Let's see, we have peanuts, we have almonds, we have dark chocolate. We have crunch, we have protein, we have sweet, we have savory. What we don't have is calorie-guilt.
The granola-centric folks at Nature Valley have a new product - the straightforwardly named Protein Chewy Bars. They come in two flavors - peanut/almond/dark chocolate, and peanut butter/dark chocolate.
For endorsement, Nature Valley is the "official natural energy source" sponsor of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. For the rest of us, a box of five bars is $3.89 at supermarkets and big-box stores. More information: www.naturevalley.com.
We conducted a taste test of the new bars, rounding up the usual suspects, starting with me:
"I'd rather eat one of these taste- and hunger-satisfying protein bars than a nuts-and-chocolate candy bar. I'll put a few in my backpack for spring and summer hiking in the Sierra, and stash a few in my workout bag for 'apres gym' snacks."
"Pretty good. You get a chocolate fix without the guilt. I like the bar with almonds and peanuts better than the peanut butter bar."
"I eat a lot of (bars), including Nature Valley's Sweet & Salty Nut Almond and its Crunchy Oats 'n' Honey Granola. On a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being highest, I'd rate the peanut/almond/dark chocolate bar between 6 and 7. You don't get shortchanged with this one. It's definitely dense and chewy. So dense, you might think you're consuming more than the advertised 190 calories. And it tastes like peanuts, almonds and dark chocolate, as opposed to a smashed-together mass of twigs and nuts. Best thing: You can eat it without it coming apart and decorating the front of your shirt, something you can't say for the Nature Valley granola bars."
"Of the two flavors, I like the peanut/almond/dark chocolate better, mostly because I like almonds better than peanuts. The chocolate is a background taste, not the overwhelming flavor. I'm in a long-distance walking group, and these would be good training-day bars - 10 grams of protein, but not too heavy."
"Usually the Nature Valley bars are more sugary than these. My first reaction was the peanut/almond/dark chocolate bar was a bit bland, with a touch of saltiness. The peanut butter/dark chocolate was a nice blend and not as salty. As an athlete, I might actually use these bars because of the higher protein and salt, and lower sugar."
"Nothing stands out about the peanut/almond/dark chocolate bar. The chocolate isn't very sweet, the peanuts and almonds blend together. I wouldn't spend my calories on it."