REVIEW: Oh Yeah! ONE Pumpkin Pie

Happy Thanksgiving eve everyone.  Ahead of the biggest most extravagant eating day of the year I thought I would post one last seasonal protein bar review in honor of the day’s most acclaimed dessert…

If Quest bars were crowned the king of the portable protein world (they are), then coming in at a strong second would be the ONE lineup by Oh Yeah! Nutrition. I don’t mean to imply that Quest and ONE are my personal favorites, but they without a doubt have the strongest presence at gyms, supplement stores, grocery stores, and even gas stations.  Oh Yeah! have joined the pumpkin party with a seasonal release in honor of autumn’s favorite pie, which marks the twelfth release for the ONE brand.

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The first thing I noticed when biting in is the texture is softer than all other ONE bars. I’m not sure if this is intentional or the extra fresh nature of a seasonal release, but it works well to emulate the dense yet fluffy texture of pumpkin pie. The drizzle on top is aesthetically pleasing and the aroma carries a gentle waft of cinnamon that is neither unique or offensively strong. Unfortunately, beyond cinnamon there are no other distinct spices that can truly be tasted, some of which, like nutmeg and cloves, should be present to really feel like pumpkin pie.

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Where this bar is an absolute glowing success though, is the undeniable presence of the taste of crust. Somehow the Oh Yeah! company have managed to emulate that bready flaky flavor into a soft squishy bar. Every other bite you get hit with a burst of sea salt like you’ve scooped off the pies’ innards and went straight for the base. Much like the buttery aura of their Cinnamon Roll bar, ONE have managed to pull off the ultimate mind trick and put forth one of the most interesting flavor simulations I’ve ever had in a protein bar.

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While far from perfect at hitting all of the spicy complexities of pumpkin pie, the ONE bar version is without a doubt the best attempt I’ve had so far. Not as solid as some of the others in their permanent lineup but still better than a lot of other options on the market.

Rating: 8/10

REVIEW: Grenade Carb Killa White Chocolate Cookie

Grenade is a United Kingdom based protein supplement company founded in 2010, apparently dominating everyone’s post-workout fix world wide except me.  As someone who does most of his whey protein intake through bars I’m always looking for new flavors and textures to entice my palate.  When the Carb Killa bars popped up at my local GNC the packaging was interesting and I grabbed two of the available flavors.  The first one I tried, Caramel Chaos, had really great texture but was generally lacking in any notable flavors, despite the fact that it was the only protein bar I’ve had to actually have caramel.  The second bar – White Chocolate Cookie – changed everything.

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Carb Killa’s are triple-layered bars combining a whey protein base with gooey caramel and crunchy bits, then dipped in either a white or milk chocolate.  The White Chocolate Cookie bar has a milky white caramel beneath pieces of chocolate cookies and looks almost identical to the Hershey’s Cookies and Cream candy bar.  It is without a doubt one of the most uniquely flavored and well executed protein bars I have ever had.

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The three textures interact with each other to create a seamless snacking experience, leaving almost nothing to be desired.  White chocolate is the first ingredient, and the flavor is strong and pronounced with the use of cocoa butter and whole milk powder.  Many of the issues that plague protein bars – grainy bases, overly sweet fake sugars, or too much fake fiber, are all nonexistent here.  The bar is just sweet enough to emulate the candy bar it looks up to without becoming over the top or artificial.

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This might be one of the rare cases where a protein supplement trying to mimic an established junk food product actually surpasses the real thing.  The addition of the caramel offers a more complex mouth feel than the Hershey’s bar and with 22 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar I can’t imagine myself ever choosing the candy over the killa.

In the United States Carb Killa bars are available in four flavors – Caramel Chaos, Chocolate Cream, Chocolate Crunch, and the sensational White Chocolate Cookie.  I plan on trying the two chocolate flavors as soon as possible, and being on the lookout for some of the more obscure UK-available flavors like Banana Armour and White Chocolate Mocha to make a Stateside appearance soon.

Rating: 9.5/10

Quick Nutrition: Calories: 220 – Fat Cal: 70 – Fat: 8g – Sat Fat: 4g – Sodium: 150mg – Total Carb: 21g – Fiber: 6g – Sugars: 2g – Sugar Alcohol: 13g – Protein: 22g

REVIEW: Quest Beyond Cereal Bars (All three flavors)

The all-influential and trend-setting folks at Quest Nutrition are back at it again with a new line of portable protein – Beyond Cereal bars. The bars attempt to emulate the mainstream cereal bar, somewhere in between the Lucky Charms 7/11-available variety and the popular Red Berry line by Special K.

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As with most Quest products these bars are laced with both protein (12 grams) and fiber (7 grams), and only 110 calories each. The big difference here is the amount of sugar, clocking in at 8 grams, or four times the amount typically found in a Quest protein bar. The kicker is apparently the listed grams of sugar aren’t actually the same as the ones normally listed because they come from allulose, which has one tenth of the calories of actual sugar (despite being required to be listed in the sugar column).  This is the first widely distributed product on the market made with allulose and to be honest I have no idea how it works, but its flavor is certainly more convincing than the other alternate sweeteners typically used in protein products.

The bars launched this week with three flavors and I’m going to rate and review all three from most fire to most tepid, but heads up, they’re all pretty solid.

Waffle: This bar is delicious. Immediately upon opening the package you’re hit with the strong smell of maple syrup, not the stuff that actually comes from trees but the Aunt Jemima Log Cabin Sunday morning nostalgia kind of syrup. Somehow the taste isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and the use of allulose allows the bar to avoid the artificial Sucralose taste that sometimes plagues Quest products. The texture is soft and chewy like a Rice Krispy treat with an undercurrent of buttery graham cracker. What makes this flavor particularly intriguing is there are no other products with this profile currently on the market. If this bar were an actual cereal it would be Golden Grahams, and it’s a damn fine substitute.  I had to buy this bar a second time to make sure I liked it as much as I thought and it’s without a doubt my favorite Quest product of the year.
Rating: 9/10

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Cinnamon Roll: Beautiful cinnamon flavor with a slight buttery toasty undertone – this bar is Cinnamon Toast Crunch all the way. It is the only one where the white drizzle on top seems to really stand out, adding a nice touch of creaminess and sweetness to highlight the spice. The spices aren’t overwhelming but are very much there, and this is the first time I’ve really marveled at the fact that this whole line isn’t actually cereal. Really cool for people with gluten intolerance to be able to enjoy something that emulates a cereal bar so well. Only downside to this one is it is the only bar of the three that has a bit of a fake sugar Sucralose flavor, even though it uses allulose as its primary sweetener.
Rating: 8/10

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Chocolate: This bar has less of everything. Less aroma, less sweetness, less pop on the initial bite. The texture is a bit softer but also grainier than the waffle or cinnamon, and its main strength is a deep cocoa taste. The chocolate here is not suggesting milk chocolate like Cocoa Pebbles but it isn’t as bitter as straight cocoa either. It’s got a natural chocolatey-ness that’s more convincing than most Quest products. The base flavor is not too far off from a less sweet Oreo, and doesn’t emulate any particular name brand cereal I’ve had on the market (RIP Oreo O‘s and shoutout Junk Banter for that comparison). If you’re a fan of Cocoa Puffs you will likely dig this but don’t expect it to taste exactly like the actual cereal you grew up loving.
Rating: 7.5/10

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Overall the Quest Beyond Cereal lineup is a slam dunk.  They have managed to make something awesome that I didn’t even know I needed in my life and I will be a repeat customer.  A quick fix snack bar that provides the comfort of a nostalgic breakfast with portability, protein, and fiber to boot.  The only issue with this line is the price point – being offered at a very similar cost to a regular Quest bar in most retailers ($2.39), but only having around half the protein and fiber you would typically get at that dollar amount.  A great snack but probably not suitable for a meal replacement, although you can always just crush two if you’re feeling spendy and hungry.

Overall Quest Beyond Cereal rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition:
110 calories – 4.5g fat – 10mg Cholesterol – 170mg Sodium – 17g Carbs – 7g Fiber – 8g Sugar – 12g Protein

REVIEW: Fit Joy Winter Peppermint Bark

Ho ho ho!  Not content with leaving the biggest holiday of the year with only one cheat clean savior, Fit Joy have taken a stab at the mid-2000’s favorite chocolate fad with Winter Peppermint Bark.
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Immediately and unmistakably this bar screams Christmas. The aroma of white chocolate and peppermint twirl and whirl their way out of the wrapper like ballerinas in the Nutcracker while red mint flavored crisps line the top like lights on a tree. Unfortunately, after taking your first delicious bite you’re left wondering whether you just kissed the sugar plum fairy or took a secret swig off of some 100 proof peppermint schnapps – this thing is MINTY.

Much like Fit Joy‘s initial Mint Chocolate Crisp bar, the peppermint in the bark version is still too strong. Peppermint extract (“natural flavor”) is such a sharp flavor that it can be easily overdone, and this bar suffers in that regard. What works here, though, is that the yogurt dipped vanilla-y presence of the rest of the bar helps hold back some of the mint rush and is much more balanced than the brands first minty attempt. Whereas Mint Chocolate Crisp hit with the force of a York peppermint patty, this bar simply tastes like a peppermint bark where the chef got a little buzzed and heavy handed with the mint.

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Had Fit Joy rolled back about 20% of the mint flavor they would have had a second seasonal home run on their hands. Still gotta give them credit for tackling a white chocolate/vanilla/etc twist on peppermint and not just being content with a single limited release.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: Fit Joy Iced Gingerbread Cookie

This summer Fit Joy burst onto the protein scene, pecs-a-boomin, and have been relentless in their attempt to dominant the market ever since. I’m not sure who their connect is but based on their prominent displays and promotions at GNC, The Vitamin Shoppe, and others, they really truly have the plug. After launching with six flavors, Fit Joy followed up with a limited seasonal Homemade Pumpkin Pie bar (which was okay), and are now trying to tempt Kris Kringle with additional holiday offerings. The first of these winter collection bars is Iced Gingerbread Cookie.

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Visually the bar is the same as all other non-cookie dough and mint Fit Joy‘s – a whey protein rectangle dipped in yogurt and topped with a garnish. The topping on this bar looks like little pieces of gingerbread cookies with the mellow aroma of cinnamon. The overall smell of the bar isn’t much different from the pumpkin pie or cinnamon bun with a sweet and subdued spice.

Biting in, a slightly crunchy texture from little crispy balls hidden inside the protein base gives way to a yogurt-driven sweetness that turns into a wonderful sharp ginger flavor. The ginger tastes authentic and finishes with the perfect spicy tingle that leaves you wanting more. The sweetness is on par with other Fit Joy flavors – definitely a dominant role but not overpowering or fake tasting in any way. The cinnamon crisps on top of the bar do a good job of emulating some of the snap you would get from a ginger cookie while also adding more cinnamon flavor.
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What makes this bar successful is that “Organic Ginger” appears in the ingredient list ahead of Stevia, and the experience as a whole feels more like eating a gingerbread cookie and less like a stick of fake sugar, which can’t be said for all protein bars.  Other companies should take notice and try and use more real ingredients when emulating flavors – especially spices.  Fit Joy’s mission statement is to use no artificial preservatives or sweeteners and the resulting experience is clean and refreshing.

Overall this bar is more impressive than their Homemade Pumpkin Pie and ranks among the best of their initial launch line, in the same class as Chocolate Peanut Butter, French Vanilla Almond, and Chocolate Iced Brownie. Great to see a protein bar company tackle a slightly different flavor than what’s on the market and have lots of success.

Rating: 8/10

Quick Nutrition: 220 cals – 10mg Cholesterol – 190mg Sodium – 24g Carbs – 10g Fiber – 5g Sugar – 20g Protein