Thursday, March 15, 2012

Product Review: Balance Bar BARE Blueberry Acai

This is the second of the Balance Bar products I've sampled (the first was nimble). This time I was offered a complementary sample of the newest addition to the BARE line: BARE Blueberry Acai.

I stashed one in my purse for emergency sustenance during my trip to the mall last Saturday. A couple of my favorite stores were having sales and a girl's got to keep her energy up on a day like this! Well--it sure did come in handy.

On first impression, I found that the bar was sturdy--and by that I mean it didn't get all crumbled up in my purse--and that's important when you're handling multiple shopping bags, trying on clothes and running around the mall for 5 hours. You know what I mean!

Even before taste, my first priority is nutrition. I'm satisfied with the nutrient distribution of the BARE bars. Like all products in the Balance Bar line-up, they provide 40% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% from fat and 30% from protein. I would prefer a slightly higher ratio of carbohydrate to protein: 50% carb and 20% protein, but this could be balanced throughout the day by adding carbs from other foods.

BARE Blueberry Acai is a good source of fiber--4 grams per bar--from granola, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, berries and inulin/oligofructose. Inulin is a type of fiber that also has other health-promoting properties: it increases calcium absorption, promotes the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut (in other words, it's a prebiotic), it's soluble (which means it helps lower cholesterol) and it has minimal impact on blood glucose. Most of us need about 25-35 grams of fiber per day to promote gut health, healthy cholesterol levels and stable blood sugars. Not to mention, fiber keeps you full for longer.

BARE bars contain 19 different vitamins and minerals. I would not recommend consuming more than 1-2 bars per day, especially if you take any multivitamin/mineral supplements. That's because too much of a good thing isn't a good thing! It's essential to eat a balanced diet to supply a variety of nutrients and you also have to remember that many of the foods we consume are already fortified too. Some vitamins are fat-soluble, meaning they're stored in the body, and can become toxic if over-consumed. For example, the BARE bars contain 100% DV (daily value) for vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin. That's great! But again, exercise caution if you are already taking it in supplement form, as too much can be harmful. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what your vitamin and mineral needs are.

The saturated fat contained in the bars (3 grams) is a little high for me, especially for a snack. If you decide to eat BARE bars on a regular basis, make sure that you are not taking in too much saturated fat from other sources over the course of the day. BARE bars are not made with hydrogenated oil, so that means no trans fat.

I like that BARE is sweetened with real sugar, agave syrup and brown rice syrup, rather than a non-nutritive sweetener. As long as they're not included in excess, my preference is typically for nutritive or naturally-occuring sweeteners (like sugar or fruit) because I don't particularly like the taste of artificial sweeteners when they're added to products. As a side note, artificial sweeteners are well-researched and GRAS (generally recognized as safe by the FDA)--this is simply my personal preference.

The BARE bar contains 200 calories, so to me, it's a substantial snack all on its own. There are 22g of carbohydrate, which is comparable to other granola bars, and makes BARE fitting for a snack if you have diabetes and are monitoring your carb intake. It kept me full for a good two hours; so that means I could finish my shopping extravaganza and was able to make dinner when I got home without feeling completely famished!

And for the taste...

I really enjoyed BARE Blueberry Acai. BARE bars are also offered in two other flavors I have not yet tried: Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond and Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter. After seeing their photos (and really just hearing the names!), I can assure you I will be picking up some of these varieties to try next! Here's what I thought of the Blueberry Acai flavor:

  • The bars have a great fruity taste and little chunks of berries within. Yum--I like foods chunky! You can also see the oats. I felt like I knew what I was eating.
  • They did not have an artificial or vitamin-y taste, like many vitamin-fortified food products have. I've sampled many supplements over the years, so I was pleased about that.
  • The bottom is coated with a touch of yummy yogurt (coming from yogurt powder) that adds a nice touch of sweetness without being overpowering.
BARE Blueberry Acai is a good snack option. It's easy-to-carry, well-rounded and it isn't messy--a plus when you're toting it around for hours. I usually recommend whole foods for snacks, but sometimes that's not as feasible an option. The bars would be a good choice instead for travel, a post-workout snack, a long run or bike ride, an emergency stash for your purse or car or an extended shopping day. The suggested retail price of $1.69 each is affordable, especially compared to similar products.  


I will be including BARE bars on my list of snack options along with a few other type of granola bars I favor. Even though it's balanced, nutrient-packed and easy to tote around, don't forget that a balanced diet is still important otherwise.


April 2012 Update: Thanks, Balance Bar, for sending me your two other BARE flavors: Sweet & Salty Chocolate Almond and Peanut Butter. Although I love all three varieties, the Chocolate Almond is definitely my favorite. It's like a healthy treat! I keep coming back to Balance Bar BARE when I'm on the run or short on time and need a filling, nutritious snack.

For more information about BARE bars and the remaining Balance Bar line of products, visit www.balance.com. They're available at retail locations wherever Balance Bars are sold and on the Balance Bar website.

One of the perks of my job is receiving complementary samples of products or compensation for passing along my expert opinion as a Registered Dietitian. Please know that my opinion and review is not guaranteed to be positive solely because I have received compensation. I'm here to help you--the consumer--sort out nutrition information. This is my primary goal in providing product reviews.