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Product Review: Julie’s Organic Gluten Free Vanilla Sandwich Cookies

I really like Whole Treat Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches (reviewed by me here), so I thought I would try out a competitor’s product to see what it had to offer.

Before I even put these sandwiches into my cart I was impressed with the packaging, which has a flowery, elegant design overlaid onto a tall tube shape (think a mini version of a Pringles can). It sure beats the Whole Treat packaging which is  homely, down-to-earth, and just looks cheap. Some of this may have been intentional on their part, though.

Flavor

This sandwich is made from two discs of chocolate, as opposed to the Whole Treat one which is made of two rectangular-sized ones. Julie’s also makes a rectangular one according to their website, but I don’t remember seeing that in the store.

When comparing these two sandwiches, Julie’s sandwich does everything bigger and thicker than its Whole Treat rival. For example, the total weight is roughly 20% more, and the ice cream in the middle is significantly thicker.

The cookies have a similar texture to Oreos, but somehow seem to crumble in my mouth before I’m expecting them to, leaving behind an almost grainy sensation. I prefer the Whole Treat sandwiches texture which is is bit softer and moister, and allows your teeth to really sink in. The cookie itself also has a very pronounced sweetness backed by a milder saltiness.

When I got to the ice cream within, I felt the thickness was a bit extreme. I’d even go as far as saying it made it difficult for me to fully appreciate the flavor. I either could force myself to bite off the full berth of the sandwich, which was more than I was comfortable with, or nibble away at it with multiple bites which was similarly awkward. On the other hand, the competitor’s thickness seemed just right and allowed me to eat it naturally without even thinking about it.

The ice cream flavor itself has a nice robust milk flavor to it, but again I felt it was a bit on the sweet side and too thick with cream.

This is without a doubt a delicious desert, but judging from taste alone I prefer Whole Treat’s product by a wide margin.

Nutrition/Ingredients

One sandwich weighs 74 grams and contains 200 calories, 90 of them from fat. There are 18 grams of sugars, 3% DV of sodium, and 3 grams of protein.

These figures are all very close to the Whole Treat sandwiches when adjusted for serving size, an interesting fact because my overall impression of Julie’s sandwich was that it was sweeter and higher in calories. This is likely because of the 20% difference in overall size, as well as the width of the sandwich.

Though there are many similarities and both have generally natural ingredients, I prefer those in Julie’s sandwiches for a few reasons. First of all, in addition to being organic the cookies are gluten free, through the use of rice flour instead of normal wheat flour. According to Wikipedia, about 1 in 133 people in developed nations have an allergic reaction to gluten, which can be very serious. Because of this, this product is available to be eaten by a larger audience which is always a good thing. I’ve even heard stories of people who have minor gluten allergies that don’t realize it until later in life, so you might want to try experimenting with gluten free foods and see if you body reacts better to them.

Second, there is no caramel coloring. It’s true that Whole Treat’s coloring is in class I, the least risky of the four classes, but no coloring is always better in my book. There is also a few natural starches used, tapioca starch, corn starch, and potato starch, which may add a little more vitamins and minerals.

Finally, cocoa is listed much higher, at 5th place compared to 11th place for Whole Treat, and therefore likely to be in much higher concentration. This gives the consumer a better chance of reaping cocoa’s many potential health benefits. I think some of the black color comes from this, and possibly some from the starches used.

Full ingredients list:

Organic Vanilla Ice Cream – Organic milk, and cream, organic cane sugar, organic tapioca syrup, organic vanilla extract, organic tapioca starch, non-gmo soy lecithin, guar gum, locust bean gum, xantham gum.

Gluten Free Chocolate Cookie – Organic rice flour, organic unsalted butter, organic cane sugar, organic eggs, organic cocoa, organic corn starch, organic potato starch, baking soda, organic vanilla, sea salt.

Price/Availability

I purchased this at Whole Foods for about $6.99 and haven’t seen it anywhere else locally. However their web site search tool says there are a few other places nearby, such as Vitamin Hut and Simply Natural, which carry their products.

Considering Whole Treat’s product gives you more total product (6 x 60  = 360 grams vs. 4 x 74 = 296 grams), the price is a bit expensive. To be fair, Whole Foods can save money distributing its own products so some amount of price difference is not unexpected.

Ratings:   Flavor:  6.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:7.5    Price:  6.5  Overall: 6.6

Summary

These are large ice cream sandwiches that taste great and are composed of organic, gluten-free, and natural ingredients. Though I would rate it’s ingredients slightly lower overall, I prefer the taste of Whole Treat’s competing ice cream sandwiches for their light, easy-to-eat experience.

References

http://www.juliesorganic.com/ice_cream_sandwiches/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten

jul1

Product Review: Clif Vanilla Almond Builder’s 20g Protein Bar

build

There was a time in the last year or two when I was into weightlifting. As many weightlifters do, I tried to get as much protein as possible to help maximize my muscle mass by using protein bars, shakes, and the like. I have since stopped lifting, and also discovered there isn’t much conclusive research showing that excess protein really helps develop more muscle. So for the most part I’ve given up on all the protein supplement products.

Clif’s Vanilla Almond Builder’s protein bar is the one thing in this category I still eat from time to time, not for the protein but because it’s just so darn tasty. Not surprisingly, it also happens to be quite sweet.

Flavor

My first feeling when removing this protein bar from the wrapper is that it’s really *big*. It’s solid rectangular shape hints at the bulging muscles you might get with frequent consumption of it (of course, assuming you do the necessary weight training). On its way to your mouth, this solid mass of protein and almonds gives off a very strong scent of vanilla, whetting your appetite.

As you sink your teeth in, you put in a little extra force to bite off a chunk, after which your jaw gets a real workout on chewy, sweet stuff.

This bar is composed of three parts. The outside is coated in a sugary vanilla frosting that is the star of the show, thick on the bottom but thinly painted on the top. Within there are two layers, the larger bottom one comprised of tiny almond pieces that are held together by something sticky with the appearance of brown sugar. This has only a mild sweetness if eaten on its own, pale in comparison to the candy-like frosting. The top layer, partially visible by the thin coating on top, is made of very dense, chewy soy protein isolate. It doesn’t have too strong of a taste on it own. In fact I’m impressed how they’ve managed to cover up the texture and taste of powdered protein, which is not exactly what I would call appetizing.

This bar does an excellent job at filling you up so you can continue on with exercise. In my case it filled me up for an hour or two, if not longer. A minor side effect is that it really makes you thirsty. I typically drink a glass of cold water while eating it, and another after I’ve gobbled it up. The flavor tends to stay around in your mouth for a while afterwards and the water helps lessen this effect.

If I had to describe this product in a single word I would say “addictive”. From the fresh vanilla scent to the delicious chewy texture, Clif and his company have truly crafted a masterpiece of sweet nutrition.

If little frosting pieces didn’t break off and make little white smears on my clothes it would be perfect, but for those who aren’t messy eaters like me this won’t apply to you.

Nutrition/Ingredients

In one bar (68 grams / 2.4 ounces) there are 270 calories. This figure should be judged differently than other sweet products, since the whole point of this bar is to give your body some nutrition so it can keep working, or start rebuilding muscle before you have a chance for a proper meal. Remember this type of product should never replace a real, complete meal with fresh vegetables, starches, and meat (if you aren’t a vegetarian, that is).

There is of course the massive 20 grams of protein, plus 240 mg of salt (10% DV), 170 mg of potassium (5% DV) and 3 grams of fiber (12% DV).

This is a big portion of sugar, 22 grams, which I don’t consider a bad thing if you are consuming this product during or after exercise. After all, your body does need some sugar to function properly. However, for this like myself who simply indulge in this as a tasty snack there may be a little guilt, especially given the sugar per weight (roughly 32 grams sugar / 100 grams total weight) is higher than many ice creams!

Actually I take that back – this is one of the few products where you shouldn’t feel very guilty about the high sugar content. The reason is that there is several different sweeteners used, at least one or two of which has the potential to be healthier than your average added sugar: beet juice, brown rice syrup, and dried cane syrup. Sure, it may turn out that after all “sugar is sugar” and your body handles these roughly the same, but until that is 100% proven I think you’re better off with a variety of sweeteners as opposed to a load of everyday table sugar.

Except for the “Natural Flavors” which I have a deep hatred of, the rest of the ingredients are very healthy. There is a mix of oils from natural sources (palm kernel oil, sunflower oil), natural seeds (flaxseed, quinoa), oats, almond butter, and almonds.

The only other thing which is potentially unhealthy is the soy protein isolate itself, more because it is in super-concentrated form (and hence unnatural) than because of claims of soy’s effects on testosterone, which have for the most part been proven invalid. Complaining about this ingredient when it is the primary selling point of the product doesn’t make much sense, because those purchasing it know full well what they are buying.

The full ingredient list is: Soy Protein Isolate, Beet Juice Concentrate, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Dried Cane Syrup, Palm Kernel Oil, Organic Rolled Oats, Almond Butter, Organic Soy Flour, Almonds, Vegetable Glycerin, Organic Quinoa, Organic Vanilla, Organic Sunflower Oil, Inulin (Chicory Extract), Rice Starch, Organic Flaxseed, Organic Oat Fiber, Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Salt.

Vitamins & Minerals: Dicalcium Phosphate, Magnesium Oxide, Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vit. E), Ferric Orthophosphate (Iron), Beta Carotene (Vit. A), Zinc Citrate, Phytonadione (Vit.K1), Biotin, Niacinamide (Vit. B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vit. B5), Potassium Iodide, Manganese Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Sodium Selenite, Thiamin (Vit. B1), Chromium Chloride, Cyanocobalamin (Vit. B12), Sodium Molybdate, Folic Acid (Vit. B9), Riboflavin (Vit. B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vit. B6).

The long list of vitamins and minerals could be a blessing or a curse, depending on your stance regarding these food additives. I think they may help and are less likely to cause harm, and am therefore cautiously positive on them. Again, if you are the type of person who balks at vitamins added to a food product you wouldn’t likely be looking for a protein bar in the first place.

33% of the ingredients are Organic, which is nice bonus because the product is not openly marketed as a organic product.

Price/Availability

These are sold are various supermarkets, including Publix and Whole Foods Supermarket, from $2 – $3. If you buy wholesale online (in packs of 12), you can get the price down to $1.50 a bar.

Ratings:   Flavor: 9.0  Nutrition/Ingredients:8.0    Price:7.5    Overall:8.2

Summary

If you’ve looking for a great way to grab a load of protein quick during or after exercise, this tasty mix of mostly natural ingredients is highly recommended. Those with a sweet tooth who are less active should find it equally appealing as a delicious snack.

References

http://www.clifbar.com/food/products_builders/1230

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soy_protein

Whole Treat Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches – Product Review

sandwich

Intro

In my high school days there was a time when I frequently ate ice cream sandwiches – vanilla ice cream held between two chocolate cookies.  But it was just a passing craze for me, and many years have passed since I went on to other desserts.

Recently I discovered Whole Foods made their own “healthy” version of the traditional ice cream sandwich, so I decided to try them out.

Flavor

By far the most noteworthy thing about this product is the texture, which is pretty rare as desserts go. Neither the ice cream nor the cookie, both very sweet, are exceptionally tasty on their own. And yet together they make a perfect match – the dark cookies with their tough, chewy texture contrast well against the soft, pure white ice cream. The latter is always the perfect consistency, even when pulled straight from the freezer, thanks to rich cream being used as the main ingredient.

Temperature difference also plays a big role here in the enjoyment. The cookie, with its relatively low density and viscosity, tends to retain less of the coldness than the ice cream. Just as you are sinking your teeth into the cookie you suddenly hit gold and the sensation of chilled cream expands in your mouth – a refreshing surprise that repeats itself on each and every bite.

Ingredients / Nutrition

Each 60 gram, 89 mL sandwich contains 170 calories and 14 grams of sugar. These are on the low end of the scale, making this a perfect dessert for those counting calories, and the individually wrapped packs make it easy to limit yourself to one sandwich per sitting.

The perceived sweetness is actually quite intense, which is perplexing at first because of the low sugar content. However, this makes sense when you take into account the fact that the sandwiches are pretty small, and that sugar (in the form of organic dehydrated cane juice) is the second ingredient in both ice cream and cookies.

The ingredients, mostly organic, are generally healthy, with the possible exception of caramel coloring present in the cookie. Caramel coloring, depending on how it is made, can be a carcinogen (see references) and cause problems with allergies. I don’t know the exact type of caramel coloring used here as it isn’t specified on the package, but I feel that using a more natural coloring agent (possibly a beet-based one) would be healthier. I’ve sent an email to Whole Foods requesting more information about this, will update this post when I receive a response.

[Update: after a few days I got a response from Whole Foods stating that the vendor uses a Class 1 caramel color, which is the least controversial because it avoids using ammonium or sulfite compounds]

This product doesn’t have much going for it nutrition wise, with low levels of protein (3 g) and other common vitamins and minerals. A nice perk is that it is much more filling than many ice cream products, probably due to the flour used in the cookie.Also, organic cocoa is listed as the final ingredient for the cookie, which means there isn’t very much caffeine to worry about.

In fact, I just had one of these sandwiches to stave off my hunger before I go to bed.

Price and Availability

This product generally sells for around $4.99 from Whole Foods Market. With six sandwiches per pack, thats less than one dollar per each, quite inexpensive for an organic dessert.

Ratings

Flavor: 7.0

Ingredients/Nutrition: 7.0

Price: 8.0

Overall: 7.3

Summary

Tasty organic snack, great for times you want to eat light.

References

http://www.fatsecret.com/Diary.aspx?pa=fjrd&rid=2448532

http://www.cspinet.org/new/201102161.html