Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Product Review: Greenbelly Meal Bars

Greenbelly nutrition bars, great for hiking and backpacking

Chris Cage, the founder of Greenbelly Meal Bars, recently contacted me and offered to send over some samples of his nutrition bars. My interest was immediately piqued when Chris mentioned he had thru-hiked the AT, toured Asia by backpack, and cycled through New Zealand. I also noticed when heading to the Greenbelly website that the company donates a meal to their local food bank for each two-bar pack (or “meal”) that is sold. While I was immediately impressed by Chris’s resume and the company’s altruistic attitude, I told him if I didn’t actually like the bars when I tried them, I would simply forego a review rather than critique an emerging business. Well, that worry was unfounded because the bars are really tasty in addition to having a solid balance of nutrition and quality ingredients. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend these bars for backpacking, hiking, cycling, paddling, or any other intensive calorie-burning endeavors where serious nutrition (and a whole lot of it) in a small package is especially needed. With that, let’s get into some of the specifics of the Greenbelly meal bars (and Chris even provided a discount code so that readers can get 15% off any purchase – I’ll list that at the bottom of the review.)

shallow depth of field nutrition bar
As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter how nutritious or smartly packaged a nutrition bar; if I don’t like the taste, I’m going to seek other options. The Greenbelly bars taste great and are a nice balance of sweet and savory. The bars currently come in three flavors – Cranberry Almond, Dark Chocolate Banana, and Peanut Apricot. While very substantial, the bars aren’t as dense (i.e. leaden) as many nutrition bars can be. The texture is also a good balance between crispy and chewy. I’m a sucker for chocolate, so the Dark Chocolate Banana is probably my favorite of the three, (but it’s a close call.) The banana flavors are pleasantly subtle and come from real banana chips rather than the banana “flavoring” too often found in packaged foods. On the whole, all of the Greenbelly bars taste and feel much more lovingly hand-crafted than “factory engineered.”

Ingredients and nutrition label for Greenbelly bars
Nutrition seems to be one of the primary motivators behind the whole enterprise of Greenbelly (so it’s a pleasant surprise they taste so good.) Greenbelly markets their bars as Meal Bars, and they are designed to cram an entire meal’s worth of calories and nutrition into one package (each package consists of two bars.) The average two-bar serving packs in a whopping 640+ calories, 18 grams of protein, 100 grams of carbohydrates, 23 fat grams, and 9 grams of fiber. The first ingredient of all flavors is organic tapioca syrup (which is made from yuca root), and all varieties also share crisped brown rice and brown rice flour. From there, the flavors vary in their use of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to achieve their impressive nutritional balance and density.

Greenbelly Bars are durably packed in sealed mylar packs with two bars per pack. I read on another blog that the bars can be expected to have a six month shelf life (or longer, I’m sure, depending on storage conditions.) Even though the package is designed and marketed as a single meal, I like that one pack offers two bars if you care to use them as snacks or supplements to other foods. The packaged bars weigh about 6 ounces, which makes for a very good calorie/oz. ratio for backpacking. For short trips when you might want to leave your stove and cookset at home, Greenbelly Bars would be a great candidate to bring along.

Nutrition bars for backpacking and hiking

Chris told me via email that the reason he started Greenbelly was to create a bar that actually functioned as a meal by offering one-third of a day’s nutrition, and to create a lifestyle business that supports his interest in travel, the outdoors, and improving the world (remember, for every package purchased Greenbelly donates a meal to someone in need.) Given his bio and what I know of Greenbelly from this first interaction, I’m very impressed with both the product and the mission of the company.

Greebelly bars are beginning to find their way into outfitter shops and outdoor stores (click here for locations), but you can purchase anytime online in 3 packs ($11.49), 12 packs ($44.99), and also in a 36 bar sampler pack ($129.99). Remember, each pack contains two bars and the nutritional quantity of over two and half typical nutrition bars (640-645 calories in a Green Belly pack compared to 240 calories in an average Clif Bar, for instance.)

(I have no affiliation or financial incentives involved beyond getting the three bar packs for review.)

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