I usually avoid “frankenfoods” in favor of real food, but couldn’t resist the offer from Quest Nutrition for free samples of their low carb protein bars.
Protein bars are thick, dense, heavy and chewy affairs that are usually packed with sugar or fillers that are carb-rich. Body builders use them to spike protein intake and, sometimes, for “carb loading”. But Quest promises regular protein bar taste in a low carb variety: Packing 20 grams of protein and 4 or 5 net carbs each, I thought the bars could be used as a quick breakfast when I’m running late.
There are two flavors, Vanilla Almond Crunch and Peanut Butter Supreme. Quest sent me one of each, and I thought I would review them here. Note: their free offer was not dependent on a blog review; it was open to anyone at the time it was offered. It has since expired.
One more disclaimer: I have not eaten anything with sugar in it, save for a scoop of vanilla ice cream in March of this year while on a cruise. And I don’t use many artificial sweeteners. So my “sweet” taste buds are programmed to think strawberries are sweet like candy.
Vanilla Almond Crunch: Dense like a protein bar should be, this 2+ ounce slab resembles the size of a regular candy bar that has been compressed a bit in height. With an ingredients list that includes dry roasted almonds and raw almonds, and a name including the word “Crunch”, I was expecting to find plenty of crunchy chunks of almond. But alas, there was more chewy stuff than crunchy stuff. The taste was fine, with no hint of artificial almond flavoring. The vanilla is subdued enough that it didn’t leave an aftertaste either. The bar tasted sweet to me, a result of the sucralose (the main ingredient in Splenda). The bar filled me up as an after dinner snack, almost too filling for a snack. My verdict: OK, but not great.
Peanut Butter Supreme: I grabbed the bar this morning as I left for work on my 45 minute commute, forgoing my usual egg and bacon breakfast. At 20 grams of protein and 5 grams of net carbs, these do work as an occasional meal replacement. This is the better of the two bars to me, with a nice peanut butter taste and a slightly less dense texture. I actually liked this one. Like the Vanilla Almond Crunch, it has sucralose in it, as attested to by my growling stomach after a few hours (the sucralose is not digestible by gut microbes, so it does produce gas for those of us sensitive to it).
The ingredients include whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate, chicory root fiber, almond butter or peanut butter, almonds, peanuts (Peanut Butter Supreme only), sea salt, sucralose and lo han guo, the fruit of the Chinese siratia grosvenorii. Lo han guo is a natural sweetener in the same general category as stevia; very sweet with little impact on blood sugar levels.
The ratio of fat to total calories is a low carbers dream, about half the calories are from fat. I was impressed that the ingredients list does not read like an Introduction to Chemistry textbook:
While not satisfying the requirements of “real food” completely, and certainly not for the paleo folks that eschew diary products, the Questbar does fit a niche for those of us that occasionally need a fast, filling meal replacement.