Monday, April 14, 2014

Review & Giveaway: YouBars

My husband Michael and I try to eat grain-free, minimally processed foods as often as possible.  It's not 100%, and as long as we're mindful of when we step away from that, we find 'mostly compliant' to be good enough.  The biggest challenge for us both is during the day - lunches without sandwiches, and snacks that don't derail us.

For me, at home, it's the challenge of not wishing to have to fix a whole meal - I want lunch to be easy and tend toward a little variety of things I can nibble on.  Healthy nibbles if I have them prepared, but if not... this is where the chips come out, if they're on hand. (and they are my biggest junk food vice, so they are often on hand)  And if nothing easy is at hand, I'm probably just going to skip lunch and feel deprived all day.

For Michael, the hazards are too many junky choices - bagels and donuts in the breakroom, a vending machine full of candy bars and unhealthy crunchies, various fast food places in the surrounding area. Lots of temptation, and very little healthy alternatives unless he brings them himself.

We both strive to have enough leftovers from dinner the night before to heat and eat for lunch.  But even at that, a snack mid-afternoon can make or break us.  Michael very much needs to have sensible, tasty choices on hand.  And I am happy to avoid chips if something better is available.

So, we were very interested in finding out if YouBars might be a solution to this daily dilemma.  The box we received contained 8 of their bars:

4 Nutrition Bars:

- Date with Chocolate
- Cookie Dough
- Honey Cashew
-  Goji Macadamia

3 Paleo Bars:
- Paleo Chocolate
- Cashew Cherry
- Vanilla Coconut

1 Training Bar:
- Training 33

The biggest difference, as far as I can see, between Paleo Bars and Nutrition Bars is the presence of whey proteins (and soy lethicin in the chocolate flavors).  All of the bars I tried are grain free (and therefore gluten free).

The Training 33 Bar is a bit higher in calories than the others I tried and designed according to guidance from "The 4-Hour Body" by Tim Ferriss, and intended to aid muscle building as a post workout snack.  Additionally, YouBar has other training bars available which I did not try.

All of the bars include easily identifiable ingredients that are food, not chemicals - a dedicated cook could probably, with a bit of experimentation, figure out a home version of most of these, and I take that as a very good thing.  They are not inexpensive.  A box of 12 translates to about $2.50 a bar - but that is because of the quality ingredients used, and if I were to purchase what was needed to make these, I am pretty sure that the price of the bars are right in line with the cost of the ingredients and time needed to make similar snacks at home.

In tasting each bar, I started out very methodically - one a day, divided in half so Michael could also taste, because I wanted to know which appealed to him enough to be a good snack to take to work. 

I liked every single one of these bars - there were some I absolutely loved, but none of them were a disappointment, and all were satisfying, both as a good protein source and also in hitting that sweet spot without being full of sugar.  Natural sweeteners like honey and dates make them just right.

They do each have particular characteristics that can help appeal to different tastes.

The Great Date Chocolate Bar was very gooey and rich.  The dates were front and center in taste, with the chocolate adding depth and earthiness.  The texture of these are pretty smooth and it's much like eating candy.  Michael's comment after trying his bite was that these would be great on regular rotation as snacks.  For all its richness, the ingredients could not be simpler: Organic Dates, Whey Protein Isolate, Organic Honey, Cocoa.  How awesome is that?

The Cookie Dough bar was one of my favorites. Name aside, there is no cookie dough in here because the bar is grain-free.  Instead it's full of cashews and cashew butter, dates, honey, vanilla and semi-sweet chocolate chips. And yes, it tastes like cookie dough chock-full of chocolate chips and nuts.  This one hit all my favorite snacking notes - crunchy, creamy, sweet with a bit of salty feel from the nuts (I don't know that they're actually salted, however!).

The Honey Cashew Bar actually caused some drama in the house!  As I'd said, I'd started out so methodically, dividing bars in half for us to each try, writing my notes and getting Michael's input.  And then, came the day when he was busy working on a project and hit that zone where he wanted something to eat and didn't want to think about it too hard... and instead of reaching for some less-healthy snack or stopping what he was doing to fix something to eat, he grabbed the Honey Cashew Bar out of the box and ate the whole thing before he realized what had happened!

Oops!  Later, he confessed and actually was sweet enough to order a variety pack box so that I could complete my review!  A couple weeks worth of extra snacks was not a bad outcome of that, and they arrived very quickly after ordering.  Drama aside, I think it's wonderful that these can so quickly be the snack of choice while distracted - - much much better option than many others I can think of!

As far as taste and texture, the Honey Cashew reminds me vaguely of the inside of a Butterfinger (minus the neon orange color) - a bit lighter than that - like dry nougat, maybe? The honey gives it that satiny crisp feel but it is drier than the other bars, and required something to drink along with it.  I kept saying, "I like this? I think? Maybe not as much, but mmm.... it's good..."  It also includes some crunchy rice cereal and so it isn't grain-free.

The Goji Macadamia was another one that was on the drier side, but highly textured, full of macadamia and cashews, dates, goji berries and dried cherries.  This one reminded me a lot of a 'trail mix' style bar, with a bit of sweet and tart coming from the dried fruit.

The Paleo bars were my favorites - very simple ingredients I use at home, turned into delicious snack bars.

The Chocolate Bar is rich and chocolately as it should be, but full of nuts and seeds that ramp up the protein - great for post-workout, and a perfect choice for a healthy chocolate fix.  Sweetness comes from dates and honey, but this time the chocolate is the predominant flavor.

The Cashew Cherry was my absolute favorite - my notes have a lot of all-caps and exclamation points! Cashews, Cherries and Apricots gave it a PB&J flavor to me, and it is full of good proteins and omega-3s.  I love it!

The Vanilla-Coconut Bar was also a favorite - a bit tropical, full of cashews, dates and coconut.  It is quite satisfying without feeling heavy, and the texture hits a perfect balance: neither too sticky or too dry.

Lastly, I tried the Training 33 Bar.  I actually held off on this one, both because the name didn't sound as delicious as the others and because it is higher calorie, being specifically intended to meet post-workout needs.

Turns out, this is one of my favorite bars! The extra calories bring this into the 'light lunch or breakfast' range when time is a factor, and of course it's great as a training bar.  But it's the taste that I find most appealing.  The ingredients are Whey Protein Isolate, organic dates, organic almond butter, organic clover honey, walnuts, organic black mission figs, organic goji berries, organic cacao nibs, organic raw flaxseeds, cinnamon.  The walnuts, figs and cacao nibs really do it for me, and the cinnamon adds a very delicious note to the whole thing, and I was very happy to get my hands on a second one when the extra box we bought came in.

In addition to all these delicious bars and their line of training bars, YouBars offers customers the ability to create their own bars, and even provides customized labeling.  How cool is that?? Now that I've tasted all of these and sorted out what I like best, I could go customize my very own perfect snack bar on their Build-a-Bar page.  Much like putting together the perfect pizza, the cost depends on how many and what sort of ingredients you put into your bars, but the end result can fit your dietary and taste needs just perfectly.

Not only am I highly likely to try a customized box, but I keep thinking these would make a delightful gift to a healthy-minded friend (or one needing help to eat more mindfully), especially one seeking Paleo and/or Gluten-Free snack options that aren't full of non-nutritious additives.

YouBar's customer service is delightful - you can tell they love what they do, and love turning people onto healthy snacking that tastes decadent. They've agreed to let us offer a 10% discount to our readers!

Just use the code RCH10 when you order for a 10% discount off your order!

In addition, they've agreed to let us offer one of their 12 bar boxes of the Assorted Popular Bars, containing:
2 Training 33 bars
2 Paleo bars
2 Cookie Dough bars
2 Honey Cashew bars
2 Great Date with Chocolate bars
2 Goji Macadamia bars
This giveaway is open to US only and ends at midnight on Monday, April 28.  Good luck to you all! Wherever you are on your path to healthy eating, I'm convinced these can help you move away from non-helpful snacks, and toward seeing snacking as a delicious and nutritious part of your day.

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  1. Based on this review alone, I'd definitely choose the cookie dough bar. Look soooo good!!

  2. Wow! You've done a wonderful job describing the flavors here Lynda! My mouth was watering the entire time! I'm excited to give these a try. I love that the ingredients are so simple. I'll have no fear sharing these with my daughter. $2.50 each is actually on par with some of the higher quality "energy bars" you find in health food stores. Thanks for the awesome review!

  3. I would like to try the Goji Macadamia bar.
    Eugenie Wu

  4. I'd love to try the Great Date with Chocolate bar.

  5. Cookie dough sounds so delicious! Thanks for the giveaway

  6. I want to try the Cashew Cherry bar.

  7. I would love to try the The Cookie Dough bar!

  8. Base:
    YouBar Base (Organic) - Almond Butter & Dates *Recommended
    Protein Powders:
    Whey (Milk) Protein *Recommended
    Cashews (Organic) *Recommended
    Shredded Coconut (Organic)
    Sweetened Cranberries (Organic) *Recommended
    Gluten Free Crunchy Rice Cereal *Recommended
    Quinoa Flakes (Organic)

  9. I'd like to try the chocolate protein bar!

  10. i'd like to try Training 33 bar

  11. umm, cookie dough bar? Sign me up!

  12. I am a sucker for cookie dough, although some goji macadamia sounds awesome as well.

  13. Cookie Dough looks yummy! I wanna try those!

  14. I definitely want to try these, both the cookie dough and the trainer 33!

  15. I would like to try them all to see which one I would like. The GOJI date with chocolate sounds good.

  16. i would like to try the great date with chocolate bar

  17. I'd like to try the alpha recovery bar....they sound awesome.

  18. Vanilla Almond bar would be great to try. I love that it has so much protien.

  19. I would love to try the cookie dough bar!

  20. I would love to try the Skinny Bars

  21. the cookie dough bar and vanilla almond bar would be great to try!
    thanks for the chance.
    Jana Brantley

  22. the cookie dough bar. makes me hungry just thinking about it...

  23. great date with chocolate.....oh yeah!

  24. Great date with chocolate sounds like the perfect "date" for me!!

  25. I would love to try the Honey Cashew Bara

  26. I would like to try Honey Cashew Bar.

  27. There's a lot of flavors that I'd like to try, but Great Date with Chocolate sounds perfect.

  28. I would love to try the hikers delight LEE MCKOEN

  29. I'd like to try the honey cashew bar.

  30. the honey cashew sounds really good.

  31. the goji Macadamia sounds delicious !!

  32. Just reading this in Oct. 2016. Just learned of these bars, so wondering if you tried the vegan bars--maybe they didn't have them in 2014. Would like a review on those. Soy lethicin, which you mentioned, is not a healthy ingredient, as it is chemically processed, whereas sunflower lethicin is not and therefore a healthy ingredient. The vegan bars use the sunflower; I will check again to see if they are still using soy lethicin in some bars.