares a lot about allergy notifications: “not suitable for customers with an allergy nuts due to manufacturing methods”. Fine, but it’s a PEANUT BUTTER bar! Putting nuts in as the main ingredient is not a “manufacturing method” any more than putting cow’s milk in cheese is a “manufacturing method”! (I do realise that peanuts are not tree nuts, but they haven’t said specifically tree nuts either…).

The second impression left a little bit to be desired too as a glistening shiny brown solid slide out of the packaging as I undid it. Even my wife uttered a disapproving “oooh” as I put it down on the table to take this photo:

The taste is fine, certainly not bad but it tastes quite chemically and befitting of something with lots of lots of ingredients. I finished the bar without too much protest and I like the chocolate chips and peanut flavour. But considering how much I like chocolate and peanut butter as a flavour – it really didn’t hit the spot.

Disappointing.


Nature Valley – Crunchy Peanut Butter

Nature Valley – Crunchy Peanut Butter
  • Not Vegan
  • Not Gluten Free
  • Does contain added sugar
  • Does contain peanuts
  • 42g
  • 204kcal
  • 10.6g sugar per bar
  • 48p per bar

So this is where it all started really. I’ve been eating these for years, taking one (or sometimes two) to work each day up until a few months ago. No dairy or soya but not really a ‘health food’ option in comparison to the other options on this list. Also the only non-vegan option on account of the honey.

I really like them, they have a crunchy texture that I suspect comes from them being pretty much the only thing here to explicitly have sugar as a key ingredient (rather than a natural form of it). They taste very sweet and the peanut butter topping spread across the top of the bars is so good I’ll happily clean the wrapper (in a way I have yet to make remotely graceful) with my finger after eating the bar itself.

However, it was pretty early on in the diet change that I realised that I needed to cut down my consumption of these. On a weaker day (although I wasn’t actually holding myself to any standards at this point) I would eat two of these in the morning and then go and get chips for lunch. They seem to sweet, too calorific and too expensive to eat on a daily basis in my new diet. As a result, it’s pretty eye opening to see that the cost works out favourably on this list. And while the calories are higher than some, the sugar is actually lower than quite a few of my preferred options on the list. I guess it partly depends how much you care about limiting the total sugars or being selective about where they come from. I suspect there’s merit in both.


There are other ones in the top photo that I haven’t yet reviewed but this is getting quite long, so I might save the rest for a follow up reviewed. Also a lot of the ones that are left fall into a more ‘chocolate bar’ category – so maybe I’ll save them for that. Keep your eyes peeled for future updates.