The Best Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free Food Bars
Our blogger reports on the best new gluten-free, allergy-friendly food bars as discovered at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim.
Comments (1)Posted by Jules Shepard
[Updated March 3, 2016]
Natural Products Expo West is the nation’s largest trade show for the natural products industry. A few years ago, we walked the hundreds of aisles of booths comprising this massive show floor and marveled at how many new products were touting gluten-free. It’s so clear that gluten-free is the buzz word nearly every food manufacturer is interested in.
This year’s release of the latest in natural foods was no disappointment, as we spent three full days booth-hopping a convention hall that contained over 6,000 exhibitors, searching for anything new and exciting for those on special diets. The good news is that there are plenty of wonderful new gluten-free and allergy-friendly products. The bad news is that we could never cover them all!
Protein bars and meal replacement bars have long belonged to the fitness category but for those with food allergies and celiac disease, these bars are a life-saver when traveling, faced with unfriendly menus and when hunger hits between meals.
Let’s check out some of the tastiest, most impressive new bars, flavors and product lines from Expo West.
You may know him from network television’s “Amazing Race” or the Discovery Channel series “No Opportunity Wasted,” but Phil Keoghan now wears another hat with his own line of snack bars. I spoke with Keoghan at length about why he got into the food business—and why “bars”? While detailing his arduous international travel schedule (which has taken him to more than 70 countries), he recounted all the instances in which he found himself in obscure places with questionable food sources. “You can’t do a show if you’re looking green” from eating foods that disagree with you, he told me, so he found himself creating his own foods to pack along for trips.
Manuka Honey is the ingredient found in all of his bars (in fact, it was hot ingredient throughout Expo West, making its way into everything from natural lozenges to shampoo on the show floor). Keoghan has fond memories of growing up in New Zealand, where his father put Manuka Honey in and on everything.
“Did you know that Manuka Honey can help heal wounds?” he asked me. (A little research when I returned home confirmed that indeed, Manuka Honey has antibacterial properties and may be eaten or applied to the skin to help heal wounds and abrasions.)
Expo West was the site of the launch of Phil’s newest certified gluten-free bar, the “Manuka Newton,” which actually reminds me of a NutriGrain® bar (which is not gluten-free!). Super-tasty and “loaded with chia seeds,” these dairy-, nut- and egg-free bars are built around gluten-free oats, but contain tons of other yummy fruit and honey ingredients as well. Four grams of fiber and a surprisingly low (for a fruit bar) 16 grams of sugar, make this a nice snack bar for the young or old. (Comes in Manuka Honey and Strawberry flavors.)
The other NOW products are from his energy bar line, made with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, with a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio designed for athletes or anyone needing extra energy. I loved these bars as well — they are quite tasty and aren’t tough and chewy like so many protein bars. “Honeycomb with Chia and Raisins” flavor is nut-free but contains whey (dairy) and soy; “Peanut and Caramel” flavor contains peanuts and soy.
Clif Bar: Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut Bar
For all those who have been hoping Clif Bar would dive into the gluten-free market got their wish! Six gluten-free “Luna® Protein” flavors were released in 2011, and “Kit’s Organic Fruit & Nut Bars” joined the scene after Expo West. These bars are vegan, gluten- and soy-free, and contain only a handful of ingredients, all recognizable (and pronounceable) and non-GMO. They come in three kid-friendly flavors: Cashew; Chocolate Almond Coconut; and Berry Almond.
Note: Clif Kid™ Z Fruit Rope is also gluten-free. This twisted fruit rope of organic fruit puree comes in six fun flavors for kids, and each is equal to one serving of fruit. They make an excellent licorice substitute for kids and even for decorating Easter Basket Cupcakes!
The Gluten Free Bar & Food For Kids Gluten Free Bars
Straight from Australia, these bars have finally made their way to the United States! For those who need both gluten-free and fructose-free, “Fruit Free” bars are your answer. With the texture of a crispy rice treat but the taste of a bowl of corn flakes, there is really nothing not to love.
The kid-version of these bars is called “Food for Kids.” These Banana Custard or Apple Filled chia snack bars are designed for kids, but of course may be enjoyed by anyone avoiding nuts, gluten and sulphur. They do contain dairy and soy. (Note — my kids loved these!)
Ok, these aren’t technically “bars,” but they fit into the same category of ready-to-eat, convenient nutritional snacks. Betty Lou’s is a great company – I remember meeting Betty Lou’s son years ago at Expo West and encouraging them to seek gluten-free certification. Not only are they now certified by GFCO, but they are making other gluten-free products in their facility on behalf of companies like Phil Keoghan’s NOW™ bars and Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s NoGii™ line.
They offer a wide variety of Nut Butter Balls, ranging from Spirulina-Ginseng to High Protein Almond Butter. They come in handy single-serve balls that are about the size of a fat cookie, and every flavor we sampled was quite tasty (your kids will have to get over the green color of the spirulina balls, though!). Soy-free and vegan.
Note: Betty Lou’s also offers a “Just Great Stuff” line of bars which are gluten-free, soy-free and vegan. They were not sampling these at their booth at Expo, so they are not reviewed here.
Yes, I know everyone has heard of KIND Bars, so you might think there is nothing new here. KIND has recently been adding to their line with enhancements include high protein, high fiber, and antioxidant enhanced bar varieties. This year’s Expo brought a new line of low sugar KIND bars that have yet to hit the store shelves, but be on the lookout because they were truly delicious!
I had the opportunity to talk to KIND president John Leahy while visiting their booth. He seemed excited about the new line additions, and confirmed that he believed the sky is the limit for their company. I asked him about the fact that KIND seemed to be the first real innovator of the nut and fruit bar. Prior to their launch in 2003 with their chunky fruit and nut bar, most snack and meal replacement bars took on an extruded, dense, chewy form. KIND created clear packaging and emphasized that their bars were made from ingredients you can see and pronounce.
Leahy said that he believed KIND would stay ahead of the pack of new fruit and nut bars coming onto the scene because they “do it right – no compromises. That’s why our bars cost more, too.” By way of example, he said that their Macadamia nuts are sourced from Australia and their fruit bits come from Belgium: “We find the best and put it in our bars,” he said. And they sure do taste good, too!
For the Athletes Among Us:
Anyone searching for a high-protein gluten-free nutrition bar has probably heard of Pure Fit®. They now have five vegan, gluten-free flavors packing 18 grams of protein in these surprisingly tasty bars. All bars contain soy.
Expo West was my first experience with the Quest Bars and I must say that I was impressed. They have an “All Natural Line” with no artificial sweeteners and an “Original Line” with no sugar alcohols. Scanning the nutritional profile of these bars, it’s hard to believe they could fit that much protein (20 grams) into a low-carb bar with no simple carbs of any kind, no gluten, and between 17-22 grams of dietary fiber in each bar. Oh, and the Lemon Cream Pie Bar was a big hit in our house! Contains dairy; no gluten or soy protein.
Like a good-for-you crispy rice treat, this vegan, certified gluten-free bar boasts that it has the most protein for the fewest calories. At 150 calories, 16 grams of protein, 3 grams of sugar and 4 grams of fiber, it’s definitely a bar worth keeping around for post-workout recovery or a snack emergency. Cathy Richards, founder of The Simply Bar, has had Crohn’s disease since she was 12, and created this line of seven flavors to provide a healthy and tasty vegetarian protein source.
Jules Shepard (gfjules.com) is a regular Gluten Free & More contributor. She is author of several special-diet books, including Free for All Cooking (Da Capo Press), and is creator of Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour.