I’m always so happy to have an excuse to eat more store-bought vegan snacks.
Welcome to the part one review of four vegan snacks that I happily tried and vetted, so that you don’t have to do the guesswork!
In this review, we’ll take a deep-dive look at two of the store-bought vegan snacks from my haul. Part two will cover the rest of my four-snack selection.
Fueling My Vice Locally
In the next town over from where I live, there is a food store that is like a fairly-priced Disneyland for people who enjoy organic, plant-based selections. They have an absolutely amazing display of vegan snack bars that take up an entire large shelf by the register.
It’s one of my favorite places on Earth! Honestly. In fact, if you’re ever in Hoboken, NJ, visit Organic Basic Food on Washington St. They’re organic, but never basic. Despite my countless visits, I’m pretty sure that these friendly folks still don’t know that they are largely responsible for fueling my undying affinity for vegan snacks.
How They’re Judged
It’s always so exciting to seek out and find new healthy snack foods to bring to you, along with my unrelentingly honest opinions, and this post is no exception.
I approached each of the items here with my usual joyous anticipation. A couple were great, and a couple weren’t as great. But, everyone’s palate is different so I try to give as well-rounded a description as possible for each one.
My initial intention was to put all four snacks into this post, but I have too much to say about food in general, lol, so this started getting way too long! Please check out the sister post, where I review Enjoy Life Protein Bites and Rhythm Carrot Sticks.
To help us figure out these snacks, I’m again using the five-point rating system I introduced in my first vegan snack review.
How We’ll Rate The Snacks in This Post
1 = I’d rather eat thorny cactus. Terrible.
10 = I could live on these, they’re absolutely delicious!
1 = Too crunchy or too mushy or otherwise unappealing “mouthfeel.”
10 = Great balance of crunch, chew, and density. Overall, a super satisfying bite.
1 = My meat-eating cousin wouldn’t touch this because it looks too healthy / Your 5-year-old won’t eat it because it looks weird / It looks nothing like what the package makes you think it might look like.
10 = It looks like what I expect it should based on the packaging / I want to sink my teeth in as soon as the wrapper comes off!
1 = No organic ingredients, more than four food sources that are not from whole foods.
10 = All organic ingredients, all whole foods.
1 = Not worth the hassle. Crumbs flying everywhere. Potential for melting makes for messy eating.
10 = Amazing – I could eat everything in the package because there were no crumbs falling out or melting parts to sticking to the wrapper or my hands.
Total score based on previous five attributes.
And of course:
V = Vegan
GF = Gluten Free
And onto the two vegan snacks I’ll be discussing in this post: Sol Good Protein Bar and Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bar.
Sol Good Protein Bar by Sunwarrior – Salted Caramel (V, GF)
As soon as I tear the wrapper open, a sense of nostalgia begins to flood my mind. I immediately recall my childhood affinity for Bit O’ Honey.
I love the smooth beige, almost buttery appearance of the Sol Good that looks like it’ll feel like silky nougat when I sink my teeth into it!
As much as I loved Bit O’ Honey, I always found it to be a bit of a tough bite. There was always some gnashing and pulling involved as I tried to consume it. Youthful teeth without dental work can handle that – my older teeth, not so much!
I was so relieved and delighted when I bit into the Sol Good Protein Bar and it felt like a silky but firm nougat. Snickers and Three Musketeers bars used to be huge weaknesses for me. I would frequently gravitate to that creamy, fluffy, sugary, otherworldly thing that is nougat. But Sol Good has successfully found a way to replicate my former love into a much healthier and delicious treat!
These bars are my absolute most favorite non-chocolate bar. They’re smooth with a heavenly chew – not too soft and not too tough – and have a texture that actually feels and tastes buttery, despite being completely dairy-free! This is thanks to the cashew butter base that Sol Good now incorporates into all of their protein bars, which makes for a winning formula.
Cashew Butter – Smoother than Barry White on Date Night
Cashews are incredibly versatile nuts and can be used to make anything from vegan cheese to butter. Unlike some other types of nuts such as almonds and peanuts, cashews can easily take on a variety of different textures and have a very mild flavor.
Sol Good’s bar base for this flavor is punctuated by little pockets of actual cashew bits, which makes for a nice textural variant.
Though this bar is Salted Caramel flavor, I can’t say that it tastes much like salted caramel at all. Texture-wise, it reminds me of the smooth butteriness that characterizes a piece of salted caramel, which works just fine for me!
The caramel flavor seems almost non-existent to me, but the “buttery” factor makes up for this in a big way. If they could find a way to emphasize the caramel flavor without compromising everything else that is so wonderful about this bar, Sol Good would have an outrageously amazing product.
Organic, Plant-Based Protein Power!
I’m not necessarily sold on bars just because they boast a lot of protein. They just have to be delicious and healthy! But this one is a HUGE plus for people specifically seeking a protein-packed meal-replacement type of bar. This one is loaded with 15 grams of plant protein! The wholesome sources of protein in this bar include pea protein, brown rice protein, and quinoa protein.
And, best of all…
ALL of the ingredients in this bar are ORGANIC!!
I feel like throwing a party when I see nutrition labels like Sol Good’s. It means that some companies know that we deserve and expect better. They know that they are dealing with smart consumers.
Sol Good seems to be one of those companies, and for that reason, I’ll continue eating their salted caramel bars as long as they don’t change this winning formula.
Taste = 9
Texture = 8
Appearance = 10
Health = 9
Neatness = 10
Overall = 9.2
Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars – Raspberry (V, GF)
The 5- and 6-year-olds in my life are very picky eaters and love these. They’re come in second place only to their highly coveted animal crackers. I’m thrilled that these bars make it possible for me to add yet another wholesome, vegan and gluten-free snack into their dietary rotation.
From an adult’s perspective, I appreciate the soft-baked aspect of these bars too. Nature’s Bakery also makes a regular version of this bar that I used to eat all the time, until I conscientiously began cutting gluten out of my diet.
The regular version incorporates wheat flour into the outer layer – or the “crust” part – which makes for a much firmer bite. If you aren’t gluten-averse and enjoy a more firm and less cake-like bite, then the various flavors of Nature’s Bakery regular fig bars would work well for you.
…and The Sweet
Figs are fantastic fruits and I love eating them both fresh and dried.
Like many fruits, they are sweeter when they’re dried, so this filling is on the sweet side. I have a sweet tooth, but sometimes I feel like the filling might be a little too sweet, even for me.
Even if it does taste on the sweeter side, I’d much rather have this type of sweet than the type of artificially flavored and sugar-loaded snack that lines supermarket check-out lanes.
A Closer Look At Four Ingredients
If you’ve never used a particular ingredient in your own cooking, if you see it on a package you’re going to buy, try to understand what that ingredient is. Likewise if a particular ingredient has been known to cause allergic side effects.
One of the best ways for us to harness control of our health is to know what we’re eating, so here are four ingredients that need a closer look.
Locust Bean Gum
This is another type of very common natural food additive that is found in a wide variety of packaged food products.
Locust Bean Gum is essentially extracted from carob seeds of the carob tree. It’s high in dietary fiber, may help improve blood-sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.
From what I can understand, however, it seems that locust bean gum is used in very small amounts for a reason. It’s nearly void of other nutrients, can cause allergic side effects, and block the absorption of vital nutrients such as iron and zinc.
I like the way Dr. Axe breaks down the pros and cons of locust bean gum, as well as gives a comprehensive overview of this pervasive ingredient.
On the list of ingredients for these Nature’s Bakery bars, locust bean gum is indicated as being part of the raspberry jam. To me, this means that a nominal amount is used, and so not enough to make me shy away from eating these delicious soft-baked and fruity things!
Vegetable glycerin is considered a sugar alcohol. When vegetable fats such as soybean, palm, or coconut oil are heated under pressure, it produces the sweet, syrupy substance that is glycerin.
You can find out a little more about glycerin here.
If you are new to gluten-free eating, keep in mind that gluten-free flours tend to be made up of foods such as rice, tapioca, potato, and peas, which yield a much softer texture in baked goods than wheat flour.
Gluten in wheat flour is the sticky part that makes wheat-based flour bind so easily. There is no such binder in gluten-free flour, so xanthan gum is usually the ingredient that acts as the binder you’ll find in many gluten-free flour blends.
Although xanthan gum doesn’t bother me and I haven’t personally known anyone to have problems with it, it’s possible that xanthan gum can cause minor digestive issues in some people.
I encourage trying small amounts of food containing xanthan gum rather than diving right in. Better yet, have an allergist test you for any possible xanthan gum allergies. This will be important information for you to know if you’ll be incorporating more gluten-free products into your life, since you’ll be seeing the ubiquitous xanthan gum listed as an ingredient on many gluten-free product packages.
For vegans like me, note that xanthan gum is sometimes created by using whey. It’s a good idea to check whether your xanthan gum (if packaged individually for baking purposes, for example) is vegan. In this case, Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars – Raspberry are marked Certified Vegan, so I trust that the xanthan gum used in these bars complies with my vegan diet.
This vague ingredient deserves a mention because it’s everywhere, but still remains a concept shrouded in mystery.
I’ll briefly restate what I mentioned in another review regarding “natural flavors”:
This ingredient can be found on countless packaged products and is
ambiguously defined by the FDA as being any flavor that is extracted
from the following plant or animal sources:
- Fruit or fruit juice
- Vegetables or vegetable juice
- Edible yeast, herbs, bark, buds, root leaves or plant material
- Dairy products, including fermented products
- Meat, poultry or seafood
The Certified Vegan seal on the box tells me that I can rest assured that the natural flavors in these bars
are from plant, and not animal, sources.
But, natural flavors can and probably do also include any number and mixture of other natural and synthetic chemicals. The FDA is not required to disclose what these chemicals are as long as the original flavor is derived from, in this case, a plant source.
Yes, the FDA is not required to disclose the details of what’s in any particular brand of “natural flavors,” so how you want to handle this really comes down to trust. If you trust the Certified Vegan seal like I do, then you’ll be ok with the “natural flavors” listed on your product package.
Now that we have a decent amount of bases covered, here’s my summation of the Nature’s Bakery Gluten-Free Fig Bars – Raspberry in a nutshell:
Taste = 8
Texture = 7
Appearance = 8
Health = 7
Neatness = 9
Overall = 7.8
Whew, that was a mouthful! So much to say about these two delicious but very different vegan and gluten-free bars.
What I love is that Sol Good is all organic and has a rich butteriness to it. Nature’s Bakery is a healthy soft-baked fruit bar, which in its own way reminds me of raspberry thumbprint cookies. But that’s my brain. Always trying to connect snacks and desserts!
I hope you’ve found this Sunwarrior and Nature’s Bakery bar review useful.
Onward to the Enjoy Life Protein Balls and Rhythm Carrot Sticks Review!