The only problem is, so many bars don't seem to be that much better than than junk food. And, as so often happens in life, a potential solution found me.
But was it any good?
When the PR firm for Soyjoy contacted me and asked me if I would try their products, I did what I always do. I asked for an ingredient list. And, while it wasn't ideal (yes, there is butter, but at least it is a real food), it wasn't as bad as similar products I had looked at.
So I (if you'll forgive the pun) bit and said I'd try 'em.
First, let's look at the ingredients of one of the flavors of Soyjoy as well as a more mainstream bar and a homemade bar (the other bars are granola- as opposed to soy-based, but as they all compete for room in my husband's drawer this makes for a fair comparison).
Soyjoy mango coconut
Whole Soybean Powder, Raisin, Butter (from milk), Sugar, Dried Coconut, Frozen Egg, Maltodextrin (natural fiber source), Dried Papaya, Dried Mango, Dried Pineapple, Natural Flavors, Salt.
Quaker Granola Bites honey roasted peanut
Whole grain rolled oats, sugar, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, salt, dextrose, corn syrup solids, malted barley flour), corn oil with TBHQ (preservative), peanuts, corn syrup, almonds, cashew splits, molasses, salt, honey, soy lecithin, corn syrup solids, peanut and/or canola and/or cottonseed oil, natural and artificial flavors, sodium bicarbonate, hydrogenated vegetable oil* (rapeseed, cottonseed, and soybean oil), mono and diglycerides. *Adds a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat.
Alton Brown's homemade granola bars from the Food Network
Rolled oats, dried fruit, honey, almonds, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, butter, vanilla extract, salt.
And the winner is . . .
Certainly the Soyjoy ingredients look a lot better than the Quaker ingredients (just look at all that corn product and all those different types of sugar) but I would put Alton Brown's granola bars above the Soyjoy. There really is nothing better than homemade, is there?
But how do the Soyjoy bars taste?
They sent six flavors. I tried two: Strawberry and peanut chocolate chip. And, alas, both taste like sawdust. The strawberry one tastes like acidic sawdust. The peanut butter chocolate chip tastes like peanut sawdust.
And, almost as bad, they are not very appetizing to look at: Both look like rectangular logs, differing only in color.
After one bite each, I threw my bars away.
And now for a second opinion
As these are destined for the husband's desk drawer, I figure it is his opinion that counts. So without telling him what I think, I also gave him two bars to taste:
"The strawberry is like biting into a brick of dried kelp flavored with artificial strawberry. The peanut chocolate chip is painfully dry. The texture is unlike anything I've ever encountered, but the closest thing would be an extremely stale cookie. It tastes like burned peanut butter with an odd hint of chocolate. I'm not even finishing them. I'm just throwing them away."
So now what do I do?
I'm a freelance writer, so I work from home and have access to all sorts of healthy goodies. But my husband is at the office all day and I know he hears the siren call of the donuts. So what should I give him to stash in his desk drawer? It has to last for weeks and be tasty, otherwise he just won't eat it.
I'm open to suggestions. Because I hate for those evil donuts to win.
* * * * *
Speaking of PR firms that want me to try their products ...
Another firm contacted me about a new boxed drink for kids they say is a " ... brand new innovation in nutrition!" Called Froose, they say it ". . . tastes great to kids in such yummy flavors as Playful Peach, Perfect Pear, and Cheerful Cherry."
So follow me, boys and girls, as we skip past the PR hype and head straight to the only thing that counts, the ever-wonderful ingredient list.
Why look, the first ingredient is water. Meaning you're paying more for that than anything else. Of course, you can get that for nearly free from the tap, but where's the fun in that I ask you?
Next we have brown rice syrup which is rice cooked until the starch is converted to sugar. This is followed closely by the fruit. Finally! But, wait, it is in the form of a fruit juice concentrate. To make a fruit juice concentrate you take fruit and cook it until it, too, turns into a type of sugar.
So were are we on the ingredient list? Water, then a sugar, then another sugar.
Hmmm, is this really a "... brand new innovation in nutrition!"? Or is it the same old "... nutrition ..." that helped make our children obese in the first place?
And, what's worse, is that it is dawning on me that it is not just manufacturers of this sort of sugar water who are responsible. But it is also the PR firms and anyone else who profits at the expense of our children.
So, after I explained all this to the PR firm, I asked them "Why would you take on this client?"
I didn't really expect an answer. And I wasn't disappointed.