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December 2014 Issue
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Energy bars

I have strong memories from my childhood of walking up a seemingly endless track to Temple Basin ski field. To keep me walking, my parents hid plastic monkeys beneath rocks beside the track. Each time I found one, I would be rewarded, usually with a chunk of muesli bar.

The energy bars that have sprouted up in recent times have come a long way since then. The standard combo of hard-packed oats, sugar and a sparse sprinkling of choc chips has been superseded with specially-formulated bars designed to provide the right amount of calories and nutrients for people on the go.

Recently, my hollow-legged taste testers and I went for a long bike ride in the hills, completing the adventure with an afternoon tea of the following energy bars.

Bumper BarBumper Bar $2.50

Company profile Manufactured in Christchurch, these are made by the same folks that make Cookie Time cookies and One Square Meal.

Flavour tested Raspberry and White Chocolate

Servings per pack: 1

Weight: 75g

Energy: 1460kJ, 349kCal

Protein: 4.2g

Carbohydrate: 37.6g

Sodium: 83mg

Sugar: 23.3g

Nutrition and product info The bars do contain gluten, milk, soy and seeds but have no added colours or preservatives, and are marketed as an ‘alternative to oat or confectionary bars’. The ingredients include some good whole grains such as oats and wheat – 28 per cent of the bar. They are the most energy dense and have the highest amount of saturated fat per 100g of all the bars tested.

Taste testers’ verdict “Flavoursome with good sized chunks of white chocolate”, “Nice texture and berry taste”, “Very rich and buttery”.

Clif BarClif Bar $4

Company profile Marketed as the leading North American energy bar, now in New Zealand with a range of flavours from blueberry crisp to white chocolate macadamia. They are said to ‘steadily increase blood sugar levels without creating a precipitous sugar crash’.

Flavour tested Chocolate Chip (nut free, vegan)

Servings per pack: 1

Weight: 68g

Energy: 1050kJ, 250kCal

Protein: 10g

Carbohydrate: 45g

Sodium: 150mg

Sugar: 23g

Nutrition and product info These bars contain 70 per cent organic ingredients and while most flavours contain gluten and soy they are generally dairy and egg free. Ingredients include a mix of whole grains, protein and added vitamins and minerals such as calcium, B12 and magnesium (along with some of their trademarked formulas). The bars are made in America but do not contain high fructose corn syrup. These bars are the highest in protein per 100g of all the bars.

Taste testers’ verdict “Firm texture, quite light and dry, not too sweet”, “Little hits of chocolate were nice, could have a bit more of a flavour punch”, “Could be home made”.

EmsEm’s Power Cookies $4.50

Company profile Created by nutritionist Emily Miazga who has won the Speight’s Coast to Coast three times. Her food philosophy is based around creating healthy nutritious food that tastes good.

Flavour tested Chocolate Cranberry Craze (gluten free, ‘99.9% vegan’)

Servings per pack: 1

Weight: 80g

Energy: 1390kJ, 332kCal

Protein: 3.1g

Carbohydrate: 52.2g

Sodium: 138mg

Sugar: 31.2g

Nutrition and product info A good option for gluten free folk, they have 23 per cent dried fruit. The dark chocolate provides some good antioxidants (this is where the .01% dairy contained in the bars comes from). The bars contain almonds and sunflower oil, which have some healthy essential fats.

Taste testers’ verdict “Nice cakey and chewy texture”, “Loved the crunchy bits and rich oaty taste”, “Fruit flavour was quite strong”.

Awaken5Awaken Bar $3.99

Company profile Made in Nelson, these bars are raw and organic. Awaken set out to bring organics to the masses with good food and design, with bars ‘ready for an easy boost for athletes and adventurers’.

Flavour tested Cacao, Date and Hazelnut (gluten free, raw, vegan)

Servings per pack: 1

Weight: 60g

Energy: 972kJ, 232kCal

Protein: 5.22g

Carbohydrate: 38.1g

Sodium: 2.76mg

Sugar: 22.6g

Nutrition and product info These bars are raw, organic and with no GMO ingredients or added sugar. They are a blend of superfoods such as chia seeds and cacao (unprocessed cocoa), nuts and dried fruit. They are free of colours, preservatives and contain the most simple ingredient list of all the bars. This bar also contains the least saturated fat per 100g of all the bars tested.

Taste testers’ verdict “Like the colour, fruity and sweet”, “Cacao gives a very strong slightly bitter flavour, great if you like dark chocolate”, “Chewy and tart, tasted healthy”.

reef bar 1Reef Bar $3

Company profile A family run Nelson business, developed by outdoor enthusiasts for athletes; said to be ‘elite nutrition bars for the health conscious’.

Flavour tested Tropical Fruit and Nut (gluten free, dairy free)

Servings per pack: 1

Weight: 60g

Energy: 1030kJ, 246kCal

Protein: 8.34g

Carbohydrate: 38.3g

Sodium: 28.5mg

Sugar: 25.1g

Nutrition and product info This was the hands down winning bar of the taste test, with all the tasters wanting more. Each bar uses just 0.4g of brown sugar, and no high fructose corn syrup. Bars are dairy and gluten free so most special diets will be covered. There are no added preservatives. Brazil nuts provide much needed selenium, and the tropical papaya and pineapple give them a different taste to most bars.

Taste testers’ verdict “Fruity and nutty, looked great and seemed the least processed”, “Great amounts of nuts and seeds, without loads of cakey filling”, “Loved the brazil nuts”.

OSMOne Square Meal $5.40

Company profile OSM was created by entrepreneurs and food technologists, who dreamed of creating nutritious food ready to eat at any time.

Flavour tested Cranberry with Blackcurrant (nut free, vegan)

Servings per pack: 2 bars (one square meal)

Weight: 160g

Energy: 2900kJ, 694kCal

Protein: 16.7g

Carbohydrate: 90.2g

Sodium: 511mg

Sugar: 30g

Nutrition and product info One Square Meals were created to provide ‘nutritional perfection’ by providing 33 per cent of the recommended daily intake for energy, protein, fats, dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. These bars contain the least sugar per 100g of all the bars, are low GI and contain no trans-fats, artificial colours or flavours. The added vitamins and minerals such as B12, calcium and iron provide a good supplemental boost for adventurers.

Taste testers’ verdict “Nice berry flavour”, “Airy and light, kids would love it”, “Cranberries were nice, honey flavour quite sticky and sweet”.


All the bars come in varying sizes so while some of the comparisons here are not weight for weight, the nutrition and energy density between them fall in a very close range. Most of the brands also come in multi-packs, making them a good buy for extended trips.

Overall, the taste testers enjoyed all of the bars, but noted that they wanted most of them to have less sugar and be less ‘processed’.

While the individual bars might seem rather pricey compared to a box of muesli bars, they do pack a better nutritional punch and are a good option for on-the-go outdoor snacks.

Serving ideas

* Cut the bars up into small pieces and mix with extra dried fruit, nuts and chocolate for some energy dense scroggin.

* For an easy breakfast boost, spread the bar with some peanut butter and jam or crumble over the top of porridge.

* Make your own energy balls: blend 1 cup of soaked dates, 1 cup of walnuts and ½ cup of chia seeds, and 1tbsp of tahini with ½tsp of cinnamon in the food processor until mixture comes together. Shape into bars and chill until set.

We are what we eat

It’s important to get a good balance of energy dense foods (fats, protein, carbohydrates) while tramping.

Carbs will give you ‘quick’ energy as starches are broken down into sugars. For a slower release of energy, opt for whole grains such a quinoa, oats and brown rice.

Proteins and fats will give you longer sustained energy as they are more intensive to digest. Fats are the most energy dense per weight. Try unsalted raw nuts, avocado and beans.

Nutrition requirements can vary greatly from person to person but use the following as a rough guideline.

  • 55-70% of calories from carbohydrates
  • 10-15% from protein
  • 15-30% from fats

Remember to eat regularly, and increase calorie intake as you increase the amount of exercise.