October 23, 2003

Battle of the Bars

No, it's not what you think.

Rather, this post is all about carbohydrates, money, and, well, whatever else pops out of my head in the next 30 minutes.

You see it everywhere now, especially this past two or three years. LOW CARB! LOW CARB! Everywhere you look, it's carbs carbs carbs - from the radio commercials that now tout the glories of light beer to the weight-lifter Michelob Ultra water, er, I mean beer (or so I hear) billboards.

I've never really worried too much about carbohydrates as an isolated group. You know - those things that with exercise burn away. Stored glycogen in the muscles. I have, though, in recent years watched calories pretty closely as I honed my food intake plans and execution to where they are now, which, on a day where I'm especially diligent, might pass for a low/controlled carb diet (but I eat a WHOLE lot of fruit and salad with fruit, and there's no way I'd give up the Kashi, so perhaps not). I don't much care.

I got this idea a couple of weeks ago, though, because you see SO much marketing, as I mentioned earlier, for low-carb diets and dieters. I mean, there's a whole new section in the grocery store just filled with this stuff - pasta made out of soy flour, tiny tiny chocolate bars for a buck and a half apiece. Now, granted, there's a whole section of the store for me, too - sometimes a whole STORE (Whole Foods) - with the Luna Bars and the Genisoy Extreme Bars, and the whole wheat pasta. Mmmm. So, in this spirit, I bring you the side-by-side comparison of two chocolate bars (okay, so one's "Pecan Chews" - humor me).

In the upper corner, weighing in at ONE, yes, ONE ounce, I bring you the Russell Stover Low Carb Pecan Delights. And, in the bottom corner, weighing in at TWO ounces, the Reese's Fast Break. I've never eaten either of these - have no idea on taste. But, here you are - pictures.


Ooh, aah. What does all of this mean? Well, here's the other side of the wrappers. The top is the Pecan Delights, and the bottom is the Fast Break.

These are pretty large, so you can probably read this pretty well. Before I give you the breakdown in a table, though, I will, of course, assert that neither of these bars is a compact, bursting mound of nourishing manna. (I'll write a post about the Snickers Marathon as soon as I've held one in my hot little hand and later consumed one). But, here's how they stack up against each other...

(Forgive my ugly, boring table)
  Russell Stover Pecan Delights Reese's Fast Break
Weight 1 oz 2 oz
Calories 130 280
Total Fat 9 grams 13 grams
Saturated Fat 4.5 grams 4.5 grams
Protein 2 grams 5 grams
Carbohydrates 16 grams 35 grams
Price 99 cents 69 cents

Okay. Statistics. We can prove anything we'd like now, right? We could start with the "candy bar" that's cheaper than the "healthy low carb bar" if we believed that. We could, rather, talk about serving size of 1 oz versus 2 oz of something. Someone want to put up a placard with "Obesity" on it - bigger font, please. But, what I'd really like to focus on is equalizing the information - basically, what happens if you make the serving size the same - 2 oz.

This is basically the size of my mid-morning snack, but I usually don't exceed 200 calories. So, this would be for a "light" breakfast or lunch day - the day I consumed two packages of the Russell Stover's candies or one Fast Break. (Here's the table "equalized."

(Again, forgive my ugly, boring table)
  (2) Russell Stover Pecan Delights Reese's Fast Break
Weight 1 oz 2 oz
Calories 260 280
Total Fat 18 grams 13 grams
Saturated Fat 9 grams 4.5 grams
Protein 4 grams 5 grams
Carbohydrates 32 grams 35 grams
Price $1.98 69 cents

Okay. I went to a two-ounce serving rather than cutting the Fast Break in half because 130 calories is not ENOUGH to satisfy you as a meal - even a mid-morning snack. To illustrate, 130 calories is about what I consume every hour I'm on the bike when I take my little break. EVERY hour of biking. And that's after having eaten a full, nutritious breakfast.

What do you see here - wow, these are SURPRISNGLY similar. Actually, if you're like me and you watch saturated fat, you're nearly gawking. And the Reese's provides more protein, which is probably of no matter if you're on a low-carb diet - you're likely already getting plenty.

The packaging for the Russell Stover's Pecan Delights states "For Low Carb Dieters." On the flip side, it also states that the Net Effective Carbs - also often called Impact Carbs - are only 2.4 g per serving. Having never seen a "real" nutrition (not stilted toward a carb-controlled diet or really ANY diet but rather an overall nutrition site) even mention these little wonders, I tried to find a good definition anyway. So, here we have it - don't take it to the bank, though.

    The FDA previously allowed a disclaimer on all wrappers, which was an asterisk noted on the bar stating that glycerin, maltitol and fiber had been omitted from the total carb count as they have a neglible impact on your blood sugar.

    What dieters and diabetics are trying to avoid is a spike in their "blood sugar" as this releases insulin. Dieters are trying to avoid this, as insulin is a trigger to store fat. Diabetics must avoid this as well. Carbohydrates cause this spike in blood sugar. Simple carbs cause it quickly and Complex carbs more slowly. (Simple carbs are all sugar, pasta's, all white flour and rice. Complex carbs are veggies and salad greens)
That actually makes sense - a slower rise in blood sugar. But, still - they're CARBS. I saw another site advertise a meal replacement bar with 22 carbohydrates as "carb controlled" as it lauded its low "impact carbohydrate content."

I could go on and on. I won't. I'll consume these two sometime in the next two weeks (but not together, of course), and I'll point back to this post. About the only thing that could convince me that, of the two, the Pecan Delights are the way to go would be EXTRAORDINARY taste.

The info's just here for you to decide. And I'll provide the standard disclaimer now. Heather and Angelweave do not endorse chocolate bars such as these as good nutrition. If you say I did, I'll deny it. Treats are okay every once in a while, but they should not supplant more healthy, more important food options. Blah blah blather blah.

Good night.

UPDATE - 10/24/03. I ate the Pecan Clusters for a snack this evening. Wonderful - heavenly. When I opened the packaged, they seemed very small, but because of the carmel and basic consistency, they actually took a while to eat.

Definitely a good treat when they go on sale. I'm surprised I'm endorsing them.


Posted by hln at October 23, 2003 10:37 PM | Health/Fitness/Nutrition | TrackBack

Dammit, Heather, I thought this was going to be about bars? Blech!!

Do they make a beer flavored diet bar? Mmmm, beeeeerrr....

Posted by: Blackfive at October 24, 2003 08:16 AM

Blackfive, what's wrong with beer-flavored beer?

Posted by: Victor at October 24, 2003 08:53 AM

I'm hooked on these right now (equvalent to 2.8 ounces, so it's a rather large bar). Then again, I'm looking less at carbs than I am saturated fat.

They taste great.

Posted by: Ricky at October 27, 2003 05:17 PM

I cannot believe they are in the low carb diet and taste so good.

Posted by: jean at January 4, 2004 11:40 AM