Gluten-free bar review: SoLo BarsGI®

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It’s 2:30 PM. You’ve eaten all of your lunch, but you need an afternoon “pick-me-up.” All the vending machine carries is chips, candy and caffeinated soda. Anything you choose will satisfy you for the moment, but you’ll be starving by 4:30. What will you do?

Enter the SoLo BarsGI®, a gluten-free energy bar that is marketed as helping to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. SoLo BarsGI®, have been tested by laboratories at the University of Toronto, and are shown to have a glycemic index (GI) between 27 and 30. This is considered very low, which means that SoLo BarsGI®, provide a slow, sustained release of energy compared to other carbohydrates [white bread in comparison, has a GI of 100!]

There are now ten available flavors of SoLo BarsGI®, available in Canada:

  • Lemon Lift
  • Pineapple Coconut
  • Peanut Caramel Sea Salt
  • White Chocolate Cherry (my favourite)
  • Chocolate Coconut Mint
  • Mocha Fudge
  • Chocolate Charger
  • Dark Chocolate Almond
  • Dark Chocolate Mandarin
  • Peanut Power.

The bars are offered between $2.50 – $4.00 per bar or $25 – $45 per case at various retailers.

SoLo BarsGI®are available at many grocery stores, pharmacy and natural health food stores such as Wal-Mart, Loblaw’s, Shoppers Drug Mart and Whole Foods.  Their website includes a store finder to help you locate their bars in store near you [1]!

We were sent samples of the SoLo BarsGI® (by the company) to taste.  We taste-tested and analyzed each bar systematically, comparing their sensory characteristics as well as their nutritional content.

How do these bars taste?

We found the bars to be quite delicious overall. The texture of each flavor was similar – they were very chewy, almost like dried fruit or soft caramel. There is also a hint of crunch from the addition of soy crisp, much like a rice cereal.

Each bar had a sweet pleasant flavor.  Because most bars were on the sweeter side, I found myself wanting to balance out the flavor experience for each bar. I wondered how they would taste alongside a cup of (decaf) coffee or a tea.

The Coconut Pineapple and Lemon Lift flavors was noticeably sweeter than the others. I found the coating made from yogurt powder, palm oil, and sugar somewhat cloying. However, the sweetness may easily be offset by a bitter cup of Earl Grey tea with lemon.

Although plain in comparison with the other flavors, the Chocolate Charger flavor was quite robust. The Peanut Power resembles the chocolate peanut butter cups often found in workplace vending machines.  Yet, it also reminded me of having a fig-newton cookie-like taste. The hint of salt in the peanut butter was a welcome contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate coating, and would taste excellent with a tall glass of milk.

I really enjoyed the Dark Chocolate Mandarin – though less crunchy than the other flavors, the sweet orange peel gave it an extra chewy texture and a flavor profile reminiscent of Christmas.

My favourite of them all was the White Chocolate Cherry bar. I loved the taste of rich cherry with the white chocolate.

I have yet to try the Dark Chocolate Coconut or Dark Chocolate Almond.

None of the bars I tasted had any aftertaste.

SoLo BarsGI®, have a long list of “nos” – no sugar alcohols, no artificial sweeteners, no trans fats, no hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn syrup, and no artificial preservatives. However, they also have a long list of ingredients (I counted 30). While some stem from the trademarked soy and whey protein blend SoLo BarsGI®uses, there were a few that would be unrecognizable to the average consumer (e.g. maltodextrin).

 

For whom will SoLo BarsGI® be helpful?

SoLo BarsGI® are the only gluten free energy bar certified by the Canadian Celiac Association.  SoLo BarsGI® are gluten free and would be safe to eat by people whom need to follow a gluten-free diet.

While the bars are appropriate for people who cannot tolerate gluten, they are not appropriate for individuals who have allergies or sensitivities to milk, soy or nuts, due to the presence of these ingredients in the bar. And although high fructose corn syrup is not an ingredient, pure fructose is.

Nutritional review of SoLo BarsGI®:

How then, do they stack up compared to other energy bars on the market?

SoLo BarsGI® appear to contain an equivalent amount of energy, saturated fat and fibre compared to other gluten-free bars available on the market. They are, however, lower in fat and higher in protein than many other available products. At 200 calories, the SoLo BarsGI® are a nice size for an afternoon snack. And with 4 grams of fibre and 11-13 grams of protein, they offer more “staying power” than other bars. I found myself wondering what this amount of energy, protein and fibre would look like from other foods.

 

Lemon Lift SoLo BarsGI®

Nutrition Facts: 200 kcal, 7g fat, 3g saturated fat, 26g carbohydrates, 4g fibre, 19g sugars, 11g protein.

 

Other portable snack:

  • ½ cup raspberries + ½ cup plain 0% Greek yogurt + 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds + 1 tsp honey

Nutrition Facts: 204 kcal, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 18g carbohydrates, 5g fibre, 10g sugars, 17g protein.

 

Or

  • 1 slice Silver Hills Gluten Free Omega Flax bread + 2-3 slices deli turkey (42g) + 1 oz. low fat swiss cheese (30g) + small tomato.

Nutrition Facts: 200 kcal, 5.3g fat, 25g carbohydrates, 8.7g fibre, 4.8g sugars, 20.5g protein.

As you can see, it’s quite possible to obtain the same nutrients from whole food as from a SoLo BarsGI®. However, an open-faced sandwich is not quite as portable as a pre-packaged bar.

 

What is the overall verdict?

Packing a snack helps to manage your appetite and will prevent you from making a poor choice that you ideally would prefer not to make!

The low glycemic index makes SoLo BarsGI® a lasting, filling snack. They are extremely portable. So while I encourage people to build in time for creating their own portable whole food snack foods that you can throw in your purse, backpack or gym bag for after a workout, or to battle the afternoon slump, these bars are also a good choice when “life happens”.

Disclosure: We received SoLo BarsGI®bar samples by the company to taste.  We did not receive compensation for this review, nor did SoLo BarsGI®have input into this review.  

Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall
Kristyn Hall MSc, RD, Food, Nutrition & Culinary Coach, Registered Nutritionist and Calgary Dietitian, Calgary, AB.

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